Enlisted Faculty Program is 'Big Win' for Airmen, Guardians

  • Published
  • By Staff Report
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Class is back in session for cadets and preppies at the U.S. Air Force Academy, with six senior noncommissioned officers added to its faculty roster, expanding the number of enlisted Airmen teaching cadets.

Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Balian, dean of faculty senior enlisted leader and manager of the school’s Enlisted Faculty Program, said the program features noncommissioned officers with the teaching credentials and advanced academic degrees required of all faculty members.

“Enlisted faculty members bring operational experience and unique, valuable and diverse perspective to the classroom, enhancing the development of cadets as leaders of character,” she said. “Our team has gone well beyond the proof of concept phase to emerge as a team of enlisted ambassadors for our cadets.”

Three new instructors are assigned to academic departments, two are assigned to the Center for Character and Leadership Development, and one is assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School.

“We’re the only service academy to feature enlisted faculty members,” said Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kwiatkowski, the Academy’s command chief. “To say noncommissioned officers play a central role in the development of young officers is an understatement. Our enlisted faculty members are examples and role models for cadets in and out of the classroom.”

Role Models for Cadets
Cadet 3rd Class Elliot Kmetz and Cadet 2nd Class Jordyn Wagner said the career experience senior noncommissioned officers bring to any classroom adds weight to their instruction. Both cadets have enrolled in coursework taught by Balian, a foreign language instructor.

“She brings the lessons she’s learned ‘in the field’ during her service into the classroom, and I’m certain the other enlisted instructors do the same,” Kmetz said. “Chief Balian’s experience and perspective as a noncommissioned officer and educator made the classwork exciting and enriching.”

Wagner said cadets appreciate any opportunity to learn about the Air Force’s noncommissioned officer corps.

“With Chief Balian, her service provides her with differing perspectives from leading Airmen over the years, and she shares that experience in the classroom,” Wagner said. 

Significant Strides
The Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, announced the need for senior noncommissioned officers to fill academic instructor positions in 2019. Before, enlisted instructors taught cadets for decades but were not accredited faculty instructors. The move to install enlisted instructors was part of a joint effort by Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and the Academy to promote the education and expertise of enlisted Airmen across the Air Force and Space Force.

Balian said she and the other enlisted faculty members are pleased with the results of a just-released annual in-house report on the program to be sent to the Department of the Air Force at the Pentagon.

“This year's report highlights the significant strides the enlisted faculty program has taken this year and since its inception,” she said. “The report shows the growth, strategic direction and program effectiveness of a high-performing team serving as enlisted mentors to the Air Force's future officers.”

The report shows the value and need for a system the enlisted instructors designed last year with the assistance of with the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio to hire qualified senior noncommissioned officers to teach technology, engineering, and mathematics-based curriculum – “STEM” – to cadets. Balian calls it “a pipeline hiring program.”

“AFIT is a premiere institution for defense-focused graduate-level education, research and consulting,” she said. “AFIT delivers education in STEM fields, provides continuing education, and conducts cutting-edge research in various areas including cyber, hypersonics, navigation and space.”

‘Huge Win’ for Air Force, Space Force
Chief Master Sgt. Ecatarina Garcia, former political science and military strategic Studies instructor, left the Academy this month for an assignment at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. Before departing the Academy, she received the Center for Character and Leadership Development’s 2021 Outstanding Educator Award, making her the No. 1 instructor on a roster of 25 civilian and military instructors at the center.

“Enlisted instructors bring their experience and diversity of thought to any classroom, giving cadets unique insight into the character and qualities of senior NCOs they will lead as officers,” Garcia said while movers packed up her house Aug. 9.

Kwiatkowski agrees.

“They bring a wealth of operational experience along with their teaching credentials and degrees,” he said. “Having enlisted Airmen serve as faculty members is a huge win for the Academy and for the Air and Space Force.”

New Instructors
Senior Master Sgt. James Clarey teaches political science; Master Sgt. James Earley, behavioral science and leadership; and Master Sgt. Randall Mays, foreign languages.

Senior Master Sgts. Antonio Da Camara Canto and Patrick Hunt are assigned to the Center for Character and Leadership Development and teach leadership and honor courses, with Hunt also instructing cadets in the management department.

Master Sgt. Garrett Barbuto is the first enlisted faculty member at the Academy’s Prep School where he teaches math.

Along with the six new instructors and Balian, Senior Master Sgt. William Baez teaches mathematics; Senior Master Sgt. Gloria Kuzmicki teaches behavioral sciences and leadership; and Master Sgt. Bonnie Rushing teaches military and strategic studies. 

“The enlisted faculty team will continue to grow in the coming years, including expansion of the AFIT pipeline hiring initiative,” Balian said.

Balian is confident the program will benefit the Air Force in years to come. 

“It’s important we prepare our cadets to operate effectively in the future fight,” she said. “Enlisted faculty members’ play a vital role in building the right leaders for tomorrow’s Air Force.”

Balian is the first enlisted Airmen inducted into the Academy’s academic honor society, Phi Kappa Phi.