Airman Leadership School, or ALS, is a 24-day leadership training program required for enlisted Air Force airmen planning to make a career out of the military. ALS is an entry-level part of what the military calls Professional Military Education or PME. All military members receive PME, starting with basic training, though those in the military tend not to associate “basic”, as it’s often abbreviated, with PME.
Airman Leadership School: The Basics
Airman Leadership School is a mandatory program. In order to be promoted out of the most junior enlisted grades to the first true supervisory rank of Staff Sergeant, ALS must be successfully completed.
ALS is referred to by older servicemembers and veterans as “re-bluing”, which embraces the idea that ALS attendees are having Air Force values and leadership principles reinforced. That approach is in line with long military traditions of continued training and education in “the profession of arms” as General Colin Powell once described military service.
Airman Leadership School is a 24-day program. Attendees will spend 24 “duty days” (rather than calendar days) learning in-residence. Courses include how to supervise lower-ranking Airmen, elements of managerial communications, morale, unit cohesion, and leadership principles.
Those unfamiliar with Air Force PME programs soon learn that Airman Leadership School is conducted in a decentralized way; there are approximately 70 ALS facilities at military bases worldwide. Each Air Force Major Command (Air Combat Command, United States Forces Europe, etc.) is responsible for sending eligible Airmen to an ALS within the command.
When Can I Attend Airman Leadership School?
In the past, Airmen have had a specific time frame in which they must attend ALS, but requirements are always subject to change. For example, in 2015 the Air Force started working with a revised approach to PME, changing the requirements for many types of training.
Those changes included a requirement for airmen to attend ALS when they had between three and six years of service, which meant that anyone who missed that window of opportunity could not attend *and* eventually would be forced out of military service for not meeting the training requirement.
However, in 2017, the Air Force dropped the time-in-service requirement for a large volume of PME courses including Airman Leadership School, so the “three to six-year rule” no longer applies. If you are interested in Airman Leadership School, it’s best to consult your orderly room, First Sergeant, or supervisor to learn if new changes have affected your ability to attend and when.
Who Administers Airman Leadership School?
As mentioned above, each major command is responsible for sending its’ Airmen to an ALS within the command. But these commands often referred to as MAJCOMs, are not responsible for the development of the training/curriculum for each school.
The Barnes Center at Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama is the source for all “comprehensive curriculum materials and program management guidance to each of the schools” according to the Center’s official site.
What Are Airman Leadership School Classes Like?
ALS training can resemble standard classroom lectures, but they are also heavy on group discussion, review of case studies, etc. You will be required to write, read course materials, and work in groups. Each ALS experience has the potential to vary greatly from the classes that have come before, due to changing trends in management, supervisory techniques, service requirements, etc.
What Does Graduation From ALS Mean To The Airman?
Airmen who have not attended Airman Leadership School are not allowed to formally supervise fellow service members. Once the program is complete, ALS graduates are permitted to supervise, write performance reports, and become eligible to be promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-5). In the case of Airmen who are testing or who have tested for Staff Sergeant, completion of Airman Leadership School is a requirement to “sew on” or be officially promoted.
Airman Leadership School Awards And Recognition
When any Airman graduates from ALS, they receive an NCO Development Ribbon. Awards have also been presented to distinguished ALS graduates including a Leadership Award, Distinguished Graduate Award, Academic Achievement Award, and the John Levitow Award (see below).
What Is The ALS John Levitow Award?
The John Levitow award is named after the lowest-ranking enlisted Air Force member to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. The Levitow Award is the highest award presented at Airman Leadership School, awarded to only the top one percent of each graduating ALS class, presented in recognition of leadership and scholastic achievements. The Levitow Award is a combined instructor and peer-nominated process.
What Else Should I Know About Airman Leadership School?
Airman Leadership School requirements may vary depending on location, mission demands, etc. You may be required to complete distance learning modules in preparation for Air Force PME; your training supervisor or orderly room will let you know what may be required in your MAJCOM.
When attending ALS, dress blues and BDUs may both be required. Depending on the MAJCOM and other factors, you may be required to perform group physical training (PT), pass a fitness test, and/or participate in community involvement projects.
If you are returning to military service after having left active duty for a period of time, you may be required to take ALS or other professional military education courses as a condition of your return to duty. Each situation is handled on a case-by-case basis and your own personal requirements will depend greatly on the circumstances of your departure, what training you have already gotten, etc.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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