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Civilian developmental education helps grow tomorrow’s leaders

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Shelli Dunn said she fondly remembers her recent experiences at Squadron Officer School, especially one particular exercise called Project X.

“The exercise’s various scenarios are designed to challenge our communication abilities, organizational skills and physical coordination,” said Dunn, a human resource specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center. “Project X brought out the best in each of us. Some of us pushed through physical fears, while some of us learned being a follower is as important as being a leader.”

SOS is an in-resident company grade officer course that targets four-to-seven-year Air Force captains, government civilians (GS-9 to 12) and select international officers. During the course, students strengthen their leadership skills and apply what they learn in classroom discussions and field exercises.

In her particular flight, Dunn was the only civilian.
“In the end, we are one Air Force Team – solving a situation together through leadership and followership,” she said.

In addition to SOS, Air Force civilian development education programs offer about 30 developmental programs and are central to the continuum of learning that spans a civilian’s professional career. There are three levels of CDE: basic, intermediate and senior.

“Civilians are an integral part of the total force,” said Suzette Daniel, a CDE program manager at AFPC. “As the responsibilities of the Air Force’s civilian workforce have increased, so has the need for civilian force development.”

Starting in academic year 2018, a mobility agreement is no longer required for many in-residence CDE programs. However, some programs may require a mobility agreement if an appropriate outplacement position in the local area is not available. The basic eligibility requirement has also changed from two years Air Force civil service to just two years federal civil service. Also, the Defense Civilian Emerging Leader Program (six months) is now open to applicants in all career fields.

The Civilian Associate Degree Program (two years), Developing Team Leader Course (four-day in residence – blended) and the Organizational Leader Course (one week) are new for 2018. Other offerings include the Executive Leadership Development Program (10 months with seven TDYs at various locations) and the Civilian Leadership Course (one week).

One of the senior-level course offerings is the RAND Fellowship Program. Fellows are given access to all aspects of RAND's research community and are encouraged to participate actively in RAND research projects, seminars, and discussion groups.

Ericka Reynolds, the chief of the Cost Per Flying Hour Program at the Pentagon, took part in the RAND Fellowship program.

“The fellowship helped me to expand my knowledge beyond my Air Force expertise,” said Reynolds. “I was able to work on research projects with members of the Army, Homeland Security and Coast Guard. The opportunity to learn and incorporate concepts and processes from other disciplines is rare and greatly improve one’s leadership and team working skills.”

Typically, RAND fellows are relocated to Santa Monica, California, for one year.

“I opted to live fairly close to the RAND corporate office which allowed me to participate in many evening events, such as RAND Alumni seminars, guest speaker engagements, and other events,” Reynolds said.

Another CDE opportunity is the Air Command and Staff College. It’s a 10-month program that each year has about 500 in-resident students and more than 9,000 nonresident students from all military services, federal agencies, and 65 partner nations. During the 2016 academic year, 16 of the in-resident students were government civilians. Selena Carr-McEwen was one of them.

“One of the biggest highlights of my ACSC experience was taking the Cyber Operations Course,” Carr-McEwen said. “A Royal air force member instructed the course, which provided an interesting perspective.”

The curriculum consists of courses in airpower, international security, joint capabilities and operation planning, leadership and command, warfare studies and more. Graduates receive a master’s degree in Military Operational Art and Science.

“As you look across the Air Force, you see civilians working closely with military leaders on a variety of projects and initiatives,” said Carr-McEwen, a financial administration specialist for the Office of the Surgeon General in Falls Church, Virginia. “For career development and self-improvement, it is up to us to take advantage of the opportunities.”

Eligible Air Force civilians have until May 1, 2017 to submit their CDE program applications to the Air Force Personnel Center.

For more information on CDE programs, select “Civilian Development” on the Civilian Employee dropdown menu on myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following these instructions.