EWI Fellows complete mid-tour review

  • Published
  • By Capts. Katie Hansen, Frank Larkins and Thomas Fister
  • Air Force Institute of Technology

Kicking off the new year, the 71st class of Air Force Education with Industry Fellows gathered in Orlando, Florida, recently to share their company experiences with leadership from Air Force Acquisition, Manpower, Personnel and Services, Air Force Institute of Technology and the Air Force Personnel Center as part of their DoD-mandated mid-tour review.

The current class, comprised of 61 officers, enlisted and civilians, traveled from 20 states to share their lessons learned and insight from industry. The EWI Fellows brought a myriad of perspectives, representing 17 Air Force career fields embedded and working at 39 different companies.

The company partners range from traditional DoD, non-traditional, Fortune 500 and private equity firms to small business and national laboratories, all providing unique viewpoints unavailable without this vital program.

In a direct response to the secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff of the Air Force’s top priority of developing strong, innovative Air Force leaders, each EWI Fellow will return to the Air Force with an exclusive perspective, industrial insight and practiced business acumen at the end of the 10-month program. 

During the review, each fellow provided a 15-minute briefing on their lessons learned thus far, to include highlighting their capstone Insight to Industry, or I2I, paper topic. This research paper is the culmination of the EWI Program and addresses best practices or insight learned from industry to help resolve top issues facing their respective career fields and the Air Force today. These briefings allow for open, empowered discussion that lead to a greater perspective into business best-practices from the entire industrial consortium.

A few of the many highlights from the mid-tour review included:

◾In response to the Air Force vice chief of staff’s Multi-Domain Operations Challenge, Staff Sgt. Armando Cabrera, an intelligence analyst, and Capt. John Radovan, a weather operations officer, working at Amazon, shared their plans to prototype a Machine Learning Base Camp, with the goal of organically building ML knowledge across the Air Force, mirroring Amazon’s Machine Learning University.

◾Capt. Teresa Crampton, a logistics officer working at Fed Ex, has observed an industry best practice for asset management through utilization of radio frequency identification tags (passive tracking) and Bluetooth devices (active tracking). With a follow-on assignment to the Defense Logistics Agency, Crampton has been focusing her research on how the logistics career field can implement similar technology and processes to refine asset management.

◾Thomas Dawson, an Air Force information technology specialist working at Boeing, shared his Spark Tank idea with the group. Thomas was a semifinalist in the 2019 Spark Tank competition with his idea of implementing a Knowledge Management-Framework to gain efficiencies across the Air Force. Developing a usable KM-F would improve efficiency by increasing, encouraging and enabling the creation, sharing, discovery and reuse of knowledge.

◾Audra Dorn is a contracting officer is working at the University of Dayton Research Institute and gaining valuable perspective from a contractor’s point of view. Dorn has prepared more than 70 proposals and is recommending additional opportunities for contractor-initiated innovation efforts. She is currently researching the feasibility of revitalizing the unsolicited proposal process as an agile acquisition solution.

◾Tech. Sgt. Lakindra Favors, an acquisition financial manager working at Apple, has learned that not only is process improvement critical to their success, but that everything centers around improving the customer experience. She is researching the feasibility of utilizing Apple’s accessibility principles for implementation into the Air Force civilian pay process.

◾Capt. Caleb Leestma, an acquisitions officer working at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, has received an incredible amount of mentoring and soft-skill development in his first five months. He has met one-on-one with more than 20 of Wyndham’s senior leaders, learned how Wyndham intentionally develops their culture, which leads directly to favorable results, and is leading Wyndham and LaQuinta’s integration effort more than 300 hotels. His capstone paper is focused on maintaining a strong culture by optimizing organizational change management.

◾Capt. Ronisha Carter, a cyberspace operations officer working at VMware, has co-authored two technical papers on machine learning and artificial intelligence, identifying key implementations of machine learning and will be working with the Amazon EWI Fellows to identify how to advance the Air Force in development of new technology and machine learning knowledge.

 Meeting Government Accounting Office-directed requirements, the fellows received valuable feedback from Air Force leadership on their paper topics.

Lt Col James Townsend, Air Force Acquisitions’ Industrial Preparedness Program Element Monitor, said, “The relationships developed and insights gained by these fellows are unrivaled by any other Air Force experience. Fellows see first-hand the gap between what warfighters need and the capabilities industry brings to the table. We must capitalize on the innovative ideas from these fellows’ capstone papers, which synergizes our Air Force with industry thru streamlining our acquisition processes, innovating concepts that modernize our squadrons and delivering modern warfighting capabilities.”

Overall, the mid-tour review was a success. EWI Fellows participated in critical cross-discussion, shared thoughts and ideas on their experiences and vastly expanded their networks with their peers. The program is an invaluable experience for Air Force officers, enlisted and civilians. The EWI program has continued to grow exponentially yearly, with next year’s class size projected to have as many as 75 students in fall of 2019.