Civilians gain leadership, warfighter support skills through program

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 25th Air Force
The Department of Defense Executive Leadership Development Program has been molding leaders for more than 30 years.

In keeping with that tradition, the ELDP class of 2017 gained valuable knowledge of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and cyber missions and capabilities while visiting 25th Air Force Headquarters at JB San Antonio–Lackland May 9, 2017.

“It is a great opportunity to obtain first-hand, upfront knowledge from warfighters, and those who are responsible for supporting the warfighters,” said Vanessa Glascoe, the ELDP program manager. “What better way to learn than to remove oneself from your own work environment and experience, and gain firsthand knowledge though hands-on immersion, briefings and other interaction with those responsible and engaged in our national security interests.”

Participants in the program, which was initiated in 1985, learn the multiple facets of the DOD’s mission through emersion opportunities at various military installations, like JB San Antonio, Glascoe said.

“ELDP is designed to develop leaders who have an appreciation of the global missions of the Department of Defense and an understanding of the complexities and challenges that warfighters face in carrying out those missions,” Glascoe said. “This program is a key component of the DOD’s talent management and succession planning strategy. It develops diverse future leaders with the multiple perspectives and skills needed to lead teams, projects and people.”

The dedicated civil servants selected for ELDP apply to take part in the program.

“We are all doing this for one goal, to secure our nation,” said Jane Bachman, the lead for the 2017 program’s JB San Antonio deployment. “So, our part as civilians is to help the warfighter meet that job, securing our nation, putting their lives on the line.”

Bachman said she normally works on computer simulated environments at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, and was selected for a leadership development assignment with Naval Air Systems Command.

“This program is awesome for people to get that experience with the warfighter, to get in there and see what they do, how they do things and why they’re doing things for our nation,” she said. “I am honored and humbled to be one of the participants in this cohort, 2017. I got into the program because I wanted to learn more about the warfighter, and I wanted to get that hands-on experience.”

Bachman said mission briefings like the one ELDP students heard from the 25th AF executive director, Dominic Pohl, inspire her to be a better leader. Participants also heard the 24th AF mission briefing and dined with basic military trainees during their visit to JB San Antonio-Lackland.

“Being able to hear briefs, like from Mr. Pohl here, and our generals that we see throughout the Air Force, the Army, the Navy [admirals], the Marines; it’s just been awesome to get that experience, to get their insight into how they lead,” Bachman said.

Another ELDP future leader, Doug Opersteny, the program manager for the plans and programs section at Air Education and Training Command, applied for ELDP to further his leadership skills and get to know what the warfighter does.

“This program has been so beneficial because it has not only increased my strengths as a leader and retired officer, but has also uncovered my weaknesses as a leader, the things that I can improve on,” said the retired Air Force pilot. “As I move on in my career as a civilian in the Air Force, I am able to take those strengths, develop the weaknesses and turn them to strengths, so I can be of more beneficial service to the Air Force and the Department of Defense.”

When he retired from active duty, Opersteny didn’t realize how many professional civilians were in the DOD.

“There are folks, a lot younger than me, who have done this since they got out of college,” he said. “This program is very beneficial for them because they have never worn a flightsuit, they have never worn service dress, so they are really getting the education about what those in uniform are doing, front line, every day. It is so key for them to realize and know what goes on outside those cubical walls.”

Selectees for the ELDP program come from all walks of life and all branches of the military.

Craig Hinman, a force protection specialist for U.S. Army North at JB San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, spends his days analyzing threats, assessing vulnerabilities, developing mitigation issues and establishing the protective posture for the Army in North America. He is also a retired Marine Corps tank officer.

Hinman’s ELDP experience in San Antonio gave him a broader understanding of other military branches and concepts, to include exposure to the joint basing concept and the Air Force’s role in the DOD enterprise, he said.

The future leaders in this year’s ELDP class will wrap up their learning experience when they graduate next month and return to their current civilian positions full time.

“With what I have learned from this program, my future is unlimited,” said Opersteny, adding that ELDP gave him “…the strength, courage, resilience and vision” to realize what he can do as a future civilian leader in the Air Force.

The ELDP is open on an annual basis to DOD civilian leaders at the GS-12 through GS-14 and equivalent levels, and participants are selected by the individual military services. Limited opportunities exist also for active-duty military captains and majors as well as interagency partners.