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McGuire NCO Academy closes its doors

by Airman Rebekah Phy
305th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

5/15/2007 - MCGUIRE AFB, N.J. (AFPN) -- After three decades of operation, officials at the McGuire NCO Academy closed its doors, furled and encased its flag, and held its inactivation ceremony here May 3.

"I'd like to put this NCO academy into perspective," said retired Col. Leland Martin, the academy's first commandant, a former base commander and guest speaker at the NCO academy inactivation ceremony.  "It really is a college, but it's a lot more than that. It's like everything else we do in the military; we give it a little bit extra and we do it a little bit better than anybody else.

"More than 20,000 people have come through this academy ... and what has this resulted in as far as we are concerned professionally? The answer is the best-trained, best-equipped and best-led force in the history of the military," he said. "And I think one of the major reasons is the fact that we have had that emphasis on professional military education.  It's not the only reason, but it's a major one."

The academy's last commandant continued the ceremony.

"This is not a sad day, rather, this is a day of celebration," said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Wofford. "Really, it's a family reunion, a reunion of commandants, faculty, staff, students, commanders, chiefs, ex-prisoners of war, original Tuskegee Airmen, a retired chief master sergeant of the Air Force, and the spouses and children who supported them over a 30-year legacy of excellence.

"The important thing for our instructors today and all who proceeded them is knowing the special role they played in inspiring the highest passions for excellence in our students and that they will now return to the McGuire community to shape and inspire others as better professionals, better citizens leading the cause of freedom."

Chief Wofford read from a letter from the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. 

"... The McGuire NCO Academy has served the Air Force well since opening its doors on Feb. 1, 1977. For 30 years, this academy has inspired and developed our NCOs with the values-driven framework of integrity, service and excellence," the letter read. 

"More than 20,000 NCOs have benefited from this academy's commitment to preparing our leaders for future challenges. These very same NCOs contribute to our global war on terrorism successes while transforming the Air Force to meet tomorrow's threats. This academy has directly cultivated the enlisted leaders who employ air, space and cyberspace forces around the world," the letter read.

The presiding officer, Col. Albert J. Bowley, Jr., College for Enlisted Professional Military Education commander, then took the stage.

"It's an honor to preside over this very special moment ... Today is a bittersweet day as we close a chapter of professional military education," Colonel Bowley said. 

The CEPME's mission and vision is to provide the continuum of education necessary to inspire and develop enlisted leaders with the moral framework of integrity, service and excellence and to develop Airmen with a warrior ethos and a passion for leading in the cause of freedom.

"These Airmen became better leaders, better prepared to fight our nation's wars," Colonel Bowley said.

The colonel said the decision to close the McGuire academy was a tough one, but necessary for the future of the Air Force.

"This academy is the first in a decade to close. It is a necessary transition.  The decision to close this prestigious academy was not taken lightly. We will continue to develop our NCO leaders with a warrior ethos," Colonel Bowley said.

He also announced that the building is being renamed the Tuskegee Airmen Professional Education Center. It will house the First-Term Airmen Center and base career advisor, among other things.

Known originally as the Military Airlift Command NCO Academy-East, officials here accepted the first students Feb. 15, 1977, with Colonel Martin as its first commandant. 

Over the years, the McGuire NCO Academy reached an annual enrollment of 798 students, a faculty and staff of 18, and facility consisting of an academic and administrative building. The faculty and staff are now at 10 personnel and enrollment was reduced to 59 students to accommodate the academy's final class (class 07-2) that graduated Feb. 15 on the 30th anniversary of the academy's first opening. The McGuire NCO Academy's formal inactivation date is Sept. 29. 

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