BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado --
In a room full of Airmen, a soldier stood out, with a wide smile and an eagerness to learn. The first day of Airman Leadership School class 18-C began February 16th, and for the first time ever, the class consisted of not just Airmen, but a Soldier.
Cpl. James R. Wrick, a 743rd Military Intelligence Battalion signals analyst, was hand selected to attend the course.
“Wrick is an intelligent soldier and a consummate professional,” said First Sergeant Rick O’Bryan, 743rd Military Intelligence Battalion alpha company first sergeant. “We knew that he would not just ‘attend’ ALS, but he would go with the goal of learning how to be a better leader of both Soldiers and Airmen.”
Although Buckley is an Air Force base, its unique mission requires members from all Department of Defense branches to work together in a joint environment to provide America with the best missile warning mission in the world.
“The important part of the joint atmosphere is to see all the differences and great things they bring to the table and then being able to see how we can implement the great things, as opposed to having blinders on and thinking we are the best in everything we do,” said Tech. Sgt. Travis Jackson, Buckley AFB ALS raptor flight instructor.
Jackson’s flight is the first ever Buckley AFB ALS class to include a member of a different branch. The unique perspective of having a solider in the class brought variety to discussions and leadership styles.
“We saw a difference in how the Army did things,” said Jackson. “Wrick definitely brought a unique aspect to the classroom because he was optimistic about everything.”
Not only was Wrick the first soldier to graduate Buckley AFB ALS, he was also awarded the highest award for Professional Military Education in the Air Force, the John L. Levitow Award. It is presented to the student who demonstrates the most outstanding leadership and scholastic achievement throughout the course.
“I knew he would do well and we are all very proud of his achievement,” said O’Bryan. “I admire the Buckley AFB ALS cadre and his classmates for breaking service barriers and nominating a soldier to receive this prestigious award.”
The rigorous 24 training days of ALS focuses on developing leadership abilities, the profession of arms and building effective communication. Throughout the class, many of the students network and work together to improve one another in their leadership and communication abilities.
“What I got most out of ALS was probably the interpersonal relationships I formed with other Airman which I’m extremely grateful for,” said Wrick. “But also I think my communication skills have improved and I’ll be able to take that back to work and communicate more effectively with my subordinates.”
The Army equivalent of ALS is the Basic Leadership Course and is similar in length but differs greatly in their training setting and leadership styles.
“When we go to BLC we are put in charge of a fire team and we are navigating soldiers through land navigation,” said Wrick. “We must be able to react to contact quickly, assertively and loudly, therefore our leaders are developed to be more directive because our mission requires them to be.”
Although Wrick was at a disadvantage from his peers coming from a different culture, he worked diligently and immersed himself into the Air Force culture, even learning the Airman’s Creed by the end of class.
“In the Army there’s this saying ‘adapt and overcome,’ so no matter what situation I find myself in, it’s always been that,” said Wrick. “If you don’t know how to do something you better figure it out and that was my mindset coming into ALS.”
Because of Wrick’s different military background, he stood out among his peers in certain aspects and was lauded by his instructors for his professionalism and military bearing.
“Wrick has very strong customs and courtesies,” said Jackson. “He’s very professional in everything he does and has shown Buckley AFB that the 743rd has some good soldiers to bring to the table.”
Though Wrick was the first soldier to complete ALS at Buckley, and set the bar high by winning the Levitow award, the Buckley ALS instructors are hoping to have more classes with joint partners not only from the Army but other branches.
“I would highly encourage soldiers who are going to be in leadership positions to come to ALS because I think that they can get a lot from it and learn a lot from what the Air Force has to teach about professional development,” said Wrick.