"Finding the intersections" to strengthen training, support Airmen

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – After Airmen complete Air Force Basic Military Training and then job-specific technical school training, they are given an assignment. Depending on necessary security clearances, there could be a delay before they are able to begin their new positions. This time can be spent on additional training or working toward a college degree, but it can be a frustrating time and drain a new Airman’s morale.


But thanks to a new collaboration between the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the 711th Human Performance Wing of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Airmen with certain skill sets will have additional opportunities to assist with training projects with 711 HPW’s Warfighter Readiness Research Division.


Airman First Class Eric Brickner was one of these Airmen. After he completed BMT and tech school, he was assigned to NASIC here. As he waited for his security clearances, he completed various training modules; but it was a waiting game, and Brickner was itching to get to work.


Fortunately, his leadership at NASIC was watching and recognized this.


"The 711 HPW had a unique mission need that could use Brickner's talents as a scientific applications specialist," said Master Sgt. Francisco Martinez, NASIC's 9S100 Functional Area manager. "There are many facets to this specialty. In Brickner's case, we were confident in his ability to apply leading-edge physical sciences and data to research, and develop new systems."


NASIC and 711 HPW had already been communicating about how to best utilize these new Airmen so they could start contributing to missions and feel part of the team, said Tech. Sgt. Eric Salter, 711 HPW's Warfighter Readiness Research Division section chief.


“Brickner has a unique set of skills that enable him to be a jack of all trades,” explained Salter. “He has an interest in engineering and a gaming background. We needed him to work with the models for our training mission. So we agreed that while he waited for his clearances to go through, he could come work with the Wing to develop some of our training scenarios.”


The Warfighter Readiness Research Division was in the initial stages of developing a training environment for C4ISR personnel when Brickner first came to the Wing—and he more than exceeded expectations.


“We brought him over with the idea that he could help us create an operational environment for the training exercise, but with the help of 2nd Lt. Benjamin Davis and subject matter experts' input to ensure a high degree of realism, Brickner and Davis built all of the training vignettes for the entire exercise,” said Dr. Lisa Tripp, C4ISR Training Research team lead.


Davis, a computer engineer who has been with the C4ISR Training Research team for two years, spoke about the unique experience of working with an Airman brand new to the Air Force in a laboratory environment that usually only has officers—and many with doctoral degrees.


“Working with Brickner was a peek into my future, and an experience in leadership," he said. "It showed me what it will be like when I have enlisted Airmen working for me.”


Davis also stated that Brickner brought an element of humor to the unit as well with daily jokes, which boosted morale on days when frustrations set in (e.g. slow computers, troubleshooting software, etc.).


“Looking ahead, I can only hope that other Airmen are as determined as Brickner,” said Davis.


Airmen Building Airmen


This collaboration didn’t just benefit the 711th Human Performance Wing; it improved the early-career experience of Brickner as well.


“I went to college after high school, but my motivations just weren’t there,” explained Brickner. “I knew I needed to make a change in my life—a change that would provide some direction and discipline—so I signed up with the Air Force.”


This breed of self-awareness and initiative was an early indicator of Brickner’s potential. Both Davis and Salter explained that he was extremely dedicated to getting the job done, even if that included menial tasks such as reading manuals to see how various software works.


“One of the road blocks we ran into with the software—I called technical support for one of the programs and they put me on the line with one of the lead developers of the program to help me work through it,” said Brickner.  “It was a rough road, but we figured it out.”


The training research exercise, or T-REX, took place in late September and Brickner stayed with the C4ISR Training Research team throughout the completion of the exercise.


The team, along with Distributed Common Grounds System Enterprise and Air and Space Operations Center analysts from various units across the Air Force, participated in T-REX in an effort to simulate real-world intelligence fusion/collaboration and test the integration of multiple research and development testbeds. This year’s T-REX measured the effectiveness of adaptive training technologies for enhancing both team and team-of-teams performance. The scenario vignettes Brickner and Davis helped build were tailored to Anti-Access Area Denial and Contested and Degraded Operations environments.


Davis explained that the subject matter experts chose to build a personnel recovery senario that would prepare analysts to respond in ways necessary to the mission. He went on to say that thankfully this is not something these experts often see operationally; therefore, without training, they would not know what to do.


"By developing these scenarios and creating this training capability, we can make sure that the analysts are trained in the off chance that this does happen,” said Davis.


Looking to Strengthen the Force


Everyone who comes into the Air Force brings their own unique experiences and skill sets with them. This is diversity. 


The Air Force Diversity & Inclusion office states that diversity of background, experience, demographics, perspectives and organization are essential to the ultimate success in an increasingly competitive and dynamic global environment. This is where strength can be found.


And the Air Force is looking—evidenced by this unique collaboration between NASIC and the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patt.


"This is ultimately about finding those intersections of new communities that can work together, and connecting talented Airmen with these opportunities--all to make an impact for our Air Force," said Timothy Sakulich, 711 HPW vice director. "That is a win for everyone!"


Brickner received his necessary clearances just before the T-REX, and has started his work at NASIC.