LEADership Wright-Patt fuels career paths while highlighting base’s global impact

  • Published
  • By Vince Little
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Nearly two dozen civilian and military personnel have completed a five-month program designed to develop current and prospective leaders at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Administered by the 88th Force Support Squadron, LEADership Wright-Patt gives participants an introduction to senior leaders; mentoring, training and networking opportunities; and broader exposure to WPAFB’s overarching mission and how the 88th Air Base Wing and tenant organizations work together. This year’s session kicked off in February and ended June 27 with capstone project presentations and a graduation ceremony in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force’s Carney Auditorium.

“Through these tailored organizational mission briefs, classroom trainings, individualized work groups, panel discussions, direct interaction with WPAFB leadership and a variety of programmed activities, the participants gain a global perspective of WPAFB,” said Latonya Johnson, an 88 FSS Education and Training Section management analyst and LEADership Wright-Patt program manager.

“The result should increase the participant’s awareness of WPAFB’s missions, visions, goals, priorities, values and purpose to enable them to become exceptional leaders who serve the people of WPAFB and the surrounding communities.”

In all, 22 mid-level civilian and military personnel took part in this year’s program. The 2024 class formally met 10 times, including immersion tours of Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, 88 ABW, the 445th Airlift Wing; 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing; National Air and Space Intelligence Center, and Air Force Institute of Technology.

Johnson said there were also numerous opportunities outside those planned days for participants to collaborate in smaller groups.

Most of that time centered on this year’s four team projects, which focused on reverse supervisor feedback, an employment enhancement to USAJOBS, Air Force innovation and reoptimizing WPAFB’s Warfighter Training Center.

Trivia Troop (Team 2) was named capstone winner with its “emPower WP” project, floated as a viable web solution to addressing the large number of unfilled base vacancies (24% in Air Force Materiel Command alone), members said during their capstone presentation. The platform would boost USAJOBS by improving user navigation, streamlining processes, incorporating artificial intelligence capabilities and allowing interface with multiple Defense Department job boards.

Presentation judges were Chief Master Sgt. Martin Foster, NASIC senior enlisted leader; Capt. Denita Guthery, the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Information Mastery in Cognitive Warfare program manager and a 2022 LEADership Wright-Patt graduate; and Amanda Smith-Nethercott, AFMC career development manager.

“The teams worked on creative, innovative solutions to problems we all deal with on a daily basis,” said Kari Deger, class mentor and lead systems engineer for Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Directorate’s Special Programs Division at AFLCMC. “Base leaders are in the audience today to hear these ideas and initiatives for possible implementation.”

Building bonds with peers, senior leaders

Shenise Turner-Sloss, a logistics management specialist in Presidential and Executive Airpower Directorate’s VC-25B System Program Office at AFLCMC who’s worked at WPAFB for over 11 years, said LWP is an excellent program that provides an array of endless opportunities for personal and professional growth.

“I wanted to participate in LWP to gain more exposure to the greater Wright-Patt community,” she said. “In addition, I wanted to enhance my ability to think critically and to understand the complexities of vital roles that the military, civilians and contractors, and Guardians all provide daily in protecting and executing the critical missions for the Department of the Air Force, especially as we lean into great power competition. LEADership Wright-Patt met all of the above expectations.

“It allowed me to personally build relationships among my peers and create an opportunity to interface with leadership. LWP is a mechanism that will help shape new solid Department of Defense and DAF leadership with practical experience and knowledge.”

Another participant, Capt. Matteo Finazzo, KC-46 Aircrew Training System deputy program manager for Agile Combat Support Directorate’s Simulators Division at AFLCMC, said he arrived on base last September and wanted to get a better understanding of WPAFB and its tenant organizations, centers and major command.

“As an acquisition officer, despite the narrow focus I have on a particular program I may be working, I have found that time and time again we must broaden our perspectives and gain insight into what other efforts are being conducted out there,” Finazzo said. “I enjoyed all that LWP offered. The other members of the class were from such diverse backgrounds – they all provided great insights into our leadership discussions.”

The day before graduation, LWP participants interacted with a senior leader panel at Carney Auditorium featuring Col. Sean Brazel, 88th Mission Support Group commander; John Faulkner, 88 ABW vice director; and Kathy Watern, AFMC’s Manpower, Personnel and Services director and a Senior Executive Service member. The trio shared leadership principles, lessons learned and career advice.

“LWP was an excellent opportunity to network with and learn from experienced leaders in the aerospace and defense industries from across WPAFB,” said Damon Smith, operations officer in the Medical Division of Air Force Institute of Technology’s Civilian Institution Program, who’s been at Wright-Patt since 2016. “I also wanted to improve my career development, personal growth and self-awareness, which will help me in my pursuit of becoming a more effective leader.

“It was a great experience because I was able to see and hear about diverse duties and jobs around WPAFB. One thing that was poignant throughout the experience was the high caliber of tech-savvy fellow cohort members and how professional everyone was.”

‘Remarkable investment’ in future

Johnson says LEADership Wright-Patt is designed to train, educate and inspire. It helps personnel see WPAFB’s larger mission sets and objectives and how they fit in DOD’s strategic puzzle.

She encourages anyone interested in leadership development to consider attending.

“LWP is a unique program,” Johnson said. “It provides opportunity for the participants to learn and extend their cognitive skills, and it also gives each organization an opportunity to select personnel to coordinate their organizational tours. The coordination of the tours helps the liaisons execute their program management skills as they develop immersion tours that provide remarkable experiences.”

The LWP experience helps students become more effective leaders within their organizations but also widens promotion and transfer options across the Air Force and WPAFB for those with higher career goals, she added.

Audric Bills, 88 FSS director, praised the graduates for their commitment.

“Your effort, willingness and dedication to complete this process was a remarkable investment on top of your daily jobs here at Wright-Patt,” he said. “Congratulations and thank you for your participation.”

The 2025 LEADership Wright-Patt application process will be released later this year through training focal points, Johnson said.

Eligible applicants must be current WPAFB employees in the civilian pay grades of GS 9-12, officer ranks of second lieutenant to major, or enlisted technical and master sergeants. Other grades may be considered, depending on the target audience and organization’s management level.

Below are this year’s LEADership Wright-Patt participants (listed by organization):

88th Air Base Wing

Jamie Rowe

88th Civil Engineer Group

Troy Blessing

88th Force Support Squadron

Barry Smith

445th Airlift Wing

Glenn Trent

445th Security Forces Squadron

Master Sgt. Jason Mufford

Air Force Installation Contracting Center

Adam Szinger

Air Force Institute of Technology

Damon Smith

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center

Capt. Matteo Finazzo

Logan Granson

Candice Gucwa (Heiser)

Wesley Livesay

Shenise Turner-Sloss

Maj. Aisha Valerio

Jessica Wade

Air Force Materiel Command

Kathleen Keegan

Air Force Research Laboratory

Cody Butzer

Capt. Christopher Fernandez

Lauren Pelan

Shannon Tighe

Averie Vongsy

National Air and Space Intelligence Center

Erich Zahn

National Space Intelligence Center

Caroline Ellis