Civilian leaders trail blaze with immersive development program

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt Charis Bryan
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs

This past year, eight hand-picked government civilians assigned to the headquarters of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa participated in the inaugural class of the Civilian Leadership Development Program with opportunities for professional development across the theater.

The CLDP provides career broadening through exposure to USAFE-AFAFRICA missions, structure, culture and leadership to civilians working in directorates within the command headquarters. This initial class provided the CLDP class first-hand experience with explosive ordinance disposal, a U.S. Army Patriot Battalion at Baumholder, the 603d Air Operations Center, and a flight on a four-ship C-130J formation airdrop mission launched out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany by the 37th Airlift Squadron.

“The various CLDP events have brought us in contact with a diverse cross-section of Airmen representing a variety of career fields,” said Dominic Lombardo, intelligence specialist for USAFE-AFAFRICA’s Directorate of Intelligence. “Observing these Airmen in action gave me insight into key Air Force missions and an enhanced appreciation for the world’s greatest Air Force.”

In the one of the first experiences, the group visited the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to see concepts like integrated a combat turn and Agile Combat Employment in action. CLDP members also had the opportunity to see a full afterburner engine run up close and assemble inert munitions in the base’s ammo yard.

“Whether it was roundtable discussions with headquarters senior leaders, to riding in a C-130J cockpit, to the heart pounding sound of an F-16 afterburner, this program provided a truly hands on experience; showcasing the Air Force’s greatest asset - our Airmen!" commented Joe Piechota, USAFE-AFAFRICA Directorate of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection pavement engineer.

With each session focusing on a different component of the USAFE-AFAFRICA mission set, participants gained a broader understanding of the strategic importance of each organization while experiencing the mission on a tactical level.

“It has been inspiring to see firsthand how the Airmen within each organization we visited are contributing to the U-A mission,” said Valerie Kimball, desk officer for USAFE-AFAFRICA Directorate of Plans, Programs and Analyses. “We appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to engage directly with our U-A senior leaders, learn from their perspectives on leadership, and their investment in our professional growth.”

For Arianne Gouveia, intelligence specialist with the USAFE-AFAFRICA Directorate of Intelligence, a site visit with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations was a clear stand out. CLDP members immersed themselves with the expertise and skillset the AFOSI Region 5 team provides to USAFE-AFAFRICA.

“We had an amazing and immersive experience with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations,” Gouveia said. “In addition to exploring their overall support to the USAFE mission, we really dove into the specialties OSI agents have to offer. From exploring several elements of forensics, firing range safety, and polygraph techniques, the CLDP team was fortunate enough to get a comprehensive look into the diverse mission sets they carry. Hearing perspectives of both active duty and civilian special agent training opportunities opened our eyes to OSI and their support to the larger law enforcement community.”

Since its initial conception in spring of 2020, the CLDP has facilitated 20 unique mentorship and development events for the eight founding members. In addition to gaining tactical familiarity, participants attended biweekly luncheons with senior USAFE-AFAFRICA leadership.

“Not knowing the depth of this endeavor prior to jumping in, the mentorship and knowledge transfer provided by senior HQ staff has blown me away and allowed me to see first-hand what our command is capable of.” said Lindsay Jacobs, USAFE-AFAFRICA Directorate of Communications theater operations planner.

Beyond the small group conversations with leaders within USAFE-AFAFRICA, participants had access to U.S. European Command and NATO senior-level conferences. These events provided insight into both strategic and operational thinking across the European theater.

With a strong foundation established by both civilian and military leaders, the participants look forward to future events and enjoying their new network of fellow civilians working at the command’s headquarters.

“The Civilian Leadership Development Program offers an evolution in the developmental education of civilians and is one I highly recommend to any civilian, regardless of their background or career field,” Lombardo said.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the CLDP has continued to seek out and execute innovative engagements for professional development. The call for new applications is anticipated in early June for the next iteration that will run August 2021 to May 2022.