In the thick of it

  • Published
  • By Mary Lou Gorny
  • Hilltop Times editor
Roger Braner enthusiastically encourages Hill Air Force Base employees to check out the educational opportunities available to Department of Defense civilian personnel. Earlier this month, a call for Financial Year 2011 Air Force Civilian Development Education, or CDE, nomination packages was made with a due date of April 5 to Air Force Personnel Center/DPIF. So those interested, must act quickly. A complete list of programs/schools may be found on the AFPC Web site at as well as nominating procedures, program guidance and tools to assist managers in identifying potential candidates.

Braner, the 75th Force Support Sustainment Flight Chief, is currently participating in one of the available CDE programs, the Executive Leadership Development Program, or ELDP, a 10 month program providing hands-on training and education for tomorrow's leaders at a variety of locations both in the United States and overseas. In existence for the past 25 years, the competitive ELDP is designed for highly motivated DoD employees who have demonstrated outstanding leadership potential. The program provides DoD civilian employees (GS 12-13) and equivalent active duty personnel an extensive exposure to the roles and missions of the entire DoD. Additionally, participants gain an increased understanding and appreciation of today's warfighters.

Students expand their learning experiences well beyond the parameters of what they might expect in a more conventional educational program.

"This is not a sight-seeing course. We get a small taste of what the war fighter experiences," Braner explained.

"From meeting the soldier that is manning the Minuteman Rocket to marching with the young Marine who is about to deploy to the front of the battle, ELDP has given me the privilege to meet these young warfighters and gain a deep SClBappreciation for these men and women who selflessly serve our country," said Hill DLA member, Richard Palfreyman, another Team Hill student who participated in ELDP.

The course, which a previous graduate described as "one of the seminal learning experiences of her career," uses the Socratic method of learning wherein group discussions are used to study subjects. "Students are not spoon-fed the learning," Braner said. "The onus of learning is on the student."

Each TDY is preceded by assigned reading, usually a book on the specific area of focus or command structure. "We have learned a lot about the history of different service branches, military engagements and the U.S. Constitution," he said.

Experiences so far have included a TDY in San Diego where students trained with Navy SEALS, submariners and the Marines on an obstacle course, learned water survival training and experienced submarine simulator training. Another stop in Seoul, Korea, gave students a chance to visit the DMZ and meet the first four-star general in the history of ROK Armed Forces and a hero of the Korean War, Gen. Paik Sun-yup, who is sometimes called the South Korean "George Washington." A trip to Washington D.C., provided training at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Capitol Hill and Gettysburg. In Hawaii, participants paid homage during the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. And earlier this month, participants learned about the various important Air Force missions at Lackland, Kirkland, Nellis, and Vandenburg AFBs. The ELDP curriculum, which Braner has not yet quite finished, will include a week at Fort Benning for Army Basic Training, a TDY to Europe that will include training with the German military, and during which some of the group will go on to visit Kuwait.

Braner is looking forward to the final segment of the program where each student will be required to be part of a briefing to the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon in a presentation as each relates their most influential ELDP learning experience.

"Only the top 10 percent of applicants were accepted in the program," Braner said as he noted the quality of the students he was learning with -- "smart individuals fully committed in supporting the war fighter."

As far as leadership skills and learning outside a student's current career field -- "(ELDP) teaches you how to lead, especially in regard to the three C's -- courage, competence and compassion," he said.

Part of what students are exposed to helps these leaders, many of whom will advance on to Senior Executive Service positions, as they experience what impact their future decisions will have on the war fighters and their families. "When it comes to those tough decisions, knowing the bottom line effect, helps to make that type of command decision more likely the correct one," he said.

Braner said the program was particularly good for him because you don't have a required follow-on assignment after participating in the program and the series of temporary duty assignments means you can return to your family and current assignment.

It is very rigorous, however, and requires the support of your supervisor, co-workers and those who will cover your assignments in your absence. "I absolutely could not have done this without their support and the support of my family," Braner said.

Washington, D.C., is the beginning point of the course and where the course ends, but the focus is not just on the U.S. military experience.

"Everything today is about how everybody brings something to the fight," he said. "It is more and more about joint operations," he said in reference to current and recent military operations.

For more information on the course or how to apply call the 24-hour Air Force Total Force Service Center at (800) 525-0102 or talk to your local Force Support Squadron.