By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 06, 2003) -- A milestone was reached when the Air Force's first officer development team met recently at the Pentagon.
The teams are a central part of implementing the Air Force's Total Force Development concept. The concept is outlined in the November edition of the Chief's Sight Picture, said Lt. Col. Mark Hays, chief of the scientist and engineer function management team at the Pentagon.
The office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition is responsible for the service's scientists and engineers. Office officials convened a panel recently to discuss the career paths of scientists in the rank of lieutenant colonel. The 10 senior officers who sat on the panel were pulled from the Air Force-wide acquisition community and included studies and analysis scientists, operations research scientists, behavioral scientists, physicists and a chemist.
The effort drew the praise of the executive agent for the deputy chief of staff for personnel's Force Development implementation plan.
"As part of making force development happen, the acquisition community has consistently been on the leading edge," said Lt. Col. Richard McGivern. "The pioneering work that AQ is doing is incredibly valuable to helping the rest of the functional communities hit the ground running."
Hays agreed, adding that the knowledge and experience of senior officers is paramount to the process.
"Having seasoned senior officers provide career advice to ... junior officers is key to ensuring the officers' careers take them where they want to go and to where the Air Force needs them to go," Hays said.
The teams, generally one for each Air Force specialty, consist of panels of senior officers who provide guidance to the development process. An element of the development teams is the assignment teams, so they are integral to this process, Hays said. The overall objective is to best meet the needs of the Air Force while working to meet those of the individual, he added.
"Basically, an officer, working with his or her chain of supervision, is going to have a form they fill out, an enhanced preference worksheet," Hays said. "Eventually, it will come to an officer development team who will look at the officer's records, evaluate them, and then give the chain of supervision and the officer personalized feedback on their development."
This will provide people ample opportunity to discuss their goals with their leadership, he said.
"The critical thing is to complete the entire feedback loop between the individual, chain of supervision and the development team. In the past, we were not getting this done," Hays said. "The Air Force has requirements for majors, for lieutenant colonels, for colonels and for generals. We have the responsibility to develop people to fill those roles. The development teams are going to do just that."
Officers should decide early in their careers if they want to become Air Force leaders or if they want to become technical experts in their field, Hays said. Helping officers make those decisions is a key role of the development teams.
"If an individual rolls in as a physicist and says, 'Great, I'm an officer and I want to be a senior officer,' we need that officer to know that if the track he or she may be on is too narrow, too specific or too deep within their field, they are probably going to max out at lieutenant colonel," Hays said. "The development teams will tell them that they may need to get that doctorate degree, or branch out into management and strive for leadership positions and to do things where you work with people. You must take paths to develop yourself. That's how you will reach your goal."
Air Force officials state that all Air Force career fields will have development teams in place by December. The exact scope of what the development teams will do is still being decided, McGivern said. Similar programs for civilian, enlisted and Reserve personnel are currently being developed using the knowledge gained by the officers.