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Professional development courses boost career, leadership skills

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --

Airmen can do a lot of things in two hours – like becoming a better public speaker and instilling self-discipline, said Senior Master Sgt. Jose Diaz, 59th Medical Wing Career Assistance advisor.

Diaz helps organize a series of two-hour professional development courses run under the 59th MDW. These classes are available to help students develop as professionals and leaders.

“A recurring theme, across all these classes, is ‘making oneself better,’” Diaz said. “We’re looking to help give students a bigger perspective on their careers, their abilities and their lives in general.”

The professional development series encompass more than 15 courses, each taught by NCOs and senior NCOs from all across Joint Base San Antonio, with Diaz co-teaching to provide additional curriculum support. Anybody with a Department of Defense ID card can take a class – including civilians, members of sister services and reserves.

Classes run year-round and are primarily held at the Gateway Academy at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, room 1C31, and have a max capacity of 35.

The series also includes Public Speaking, Airmanship 101, Coaching and Mentoring, Understanding the Retraining Process, Progressive Discipline, and Collaborative Intelligence, among other selections.

Public Speaking is usually the most popular of the professional development courses, because it helps students prepare for the College Level Examination Process, or CLEP, and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, tests, Diaz said.

These two examinations, if passed, instantly grant college credit to individuals who would otherwise have to sit through a longer, 8 to 16-week course in person or online.

The Public Speaking class spends a short period of time covering what’s going to be on the CLEP and DANTES multiple choice segments, with a large amount of time devoted to speech prep. Students learn how to develop a speech in 20 minutes by writing outlines, partnering up, giving their speeches and critiquing each other.

After the course, students have as long as they want to prep for CLEP and DANTES tests.

Most people practice for about two weeks to a month, Diaz noted.

Another popular professional development course is Understanding the Retraining Process, Diaz said.

“People get to the point – closer to the end of their enlistment – where they have to make a choice between staying in the Air Force and separating,” Diaz explained. “This course helps first-term Airmen examine the opportunities they have to explore other parts of the Air Force.”

Airmanship 101 is usually packed to the brim, Diaz noted.

“We try to bring back Airmen to that feeling of showing pride for wearing the uniform,” Diaz said. “The farther we’re removed from basic military training, we start to forget the reason we’re here. We start to get so nearsighted on our day-to-day that we forget the bigger picture. This class helps jog their memory on the bigger meaning of being an Airman.”

The Coaching and Mentoring course can help future NCOs hone their leadership skills.

“A senior master sergeant, for example, is going to be pretty seasoned,” Diaz explained. “But some of our up-and-coming service members about to join the NCO ranks, we help augment some of the stuff they learned in professional military education.”

"Progressive Discipline serves as a useful dialogue between for both service members and their supervisors looking to improve their self-control. “We’re trying to help both service members and supervisors solve discipline problems,” Diaz noted.

“So we start out small, working on minor habits, then move up to addressing bigger ones. Service members get to learn what would happen if they get in trouble, and supervisors learn how to prevent people from getting in trouble.”

Collaborative Intelligence is the latest professional development offering, Diaz explained.

“This class is all about working within teams – just like everything we do in the military as a whole,” Diaz said. “This is a brand-new course offering, and it should be a pretty interesting one.”

Regardless of which class students choose, they’re getting a streamlined, value-added product that won’t cut too far into anyone’s work schedule, Diaz explained. “We try to be cognizant of people’s time. It can be hard for supervisors to release their people for an entire day, so two hours for each course is that sweet spot where it’s long enough to cover all the information.”

Individuals interested in taking a professional development course should look to their command chiefs and first sergeants, whom Diaz periodically sends a course listing email. After picking out a course, students can follow a link in the email and register via SharePoint.

“There’s no canned curriculum for being a leader,” said Diaz. “But these courses give students additional tools they can work with.”