WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - What started as a consultation request turned into faculty from the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Civil Engineer School delivering the first off-site offering of their Comprehensive Planning Course (WENG 520).
Traditionally, the course is taught at Wright-Patterson AFB with students creating a conceptual area development plan as their class project. When personnel from Royal Air Force Lakenheath contacted the CE school looking for help to develop a plan for RAF Feltwell, a geographically separated area just north of the base, the chance to teach with a real-world project was the perfect opportunity the instructors were looking for.
In January, a team of instructors including Lt. Col. Sean-Michael Kelly, Capt. Andrew Fenner and Capt. Jonathan Sicurella, traveled to Lakenheath to teach the personnel how to develop the RAF Feltwell plan themselves.
“The area didn't have much of an identity to it and they didn't have much of a plan as to what it would look like in the future,” Fenner said. “The goal was to create a sense of identity and define the future of how the area develops which perfectly aligned to what we teach in the comprehensive planning course.”
The intensive one-week class included 15 students from RAF Lakenheath, Alconbury, and Mildenhall. The students designed a plan for the space based on physical, economic, political, social, environmental, and cultural considerations.
“The course was all hands-on,” said Sotiria Zafeiriou, community planner, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron. “It allowed us to not only learn but to show our colleagues and leadership how planners make decisions and influence the future of the installation. At the end of the course, not only have we learned but we have also obtained a valuable product made for us, by us.”
Solving a real-world problem as part of the course brought an extra dimension of buy-in from the students. “What really impressed me was the vision that they set up for the base,” Fenner said. “They looked at the space from strategic, operational and tactical standpoints. It was impressive to see them display a solid understanding of mission operation requirements in a planning course like this.”
Students presented their proposed area development plan to base leadership, including Brig. Gen. Joseph Campo, commander, 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath. Teaching the personnel how to develop the plan themselves resulted in a more personalized product with an understanding of the planning details and how it leads to enabling leadership to make an informed decision.
At the end of the course, the students applied their new base planning knowledge to meet a real-world need and helped to validate the learning concept for the instructors.
“Completing the course was an excellent experience,” said Charlotte Dew, community planner, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron. “The course provided a great balance between theory and practice. It was really useful to put new skills into practice by creating a product for RAF Feltwell. I now have the skills to advocate for regulating plans and recognize the importance of them in building a well-planned base.”