VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
For the past 30 years a small percentage of officers arrive at the 381st Training Group, for technical training, without a security clearance which prevents them from starting classes. The Office of Personnel Management has a significant backlog in clearance investigations, leaving many lieutenants waiting from several months to years for security clearances.
The 381st TRSS is taking a unique approach to solving this personnel issue and continues to develop officers through the Student Development Flight.
The incoming lieutenants are provided multiple opportunities for professional development in their Air Force Specialty Code. Which includes, tours of the Airborne Launch Control Center, an airborne node of the nuclear command and control system, tours of maintenance personnel emplacing Intercontinental Ballistic Missile boosters for operational test missions, and Myers-Briggs facilitated leadership classes.
Additionally, each lieutenant is assessed based on education, merit and personal abilities and placed in a targeted temporary assignment on base. These jobs are assigned because of their ability to provide lieutenants "value added" experience in their AFSC. The 381st TRSS works closely with the host wing, the 30th Space Wing, to provide a much needed professional work-force in high-ops, low-manning units. All lieutenants will depart their temporary jobs with priceless operational experience, performance reports and some with decorations. The main goal for the program is to produce the highest caliber officers, however there are also intangible gains such as high morale and an investment in future Air Force leaders.
I personally have been part of the Student Development Flight for nearly nine months since I arrived in August of 2016. My first job as a lieutenant was in the 30th Space Wing Public Affairs office. Working in Public Affairs offered me the chance to understand the operational Air Force from a wing level. I helped lead distinguished visitors and escorted media, worked on mass media dissemination projects, base article publications, graphic design projects, missile launch support, and had plenty of opportunities for mentorship with Vandenberg Air Force Base commanders. Additionally, I joined the Base Honor Guard and now serve as Bravo Flight's Officer-in-Charge. Supporting the Honor Guard mission has deeply humbled me as a person and an officer. By embracing the perspectives of my team members, I have learned valuable lessons that will stay with me throughout my entire career.
Most recently, I have transitioned into a position as the OIC of the Electro-Mechanical Team within the 576th Flight Test Squadron. As the shop OIC, I have been able to experience the maintenance side of the career field I am entering into and learn from my NCOIC, how to manage, advocate for, and lead a shop of enlisted personnel. I have been able to witness the complexities of multiple career fields and I am consistently humbled by how every piece fits together, every job relying on the trust and support of another. My experience in EMT is not only preparing me to be a better operator, but has helped me to appreciate that the nuclear deterrent mission is dependent on everyone from the maintainers spending grueling hours working, to the officers pulling long alert shifts.
Many other lieutenants are also assigned to jobs that directly correlate to their future careers. 2nd Lt. Jacob Boer is assigned to the Missile Maintenance Team serving as their OIC. This has been the most informative job during his time on casual status. Not only is he experiencing the backbone of the deterrence mission, he is also being mentored by the munitions and missile maintenance OIC of the flight who explains the ins-and-outs of managing and interacting with the enlisted force.
"My time in the Student Development Flight has given me a broader understanding on what it means to be an officer in the ICBM career field,” said Boer. “Having this perspective prior to starting my initial training will allow me to immediately relate what I learn in class to real-world of operations and maintenance.”
Still other lieutenants are assigned to jobs that are outside of their career field but provide professional development that will assist them in later times during their careers. 2nd Lt. Adam Hawk, is working as the 381st TRSS cyber operations flight commander. Going into this position, Hawk knew very little about cyber operations so he had to learn to trust his Airmen, as the technical experts, and allow them to do their job without being a micro-manager.
“I have learned many of the administrative responsibilities and developed confidence in decision making that is necessary when leading,” said Hawk. “To me, the most rewarding part of my job is seeing my folks take ownership of their projects and really thriving and wanting to do more to make the mission successful."
Many of the lieutenants, including myself, have spent time in several jobs, but regardless of where we dwell, we know we are part of a community and value the constant mentorship and guidance from our leadership in the 381st TRSS.
“Learning about the experiences of officers in my career field has been an immeasurable asset to me,” said 2nd Lt. Sarah Jessee, working as the 532nd Training Squadron unit program manager. “I report directly to the Director of Operations for nuclear training and the Squadron Commander, both of whom provide constant mentorship. Being able to see why decisions are made the way they are, and how progression works in our career field has been eye opening.”
Initially going into this program, many of us feared that being on “casual” status for an extended period of time would hinder our future careers, but we have found the opposite to be true. Every squadron we have belonged to has taught us something of value that will benefit us when we finally have our security clearances, and move on to our future jobs.
If you told me two years ago, when I was commissioning, I would still be awaiting missile training, I wouldn’t have believed you. I soon realized however, the opportunities for us on “casual status” have been more beneficial than I first assumed. I may be here for another six months, or maybe a year, but I can say with certainty the Student Development Flight continues to give me an incredible foundation as I move forward.