SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Many Airmen come to Sheppard Air Force Base to train the next generation of aircraft mechanics, pilots, civil engineers and more, but very few finish their tour with the highest honor – the Air Education and Training Command Master Instructor designation.
Master Sgt. Gary Armstrong, a Faculty Development Flight instructor currently deployed to Kuwait, earned the distinction in July when he completed the requirements to achieve master instructor status. His final evaluation was on the day he deployed.
He said he spent some time as an instructor at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina from 2008-2011 teaching aerospace propulsion apprentices their core tasks as well as an engine run refresher course, but he didn’t have a “T” prefix at the time, which indicates a person is qualified to serve as a formal training instructor.
Armstrong’s path to his master instructor honor, which only about 10 percent of AETC instructors achieve, began in November 2014. He said he didn’t think he’d have the opportunity to achieve master instructor status, but he approached his duties with discipline and professionalism that he would with any other.
“I showed up every day ready to give 100 percent and to do my part in facilitating and accelerating learning for my students. This was my main concern as an instructor,” he said. “I wanted to ensure my students were able to assimilate and apply the principles and techniques taught.”
Armstrong, who has been in the Air Force for 13 years, said the process began when he completed the basic instructor course in 2014. He has taught the basic instructor course, principles of instruction and instructional systems designs. He is also a member of a mobile training team that travels worldwide to provide instruction.
To achieve a master instructor rating, according to AETC Instruction 36-2202, an instructor must have 2,000 hours of instructional delivery, three consecutive instructor evaluations of sustained and superior performance, continuing education to show professional growth during the period of consideration, and a bigger understanding of curriculum development beyond delivery.
“This award is one of the highest if not the highest accomplishment of my career,” Armstrong said. “Other awards are a culmination of a quarter or a year’s accomplishment while receiving master instructor is the compilation of multiple years of outstanding performance."
“I’m very proud to have been given the opportunity to achieve the award by my leadership.”
Shelley Bard, chief of Sheppard’s Training Development Element, said they weren’t able to present the master instructor award to Armstrong because of his deployment to the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron.
“When the certificate was signed, we did not want to just mail it to him with a ‘Great job!’ Post-it note on the front,” she said, “so we contacted his command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Jerome.”
Jerome agreed to present the honor to Armstrong and did so Oct. 11.
Armstrong is serving as the force protection superintendent at Ahmed al Jaber Air Base and leads a flight of 58 Airmen from 41 different career fields.