F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE --
Twelve Airmen from across 20th Air Force spent two days at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California on a professional development trip hosted by the 20th AF ICBM Center of Excellence, Nov. 8-9.
LLNL is one of seventeen labs in the Department of Energy, and their mission is to develop and apply leading-edge technology, innovation and engineering design to address a wide range of national security issues including biosecurity, counterterrorism, nonproliferation and nuclear deterrence.
“I am walking away from this trip with a greater appreciation for the complexity of the nuclear enterprise,” said Capt. Kaylee Weeks, operations officer for the 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base. “The degree of technology and innovation coupled with the prolific collaboration with commercial industry, other national labs and warfighters on the ground was truly astonishing.”
Briefings and tours of various LLNL facilities demonstrated the DOE’s considerable contribution to the nation’s defense. The curriculum particularly illuminated the intricacies of the nuclear enterprise.
Airmen who regularly interact with discrete aspects of the ICBM mission experienced a significantly broader perspective at the lab when they visited the world’s largest laser, the fourth largest supercomputer on the planet, various explosive devices and the newest 3D printing technology.
“Being part of maintenance, I’m not often privy to a lot of additional information,” said Staff Sgt. Corey Glover, facility maintenance technician from the 91st Maintenance Group at Minot AFB. “Learning how a nuclear weapon functions was incredible. A lot goes on that I wasn’t aware of, and having the opportunity to learn and experience it was golden.”
This trip was one of the many opportunities the ICBM Center of Excellence offers to Airmen in 20th AF as part of their Professional Development Program. The intention of the PDP is to deliberately develop Airmen who work on the front lines of the ICBM mission through educational courses, facility tours and conference attendance, said Maj. John Grimes, 20th AF ICE commandant.
“The end goal is to produce leaders of all ranks, who have general knowledge and understanding of the nuclear enterprise,” Grimes said. “We want leaders to take this knowledge and better communicate and advocate the importance of the ICBM mission to their own personnel and to the larger Air Force community.”
Last year, ICE sent approximately 300 Airmen to 30 professional development events around the United States. The small PDP staff is constantly assessing and improving the program while increasing the number of opportunities for Airmen.
“It takes a lot to get one trip off the ground while at the same time planning more for later in the year. There is a lot of coordination that goes on behind the scenes,” said Capt. Daniel Hejde, trip coordinator and section chief of professional development. “At the same time, we are formalizing the program to include a robust and responsive lessons-learned element.”
While the trip to LLNL included all ranks and Air Force Specialty Codes, the ICE is developing a portfolio of events tailored for a variety of specific career fields, said Hejde.
“We are building a program that will target all personnel in 20th AF with deliberate, relevant and timely professional development opportunities,” Hejde said.
The ICE will host a number of professional development trips this year, which will take Airmen to a Minuteman III launch at Vandenberg AFB, the Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley AFB, the Nuclear Weapons Orientation Course at Kirtland AFB and many other pertinent locations.
“Airmen should be in active communication with their supervisors about their development,” Hejde said. “Specific professional development events are announced on the Task Management Tool, and nominees are solicited through the chain of command.”
To date, professional development trips like the one to LLNL have proven successful as Airmen return to their home stations with a broader perspective of the nuclear enterprise and pride in their contribution to it, Grimes said.
“Many Airmen do not fully grasp the significance and magnitude of the job they perform day to day,” Grimes said. “Trips like this and other professional development opportunities provide this perspective. These trips serve as an investment. Our hope is that these individuals take the experience and knowledge gained back to their unit and share it with fellow Airmen.”
For more information and for access to the full schedule of events, contact the Professional Development Program team at 20AF.ICE.ProDev@us.af.mil.