Robins NCO Academy set to deactivate in May 2008

  • Published
  • By Holly L. Birchfield
  • 78th ABW/PA
Robins NCO Academy is set to deactivate in late summer 2008, just two years after celebrating its 50th birthday.

The school is tentatively set to graduate its last class of noncommissioned officers in May 2008 before deactivating in the July or August timeframe.

Chief Master Sgt. Roy Lapioli, commandant at the Robins NCO Academy for the past 11 months, said while the decision to deactivate the school has been approved, its timing is still soft.

Robins NCO Academy is one of the two smallest schools among the Air Force's nine NCO academies. The other is located at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas.

The two schools run flights of 40 to 50 students. Their larger sister schools typically run flights of 150 to 170 students.

The Robins NCO Academy commandant said upon the school's deactivation, some of the school's 12 staff members may be saying goodbye to the area as well.

"They will go out and be absorbed in their original AFSCs (Air Force Specialty Codes)," he said. "They will go out to where the Air Force needs them. It could be here at Robins. It could be overseas."

For Chief Lapioli, saying goodbye to his team will be tough.

"The biggest thing for me is that I've been getting to know the staff," he said. "We train and work together as a team and then we PCS out. So, the biggest thing is saying bye to yet another outstanding team."

Portraits, photos, plaques and other remnants of the school's heritage will be absorbed by the Air Force historian and digital photos of other relics from the school's past, such as its signs, will go to the Enlisted Research Institute with the final resting place to be determined.

Artifacts aren't the only thing the school is leaving behind though.

Chief Lapioli said he's confident that the school has prepared Airmen to be good leaders.

"When our students leave here, I can honestly say they're inspired and renewed to go out and fight this war on terrorism," he said. "They feel like part of a family, a brotherhood, or sisterhood."

Technical sergeants trying to move up in rank must undergo nearly six weeks of curriculum focusing on the areas of unit manager, military professional, combat leader, and managerial communications at the school.

Col. John Bowley, commander of the College for Enlisted Professional Military Education, said NCO academies are falling prey to a combination of personnel drawdown and budget constraints.

The U.S. Air Force's expected cut of 40,000 Airmen, which was brought on by the need to reinvest money into aircraft modernization, has translated into fewer NCOs attending the academies, Colonel Bowley said.

"What we need to do to be smart is to right-size our NCO Academy and minimize costs," he said. "McGuire was first because it had the number of instructors and students (the U.S. Air Force) needs to cut right now and the facility also needed a 'serious' upgrade."

Robins is among three NCO academies to close in the next couple of years. Kirtland AFB, N.M., is set to close in 2009.

Colonel Bowley said the four closures should save the Air Force about $5 million in manpower annually. The other NCO academies are located at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, Kadena Air Base, Japan, Kapon Air Station, Germany, Keesler AFB, Miss., and Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Ala.

While the decision to deactivate was out of the Robins NCO Academy commandant's hands, it's one the chief said the school is truly on board with in the Air Force's plan to meet customer needs.

To mark the occasion, Robins NCO Academy staff is planning its deactivation ceremony for late summer 2008.

(Editor's Note: Air Force Magazine contributed to this article.)