AFTC encourages Civilians to take advantage of educational opportunities

  • Published
  • By Tiffany Holloway
  • Air Force Test Center

There’s no time like the present than to further your education. Whether to make a career change, get promoted, or learn a new skill, the Air Force has a plethora of programs for Civilians to meet their educational goals.

The Air Force released the results of the academic year 2022 civilian developmental education selection board last week. Across the Air Force Test Center, 55 out of 94 candidates were selected for CDE this year. The selection rate of 59% is higher this year than last. The selectees passed a rigorous application process and this opportunity is a tribute to their hard work and potential.

 “CDE is an essential ingredient in the development of civilian leaders,” said Maj. Gen. Evan Dertien, AFTC commander. “Its purpose is to deliberately prepare our civilian workforce with practical knowledge and skills to be effective in our expeditionary Air, Space, and Cyberspace Force.  Our Air Force Test Center will benefit from the CDE selectees’ initiative to seek professional education and leadership development.  We are lucky to have them on our team.”

Meanwhile, AFTC leadership is looking to raise the bar. The AFTC executive director, personnel directorate, and the Center’s senior functional advisors are slated to meet to learn how to strengthen packages and prepare for the 2023 CDE data call, which will begin Jan. 13, 2022.

“We strongly encourage civilians to take of advantage of these Air Force developmental opportunities because capable leaders are needed to accomplish the AFTC, AFMC, and Air Force mission,” said Milo Conley, Workforce Development division.  “CDE provides developmental education, programs and leadership opportunities that prepare civilian Airmen to anticipate and successfully meet challenges across the wide range of AF operations and missions.” 

These programs will expand participants’ knowledge and increase their understanding of the role of air, space and cyberspace power. 

“CDE positively impacts retention of high-potential future leaders and is a mission-centered approach the AF uses to care for and invest in its people,” said Conley.” Also, CDE programs are little or no cost to the applicant.”  

Julie Brater, AFTC Commander’s Action Group specialist, was selected for the Air Command and Staff College online Master’s Degree Program

“I am humbled, nervous, and excited to get started,” she said. “I wanted to improve my ability to support AFTC in my current position and to do what she can to be ready for future opportunities.”

The process was fairly easy.

“I had lots of support from my supervisor and the folks in DP.  It took some focus and introspection, but I simply reviewed the different programs and followed the guidance from DP and myVector,” said Brater.

Catherine Katuszonek, chief, Business Division 412 Electronic Warfare Group, was selected for the Leading Effectively Through Change Program. It is a five-day in-person instruction.

Being in her role for only nine months, as a new NH-04, she felt that she needed to learn how to effectively guide her team through change, develop the skills to help my team maintain resiliency with what seems to be constant change. 

“Change can be good, at the right time, but change can also be scary for some.  Most importantly, I am learning to build trust not only within my team, but also with all the division, squadron, and group leaders at Electronic Warfare Group and with other Test Wing leaders. LETC will provide the tools to better equip me with advancing organizational change initiatives and learn how to negotiate with others for the best desired outcome,” said Katuszonek. “There is always room for improvement but we first have to be open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and be willing to listen.” 

Arnold Engineering Development Complex, senior engineer Michael Glennon, said he is excited to be selected to attend the Leading Effectively Through Change Program. He is currently leading the Digital Engineering working group at AEDC and looking to leverage this course to build trust, influence others, and effectively negotiate opportunities that will lead to innovative ideas to enhance collaboration with our Test and Evaluation partners.

“My goal is to understand the culture impacts of change and leverage the opportunity taking advantage of real-world situations enhancing Test and Evaluation mission effectiveness,” he said.

Several AFTC Civilians have already taken advantage of the CDE opportunities and they are eager to pass on their experience and lessons learned.

Mark Wilke, deputy director, 96 Test Wing, Force Support Squadron is a career Airman. He enlisted in the Air Force in March of 1983, retired as a Command Chief Master Sergeant in Dec of 2003, and has been serving as a civilian ever since He graduated from in-residence Air Command and Staff College in 2019. 

The in-residence option is a 10-month program at Maxwell AFB that, if successfully completed, results in completing PME and the award of a Master of Military Operational Art and Science degree. 

 “My motivation was to grow my skills as a career airman while at the same time expanding career opportunities that would afford me the opportunity to positively impact the USAF. The AFTC director of personnel, during a civilian developmental education roadshow, encouraged me to pursue CDE to help me achieve my career goals,” said Wilke. “I had been mentoring and coaching people for many years to continue their development to open up opportunities, and now I needed to do the same. After reviewing the many civilian developmental options, I applied for ACSC in-residence and feel very fortunate to have been selected to attend.”

He said that ACSC was not a walk in the park, but definitely worth it.

“I was reminded how much there is to learn about our profession of arms and what a worthy area of study it is. We can dedicate our entire lives to growing and learning but will never arrive at a place in which we say we know it all. I reaffirmed my love and passion for the Air Force. What a noble mission,” Wilke said.

Mark Crockett, the 96th Test Wing vice director, is a graduate of the Civilian Strategic Leadership Program and the Defense Senior Leadership Development Program.

“The best preparation is to immerse yourself in leadership literature and continually seek opportunities to grow in servant leadership.  Civil Service implies one must serve. That also implies sacrifice.  Each potential senior leader must understand that senior leadership is meant for those who wish to serve others and sacrifice is essential to that calling,” said Crockett.

His path was a little different. He was prior-enlisted and retired as an Air Force officer. He said that he has always been intrigued by leadership and how to effectively lead others.

While at the Pentagon, his supervisor saw his potential and encouraged him to apply for CSLP. His first CSLP assignment was serving as 11th Mission Support Group deputy director at Joint Base Andrews. This was just the beginning. Crockett was launched into the DSLDP, DoD’s premier civilian senior leadership program, while he was still in CSLP. On top of that, he was serving as 18th Mission Support Group deputy director at Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan. 

Where there is a will, there is a way.

CSLP opened the door to senior leadership and the experience he gained at Air Staff, Joint Base Andrews and Kadena  laid the critical foundation for his current role as 96 TW/DV.  These two complex and diverse senior leadership assignments allowed him to grow exponentially; professionally and personally. 

 “I was extremely motivated to seek this exceptional growth opportunity and continue my quest to experience senior leadership at the highest levels. A goal that I could only dream about a few years before,” said Crockett. “The main benefit to furthering your education is that you begin your senior leadership journey as you are, but after experiencing CDE along the way, you become a better version of yourself. You are able to serve others better and enhance mission accomplishment. You gain additional insight through extensive engagement and networking with your cohort members, seminar mates, coaches, and mentors and fully realize growth is a continual, lifelong process.”

Wilke’s advice for anyone on the fence is to “Just do it!  If we don’t continue to expand our minds and capabilities, we risk growing stagnant. Over the past decade, opportunities for career development have grown based on the vision of leaders who understood the significant impact the civilian workforce has on the Air Force mission to fly, fight and win. Moreover, the opportunity to develop relationships with other Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines cannot be overstated. I met some incredible people, including international officers, who I will never forget.  I will cherish the experiences and the relationships as long as I live.”

For those interested in starting the process, there are more than 30 developmental programs to research. Get ahead of the game by visiting the Air Force Personnel Center website.