Poland's top enlisted airman tours PME facilities

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Norris Agnew
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
Poland's air force senior enlisted leader is partnering with U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa officials to strengthen his service's operational capacity. But his efforts are focused on a more foundational level of airpower -- enlisted professional military education.

Warrant Officer 1st Class Krzysztof Gadowski, the top enlisted adviser for the Polish air force, visited the Ramstein First Term Airman's Center, Kisling NCO Academy, and the Airman Leadership School Sept. 17-19. The trip included an overview of the academic curriculum, multiple sessions of observing instructors interact with students, and one-on-one discussions with the enlisted leaders of both PME facilities.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, USAFE-AFAFRICA and the Polosh air force have shared a strong alliance. More recently, a U.S. aviation detachment was established at Lask Air Base, Poland, in 2012; recurring air exercises such as Screaming Eagle and Brilliant Ardent seek to improve the interoperability of the two air forces; and a 2010 agreement made between the 86th Airlift Wing here, and the 3rd Airlift Wing at Powidz Air Base, Poland, connected the two units as sister wings.

During his visit, Gadowski attempted to glean best practices from USAFE-AFAFRICA's professional military education programs.

"It's nice to see the U.S. Air Force system myself, especially the education system for NCOs," Gadowski said. "I hope that some parts of this system I will be able to adopt for our NCO education system."

Gadowski was particularly impressed with the leadership focus he observed during his visit.

"I really like how you teach leadership to young NCOs," he said. "We have a few courses for our senior NCOs, but we need more for our young NCOs. I want to take your style back to Poland as much as possible."

In an era where both economic and security challenges are increasingly becoming permanent fixtures across the European landscape, Gadowski said he understands the need to boost his force's partnership capacity.

"(USAFE-AFAFRICA) Airmen have great combat experience," he said. "As a NATO member, Polish airmen have to achieve the same standard, so we have to learn from our (USAFE-AFAFRICA) partners. For many years, we have been working to adopt our NCO system to yours, so that we can make our NCO corps stronger."

Poland is a priority nation for the Air Force's Building Partnership Capacity initiative, a core function of airpower doctrine.

"This is basically a continuation of our strong partnership with Poland's air force that started about three years ago," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Moore, the NCO Academy commandant here. "Our two air forces are already partnering on a more operational level, but from a leadership and management capacity, this is how we are helping them professionalize their NCO corps.

"This is really important, because when we deploy together we can interoperate and take care of the mission," Moore said. "In my opinion, all of that starts with enlisted force development."

Throughout the three-day visit, Gadowski was invited into different classrooms to observe actual academic instruction, allowing him to gauge the interaction between instructor and students that serves as the foundation of PME training.

It's professionalism and passion that Gadowski said he is looking to take back to his enlisted airmen. But he said he knows it's not an easy task.

"The Polish air force has many years of tradition," Gadowski said. "Tradition is not easy to change. But what I see here with the education system would be a good change for our air force."

Gadowski pointed to one key observation he made during his tour of USAFE-AFAFRICA installations -- the high levels of responsibility frequently given to NCOs. Based on his air force's tradition, critical duties are typically reserved for senior NCOs or officers.

To highlight his point, Gadowski relayed a story about a young Polish NCO.

"He was really good at his job, whatever he did," Gadowski said. "Once he did a job (of) calling down a (mock) airstrike during an exercise. This is the job usually done by someone much higher ranking. But the NCO did the job beautifully.

"The word was spreading that this NCO had done such a wonderful job," Gadowski said. "What was so amazing to many people was his rank. Some people had never seen an NCO take (on) so much responsibility."

Adopting a more cutting-edge approach to airpower is a daunting task for any leader, especially when it involves developing and empowering an entire enlisted corps.

For that reason, Poland's top airman said he doesn't mind going back to the classroom, especially if the lessons learned are exactly what he needs to take his air force to the next level.