Airmen course a first taste of professional development

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- An Airman sits in a room waiting to be told what his detail for the day will be. Will he be going around the base picking up trash, stapling packets together, painting a room or one of the many other tasks that need to be accomplished around base?

For many years, that is what participants in the First Term Airmen Course - formerly called the First Term Airmen Center - could expect from their day. According to Tech. Sgt. John Neiffer, FTAC NCOIC, the course was originally started as a base "labor pool."

Before FTAC's creation, tasks were divided up and sent out to wing units, requiring them to pull Airmen from accomplishing the mission to raise flags or pick up trash. While the goal was admirable, the process was inefficient, Sergeant Neiffer said.

Offutt's FTAC, the first in the Air Force, did more than just provide the base with a dependable supply of labor. It also set in motion the development of a new form of professional military education, one that would help ease new recruits into the real world of life on a military installation.

Since the course was founded in 1977 by Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Estrem, professional development has become more and more central to the course.

Today the labor pool is a secondary feature of the course, less important to the base than the goal of educating Airmen, Sergeant Neiffer said.

"For the most part we've replaced base details with professional briefings," he said.

FTAC was slow to catch on in the Air Force, but it eventually did.

"Air Combat Command had it first, and then it became Air Force wide," Sergeant Neiffer said.

The course structure is different at each base, but it is at least a two-week program consisting of various required briefings.

No longer do Airmen sit around waiting for a detail. They now sit in the same room learning the ways of the Air Force, what to expect, and what is expected from them as Airmen.