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NEWS | April 15, 2021

87th ABW looks for new ways to develop its civilian workforce

By Daniel Barney Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

The 87th Air Base Wing is looking for new ways to improve the civilian workforce on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and provide opportunities to develop professional skills needed to be effective leaders.

One initiative that the 87th ABW is testing is the enrollment of civilians into Airman Leadership School, a five-week school that educates Airmen to become future noncommissioned officers. The first iteration of this new initiative was completed on April 1.

“The over-arching goal of ALS is prepare Airmen to become professionals who can supervise and lead Air Force work teams to support the employment of air, space and cyberspace power. ALS emphasizes student-led discussions, creative problem-solving, communication and leadership,” said Martin Synger, 87th Force Development flight chief. “Our hope is to broaden our civilian employee’s knowledge of the military profession, while learning leadership skills and strengthening their ability to lead, follow, and manage individuals and teams.”

Synger stated that junior grade civilians should be provided with developmental education opportunities not only to succeed, but to achieve higher levels of responsibility before becoming mid-level and possibly senior leader civilians.

While this initiative is still in beta testing, Synger explained that the program is targeted towards civilians in the GS-4 through GS-8 or equivalent pay scales, who have not accomplished higher-level Professional Military Education previously.

Kevin Dawkins, 87th Force Support Squadron recreation assistant, was one of the civilian graduates who participated in the recent beta testing.

“I wanted to participate in ALS because I’m all about educating myself as much as possible,” Dawkins said. “Evolving is important to me, and I saw this as an opportunity to expand my knowledge, sharpen my skills, and, most of all, better myself.”

Dawkins considered this as an opportunity to succeed and used the experience to become a better leader in the civilian workforce.

“My experience going through ALS was amazing on many levels. Despite being nervous at the start of this program, I was able to adjust and went on with the program,” Dawkins said. “Learning so much about all of the aspects of leadership really opened my eyes on a deeper level.”

While reminiscing about his experiences, Dawkins discussed what he liked about the ALS program. He mentioned how the camaraderie developed a personal relationship between him and the rest of the class.

However, Dawkins did recall some challenges that he faced.

“The biggest challenge of ALS for me was a personal one, I was stepping into a militaristic environment,” Dawkins said. “As a solution, I showed up with a military mindset, to earn respect from my instructor, peers, guest speakers, and any other superiors that I would come in contact with while in the program. I may not be an Airman, but I came into ALS with the utmost respect for the Airmen participating in the class, and those who ran it. I did not want to disappoint them.”

Dawkins stated that after graduation, he was truly thankful to have the opportunity to go through the educational program. He explained how his ALS experience helped him to grow in his career field.

“My biggest takeaway from this experience was that it relit a fire in me! I really felt that this opportunity came at the right time for me,” said Dawkins. “I realized that being flexible and versatile helps an individual to maximize one’s potential as a leader. The more versatile you are in what you do, the greater you can expand your reach and continue to grow in your work field.”

Dawkins’ experience through ALS is the outcome we had hoped for from this Beta test. Synger said that if this initiative proves to be successful, then it could create “a sound return on investment on both our students and their organization’s time.”

“My hope for what civilians ‘take away’ from this experience is an enhanced understanding of military operations, as well as gaining some practical leadership and communication skills, which will enhance their ability to collaborate with coworkers during their day-to-day tasks,” Synger said. “I also think there is benefit in civilians gaining a broader ‘big picture’ understanding of the military operations and military leadership concepts to appreciate how both civilian and military are truly intertwined, and need to seamlessly integrate as one team in order to successfully complete the mission.”