Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas --
As I flew across the Pacific Ocean on my way to my first United States Air Force Historian position at Kadena Air Base in 2011, I was a little nervous about how I would do acclimating to the Air Force way of doing things.
Although I did have a background in military history, which did give me some knowledge about military courtesies, weapons and heritage, I was still a civilian with no prior military service.
I knew that trying to navigate my way through understanding the day-to-day duties of the enlisted and officer corps, USAF organizational structure, countless acronyms and the specific mission of each unit would be a task of a [newcomer] among experts.
The required Basic Historian course gave me a good foundation on which to start my career, but after five years and a new posting at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas the opportunity to attend the Civilian Acculturation Leadership Training program – an Air University Department of Defense civilian career development course- was offered. I thought this training might sharpen my leadership and teamwork skills which is a necessity in today’s United States Air Force.
With the capable assistance of a 47th Wing Staff Agency executive officer, I was able to complete my application and get accepted into the CALT program.
The two-week course at Maxwell AFB, Alabama provided an opportunity to learn hands-on leadership scenarios with team-building exercises through classroom instruction and field training.
In order to give CALT students something similar to the Officer Training School experience, CALT classrooms were located in the OTS complex. This proximity to the cadets gave CALT attendees an opportunity to watch the OTS cadets in action.
We also had the opportunity to do a meet and greet with cadets, and afterwards they marched us to the chow hall for a meal that included conversation of shared experiences from a variety of backgrounds, trying to find common ground about our time at Maxwell.
Also, CALT students were given the opportunity to sit down with senior leaders from around Maxwell during a luncheon and hear about their personal leadership experiences while working for the Air Force.
My classmates and I were separated into A and B flights with our own classroom and instructor. A tight eight-hour-day schedule kept us busy with exercises, readings and a variety of knowledgeable speakers sharing their experiences about leadership and teamwork, while covering such topics as Leadership Authority, Conflict Management, Basics of Briefing, Airman-ship, Bullet Statements and Human Relations in the Air Force, just to name a few.
Although these subjects would be considered mind-numbing to most, we were given the opportunity to work on our leadership and teamwork skills toward the end of the course with a Project X obstacle course as well as an Air Force simulation exercise, giving both flights the opportunity to utilize Air Force assets in an evacuation scenario of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
As one of the two people from the Air Force History and Museums Program, CALT also gave me an opportunity to get to know people from across the Air Force with similar non-prior military backgrounds. A majority of my classmates were from the Air Force Materiel Command.
Working alongside and getting to know them helped me understand their duties and how they fit into the Air Force team. We also had the opportunity to get out and explore the area around Maxwell on our one free weekend, which helped everyone get to know each other a little bit better.
I believe the CALT experience would be beneficial and worthwhile for any non-prior military civilian employee. The hard work with a little bit of stress thrown in for good measure, pays off to bridge the gap between the civilian and military parts of today’s Air Force, providing a solid foundation of understanding and leadership training that I highly recommend to all.