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Leaders from across the Air Force gather to discuss force development advancement

Air Education and Training Command graphic for Force Development updates. Force Development is is a deliberate process of preparing Airmen through the Continuum of Learning with the required competencies to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by 2nd. Lt. Robert Guest)

Air Education and Training Command graphic for Force Development updates. Force Development is is a deliberate process of preparing Airmen through the Continuum of Learning with the required competencies to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by 2nd. Lt. Robert Guest)


Air Force leaders from the total force — active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian — gathered at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Dec. 16-17 to discuss initiatives and collaborations for force development advancement across the Air Force.

Airmen from all major commands, joined stakeholders from Headquarters Air Force, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability and the Air National Guard to collaborate on force development efforts within their respective areas and across the Air Force.

“The inaugural Force Development Summit was a tremendous success,” said Dr. Matthew Stafford, Air Education and Training Command chief learning officer.

Stafford said the summit brought together practitioners in force development, as well as experts in policy and governance.

“Together we developed a shared understanding of the developmental challenges we face and innovations we can employ,” he said.

Col. Raymond Platt, Headquarters AETC Force Development deputy director, reinforced the success of the summit and added, “it is incumbent on AETC to stitch together the efforts of the other MAJCOMs in terms of force development and to be the link and mouthpiece to Headquarters Air Force Personnel and Manpower.”

Platt added the most important take-away for him was that the “other MAJCOMs have many ongoing efforts with a force development flavor, but we all need to work together to build an undeniable, unified front to get the best of these ideas through, from the idea-to-innovation, through the scale-and-sustain phases of their development.”

In 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Heather Wilson, former Secretary of the Air Force, designated the AETC Commander, Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, as the MAJCOM commander tasked with the force development mission⁠ — a holistic, Airman-centric approach that deliberately connects Airmen’s training, education and experiences throughout their careers to “develop the Airmen we need” to succeed in complex, multi-domain operational environments. In response to that tasking, the AETC commander reorganized the headquarters, realigning forces to create new divisions, new detachments and one new directorate.

AETC’s Operations and Communications Directorate, referred to internally as HQ AETC A3/6, under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Bill Spangenthal, currently has four divisions dedicated to operationalizing the force development mission: Policy Integration; Planning, Analysis and Resources; Credentialing; and Competencies.

The Directorate of Intelligence, Analysis and Innovation, led by Col. Jason Lamb, is the new directorate which includes four new elements created to address the force development mission: the Future Environments Division, Innovation Advancement Division, Technology Integration Detachment and a Force Development Assessments and Analytics Flight within the Air Force’s only advanced studies and analysis squadron.

The Civilian Force Development division led by Col. Rich Cole executes the civilian elements of the force development mission.

Presentations during the two-day event centered on what is being done to support force development efforts by MAJCOMs, numbered air forces and NAF equivalents.

Stafford presented the command’s learning philosophy and discussed the need to advance the relevance of training and education in order to develop mission-focused Airmen. AETC leaders provided attendees with updates and insights into the command’s ongoing efforts to define and normalize the force development mission.

“We operate off an antique model that is out of date. It’s too costly, too complex and doesn’t inspire our Airmen to learn,” Stafford noted. “We need to change to more active learning strategies to maximize learning effectiveness.”

Stafford added that the most effective learning environments are those that encourage experimentation, allow for questions and accept setbacks and the learning that can result.

“Airmen need to take ownership of the learning task,” he said.

“The power of learning in the Air Force does not come from any MAJCOM but from the Airmen who learn from and teach each other every day,” said Dr. Randy Coats, HQ AETC/A9 deputy director who is also the executive director of Innovation and Future Learning. “Our ultimate force development is to empower those Airmen within a robust learning environment, which fosters learning that is collaborative, delivered at the point of need, Airman-centric, competency-based and within the context of the mission.”

From using immersive technology to accelerating training pipelines, transforming the way Airmen learn is just one aspect of force development. Developing services to deliver capabilities support talent management is another. Some other capabilities include rolling out foundational and occupational competencies, developing credentialing and badging to capture and document Airmen’s knowledge and skills, and launching the Air Force Learning Services Ecosystem — the cloud-based information technology platform that will underpin force development efforts. AFLSE will be a combination of information technology, learning management, data-tracking and data-analytics services to help Airmen learn anytime, anywhere and document their learning achievements.

The goal of each of these efforts is to capture and document throughout an Airman’s career “what they know and can do,” Platt said.

“It’s about competency-based education and training that quantifies and captures learning to produce top-performing Airmen,” Platt explained. “We have work yet to do in force development, such as clarifying roles and responsibilities, securing appropriate funding and transforming our training pipelines and follow-on training in the various MAJCOMS; however, we continue to move forward toward the goal line.”

The summit was the first step in leveling the playing field in terms of what AETC is doing to operationalize force development and ensure efforts across the force are being approached in a holistic manner that benefits all Airmen across the total force.

Stafford summed up the event by stating that, “participants were able to share experiences – both successes and setbacks – to help guide one another toward better developmental opportunities for our Airmen. These networked learning professionals will undoubtedly contribute mightily to building a better Air Force for the future.”

For more information about the Force Development mission go to https://www.aetc.af.mil/Force-Development/.


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