EWI alum becomes the program’s new manager

  • Published
  • By Katie Scott
  • Air Force Institute of Technology

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio--Capt. Chad Wanner recently joined the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Civilian Institution Programs office as the Education with Industry program manager.

Wanner brings a unique perspective to the role, having completed his tour as an EWI fellow in 2022. He brings a breadth of knowledge about the EWI experience to his new role as administrator, guiding and directing the fellows through their program.

The EWI program, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and managed by AFIT, is a highly selective, competitive career development program designed to improve the technical, professional and management competencies of Air Force military and civilian members.

Fellows are embedded for 10 months with top-tier public and private sector companies to bring back industry best practices to build, sustain and retain a mission-ready workforce, as well as learn how to better partner with industry.

“We always tell our fellows to reach out and find insight to industry,” Wanner said. “What is it that these companies are doing faster or better, and how can we use that to solve a problem on our side of the house, whether it's on a micro or macro level, to save our warfighter.”

Currently, there are 79 fellows in the EWI program including officers, enlisted members and civilians from the Air and Space Forces. The fellows are assigned to 42 companies, including large corporations like SpaceX and Google, who employ a wide array of career fields.

“Amazon has eight different fellows right now, ranging from weather to program management to engineering,” Wanner said.

Established 75 years ago, the program was initially for military leaders at the lieutenant colonel and colonel levels and has worked its way slowly to focus more on the junior force.

“That way we have them understand what senior leaders are doing on the civilian side of the house,” Wanner said. “Then, as they grow in rank, they can better communicate with our industry partners because that's what the military is now--we deal with contractors every day,”

Wanner initially learned about the EWI program through the Air Force Special Experience and Exchange Duties guide.

“I thought it was a unique opportunity to work for a company for 10 months,” Wanner said. “I ended up going to Boeing in Seattle, working on the P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft program.”

One aspect of working for industry that was a bit of a culture shock for Wanner was the concept of a flat organization, but the benefits were apparent to him very quickly. 

“When you walk into a room, you don't know who the boss is right away. They do it that way so people can come forth with ideas and not have any sort of discouragement about it or be scared to talk to anyone. It was pretty fantastic,” Wanner said.

In his program manager role, Wanner has implemented a process for the fellows to develop a resume based on their EWI experience to demonstrate the skills learned during the program and prove the larger return on investment to the Air Force.

“Working with Amazon, Boeing or Microsoft is just something that a lot of these fellows don't ever have experience with in their life, so the biggest benefit is an understanding of how the company operates,” Wanner said. “Getting in there and working with CEO-level senior leaders on the civilian side of the house can really help you in your future because now you have a better understanding on how to better write a contract or how to talk to someone in business.”

For more information about the EWI program, visit www.afit.edu/EWI