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Electronic Systems Center civilians Donald Changeau (kneeling, front and center) and Elisa Esterley (middle row, 3rd from right) pose for a photo with fellow members of Alpha Flight during the Civilian Acculturation and Leadership Training at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Dec. 8, 2009. Following the photo, team members completed an obstacle course. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Two-week course introduces new civilians to Air Force culture

Posted 6/28/2010   Updated 6/28/2010 Email story   Print story


by Kevin Gilmartin
66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/28/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Newly hired civilians who are unfamiliar with the Air Force traditions and customs may be eligible to take advantage of a two-week in-residence course designed to introduce them to the Air Force culture and prepare them for future leadership, managerial and supervisory roles.

Known as Civilian Acculturation and Leadership Training, the program is conducted at Air University, Maxwell, Air Force Base, Ala., and patterned after the Officer Training School curriculum. The curriculum includes team-building exercises, some outdoor activities, simulation exercises, and time for personal health and wellness to help maintain a level of physical fitness. There are eight classes this fiscal year, each with 40 students.

"Right now, Electronic Systems Center is in the midst of a strategic hiring campaign, and every pay period we are bringing on board several new civilians, many of whom have never worked for the Air Force or the military before," said Rich Lombardi, ESC executive director. "These new civilians have the potential to be future leaders in our service, and we need to ensure our civilian developmental paths are as deliberate as those of every other Airman. This course provides a solid foundation for them to build upon."

For Don Changeau, a sociologist in ESC's Directorate of Personnel, the CALT program was a "great experience," that not only introduced him to the Air Force culture, but gave him his first exposure to leadership training.

Prior to beginning his career at ESC in 2007, Mr. Changeau taught for three years at nearby Bentley University (formerly Bentley College), after earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia Tech. He is also currently enrolled in a doctorate program at Boston University.

"There is definitely a different culture here than in academia," he said. "There was so much terminology I was unfamiliar with when I first began working for the Air Force. I needed to build up my Air Force vocabulary so I could get a full appreciation for the type of work we do at ESC."

The CALT program, which he took last December, about two-and-a-half years into his ESC career, not only gave him an understanding of the terminology, but also introduced him to the concept of "dynamic subordinancy."

"My biggest takeaway from CALT was that leadership doesn't require a position. You can take on a leadership role in any job," Mr. Changeau said. "Air Force leaders aren't looking for yes men. If you see a better way of doing things, you can provide your boss critical commentary and feedback, and in the end, the organization is better for it."

The experience of living in on-base dormitories with Squadron Officer School students in a training intense environment was also very helpful, he said.

"It was nice meeting other colleagues from different commands," he said. "It helped me get a real sense of what they do, and how ESC supports the overall Air Force mission."
Elisa Esterley, an acquisition program manager in the 653rd Electronic Systems Group, agrees with Mr. Changeau. She was a student in the same course as him, after beginning her career as a student trainee in civilian personnel at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. for three years, and moving to ESC in August 2008.

"I learned so much more about the Air Force culture and what people have to go through to become officers and Air Force leaders during this course, "she said. Much of our experiences mirrored the military students in other courses at Maxwell. We ate with them at the dining facility, slept in dorm rooms, and had Air Force leadership lessons much of the day. We got to hear their stories and experiences and were able to relate them a little to our own before we graduated."

Ms. Esterley is a strong advocate for fellow civilians without much Air Force experience taking the course.

"I learned more about the Air Force culture in those two weeks than I'd learned working for the Air Force for four years," she said.

"The CALT program is an excellent opportunity for those individuals who meet the CALT business rules and exhibit required leadership qualities," said Debbie Billings, Chief of Hanscom's Education and Training Center. "Candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree , and be in pay bands one and two, or permanent GS sevens to 13s with two to five years of continuous federal service, no previous military experience, and no prior Professional Military Education. Candidates must self-nominate."

For more information on eligibility and how to submit a nomination package, contact David Wick at (781) 377-9915.

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