A U.S. Air Force Airman reviews Course 15 material, March 16, 2016, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Course 15 is a distance-learning format for enlisted Airmen that is a portion of the NCO Academy experience. Regardless of rank, when enlisted Airmen reach their seven year time-in-service date, they will receive a notification from the Air Force Personnel Center and are required to enroll and complete Course 15 within a 12-month timeframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho/Released)

A U.S. Air Force Airman reviews Course 15 material, March 16, 2016, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Course 15 is a distance-learning format for enlisted Airmen that is a portion of the NCO Academy experience. Regardless of rank, when enlisted Airmen reach their seven year time-in-service date, they will receive a notification from the Air Force Personnel Center and are required to enroll and complete Course 15 within a 12-month timeframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho/Released)

The shift over to a new continuing education model, is forcing about 2,300 airmen to take back- to-back distance learning courses.

Typically, airmen have several years in between the initial NCO distance learning course and the SNCO course. Now, some are taking the second one as little as one month later because of the new model.

“Nothing like 1,000 hours of coerced distance learning at the same moment [the Chief of Staff] is acknowledging the need to reduce the burden of obligation placed on our NCOs,” said Tony Carr, a former Air Force officer and  founder of John Q. Public.

While many are taking to social media to express their frustration over this new compressed timetable, Air Force officials emphasize that it’s only temporary.

Over time, as the transition period continues, the number of airmen taking the courses so close together will decline. Eventually, they’ll have a five-year break in between since Course 15—the latest version of the NCO course– will be taken after 7 years in-service and the SNCO course, taken at 12 years in-service.

“The distance learning courses encompass Basic Phase II and Basic Phase III and are considered prerequisites for in-residence NCO and senior NCO academy eligibility,” Airman 1st Class Megan E. Acs wrote in an article published last year.

A spokesman for Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, James Cody, told Air Force Times: “We did that to ensure airmen who would later attend the in-resident portion had completed distance learning, which is a requirement… The in-resident portions build on what airmen learn in the distance learning course. It’s not duplicative, so it’s critical we provide the base-level knowledge needed for the in-resident portions.”

According to Cody, it was not their intention to place an additional burden on airmen. He says they wanted to give them “every opportunity” to attend an in-residence course in their career.

There are cases in which commanders may request an extension of the deadline. Taking back-to-back courses would not be required, if it would hurt mission readiness. Also, any airman with “extenuating circumstances” may be granted an extension.

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