Immersion course builds future leaders at Columbus

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jake Jacobsen
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Newly assigned junior officers at Columbus Air Force Base recently competed the innovative Officer Immersion Course, April 12, 2022, on Columbus AFB.

The two day course was made to be similar to First Term Airman Course (FTAC) available to newly enlisted Airmen but built differently to better fit the officer’s role in the Air Force. Topics and exercises in the course include team building, ethics, stress management, equal opportunity, resiliency training and other developmental activities.

MSgt Stephanie Tognotti, 14th Student Squadron senior enlisted leader, led the effort and approved the curriculum for the course.

“We didn’t want it to be a copy of FTAC or the newcomers briefing, so we really took the time to review and discuss with peers from around the wing what the curriculum should include,” said Tognotti. “I work with a lot of brand new lieutenants, so I thought about what they might need and what kind of questions they would have coming to their first base. We also wanted to avoid filling the course with briefs, so we ingrained professional development exercises in the course to motivate the students.”

The class mentor, Maj. Rachel Vargas, 37th Flying Training Squadron chief of standardization of evaluation, was readily available to the students throughout the course to offer personal life experience and insight on course material.

Vargas and Tognotti implemented ice breaker and team building exercises to start familiarizing students with each other and build camaraderie at the start of the first day. From there, unit representatives from around the base visited the students to begin their immersion of the programs and services at Columbus AFB.

The 14th Flying Training Wing legal team spoke to the students about professional relationships and any legal issues concerning instructor/student and officer/enlisted relationships. The Equal Opportunity Office broadcasted what they offer, how the students could get involved and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the Air Force.

More teams from around the base to include Mental Health, Financial Readiness, Instructor Pilots, and First Sergeants came to explain their role and how they can help the students throughout their stay.

“Now that they know all the different resources available to them and how to utilize them, they can relay that same information to those they will be leading one day,” said Tognotti. “This course also helped build their relationships with Senior Non-Commissioned Officers. As SNCO’s, we are charged with mentoring and developing company grade officers, so this is a great opportunity for that to happen.”

As the first class of the course ended, students gave feedback and suggested positive changes that could help improve the curriculum. Continuous feedback from future students will allow the officer immersion course to evolve as more inbound lieutenants arrive to Columbus AFB.