***image1***It is difficult to identify the beginnings of the Air Force’s NCO Academy because finding a starting point means starting with its predecessors.
The Air Force NCO Academy officially traces its roots to the Nov. 3, 1952 Strategic Air Command, 7th Air Division, NCO Academy at Royal Air Force Station, West Drayton, England. But that school was partially modeled after the 7th Army’s NCO Academy, Munich, Germany. Operating since Oct. 17, 1949, they are the oldest in the Army today. Since the final curriculum chosen by the 7th Air Division was quite different from the 7th Army NCOA, it was arguably not a true predecessor.
The first 13 students of the 7th Air Division NCOA received 60 hours of leadership, drill, personnel management and miscellaneous subjects. The school’s first graduation guest speaker, Strategic Air Command Commander Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, was so impressed that he directed NCOA establishment across his numbered Air Forces. But SAC had not been the first command to create an NCOA.
Nearly two years earlier, (May 16, 1950) U.S. Force in Europe Commander Gen. John K. Cannon established the Academy of Leadership and Management at Wiesbaden Air Base. The USAFE school curriculum was developed for NCOs from the Senior Military Manager Course and the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania. It was very successful, training 2,094 students in just 10 months. Unfortunately, that is when the school closed.
With six bases opening in Germany (to include Ramstein) and eight more in France, USAFE units could no longer spare their mid-level managers long enough to attend. The primary reason this NCO school is not recognized as the true beginning of the NCOA is because the program’s success had led to inclusion of junior officers. SAC’s program was solely for NCOs and was ultimately the most influential.
From SAC’s numbered air forces, the NCOA idea spread to other major commands. By 1957, the program had gotten Air Force-level attention as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nathan F. Twining, signed the new one-page Air Force Regulation officially establishing the NCOAs.
After an early start in NCO education, USAFE did not reestablish a school again until 20 years later. The USAFE Command Leadership and Management Center opened at Lindsey Air Station, Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1972. After a short relocation to Sembach, it made a final move to Kapaun October 1975. The following year, the center closed briefly to reopen as the fully accredited USAFE NCOA. Renamed the Kisling NCOA (1986) in honor of Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Richard D. Kisling, this school carries on the proud legacy of USAFE’s long commitment to NCO education.
The debate over the true beginnings of the Air Force NCO Academy cannot be solved here, but thanks to the tremendous success these schools have had over the years, their continued future is quite certain.
(Courtesy of the 435th Air Base Wing and 86th Airlift Wing history offices)