But now, for the first time in the school's history, they are getting the chance to become accredited faculty teachers.
The service this week announced that senior noncommissioned officers are eligible to apply to fill enlisted academic instructor positions directly assigned to the academy, according to a release.
"This initiative has grown as a result of decades of enlisted educational growth," Chief Master Sgt. Rob Boyer, academy command chief, said in the release. "We want to leverage opportunities for our enlisted airmen to utilize their advanced education while still serving, to contribute even more to the Air Force mission."
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Adding the enlisted leadership perspective is part of a larger years-long initiative across the Air Force's educational centers, including at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, officials said.
"We have to be smarter in how we fight today's wars," Boyer said. "We have to exercise what our airmen bring to the fight and deploy our lethality from the 'neck up.' This is an additional opportunity to show our cadets our enlisted airmen are smart, capable and able to get after today's complex mission environment with commander's intent."
The Air Force Personnel Center has created a new position at the academy to oversee the enlisted instructors. Two academic faculty instructor positions are currently open to senior master sergeants and master sergeants, the release said.
"They're going to be instructors at an accredited university teaching courses within their degree discipline," Master Sgt. Talisa Williams, superintendent of the academy's Military Personnel Division, said in the release.
One example is Senior Master Sgt. Sadie Chambers, superintendent of the academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development. Boyer hired Chambers, who has a master's degree in human relations, as the academy looked to expand its academic program.
Chambers, who was recently selected for promotion to chief master sergeant, has been teaching leadership courses to cadets since 2017, the release said.
"I have the awesome responsibility of helping them grow on their leadership journey," she said.
"We're here to develop leaders of character and, for the past two years, I've had a front row seat."
Boyer added, "We know the positive impact our enlisted airmen have had on our cadets and their massive role and influence in fulfilling our mission. I feel like we're really setting the standard here for great things to come at the academy and for our Air Force."