Cadets learn by doing during summer program at AFOTEC

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Chief of Public Affairs
Self-development author and trainer Dale Carnegie once said, "Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind." Learning by doing is exactly what 13 U.S. Air Force Academy cadets did when they traveled to six Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center locations to work as full-fledged members of operational test and evaluation teams and gain hands-on exposure to operational testing processes, products, and experiences.

AFOTEC hosted the USAFA Cadet Summer Research Program for a second year at locations in California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and the AFOTEC's headquarters at Kirtland. Cadets worked on a variety of real-world Air Force projects ranging from the F-22 to the Miniature Air Launched Decoy for five weeks.

"The USAFA Cadet Summer Research Program is a part of the AFOTEC Mentoring Program with USAFA designed to expose cadets to the type of opportunities and responsibilities they can expect to have when they are commissioned as second lieutenants," said Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Sargeant, AFOTEC Commander. "The program leverages AFOTEC's experience in operational test and evaluation to create a comprehensive mentoring program for USAFA cadets during their academic and professional development."

"At the AFOTEC's headquarters, Cadets First Class Robert Rivera and Cary Reeves were integral parts of the AFOTEC's Intelligence, Analyses and Assessments Directorate analyst team this summer," said Col. Edgar Vaughan, A2/A9 Director. "In addition to Cadet Rivera's work on modeling and simulation verification, validation, and accreditation, he also supported field qualification testing of the Family of Advanced Beyond Line of Sight Terminals program at the L3 Communications Corporation contractor facility in Salt Lake City. While there he applied his expertise in computer engineering to provide valuable inputs to the test program," said the colonel.

"Cadet Reeves hit a home-run with his work on Bayesian analytic methods for test design, laying the foundation for the next stage of B-2 radar modernization testing," said Colonel Vaughan. "Both cadets gained additional insight into the work being done at Kirtland with tours of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Laser Effects Lab and the Space Development and Test Wing's Satellite Control Facility. Cadet Rivera flew a night observation flight on a CV-22 courtesy of the 58th Special Operations Wing."

At AFOTEC's Detachment 2 at Eglin AFB, Fla., Cadets First Class John Cox, Jane Evans, and Chris Hartman engaged in testing activities for the Hard Target Void Sensing Fuse Joint Concept Technology Demonstration, Miniature Air-Launched Decoy Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, and received incentive rides on the F-16 and CV-22.

"Cadets Cox, Evans, and Hartman made tremendous contributions to our operational test mission" said Col. Tom Bell, AFOTEC Detachment 2 Commander. "They first developed a Circular Error Probable tool to perform statistical tests to ensure CEP assumptions are met. Then the cadets created a scheduling tool to capture a high-level graphical view of scheduling across all detachment programs. Finally they outlined a two-hour course for non-analyst personnel essentially covering the math behind test planning and reporting."

AFOTEC's Detachment 3 at Kirtland had Cadets First Class Mark Price and Brittney Garrett perform analysis of the Department of Defense National Airspace System questionnaire and reliability data. The cadets gathered all incoming replies on questionnaires returned from air traffic controllers and maintainers, conducted detailed analysis of the data, and organized it for inclusion in the Follow-on Test and Evaluation Report. The cadets also participated in an F-16 training mission while supporting DoD NAS testing at Luke AFB, Ariz.

"Cadets Price and Garrett were an invaluable asset to the DoD NAS test team," said Lt. Col. Christopher Hawes, AFOTEC Detachment 3 Commander. "The test team had the privilege of mentoring two human factors students exercising their knowledge in operational testing. They gained real world human factors experience while contributing to the successful completion of DoD NAS testing."

AFOTEC's Detachment 4 at Peterson AFB, Colo., integrated Cadets First Class Robert Steigerwald and Brock Logan into the Global Positioning System test team.

"Cadets Steigerwald and Logan displayed impressive technical skills as integrated members of the GPS test team," said Col. Regis Baldauff, AFOTEC's Detachment 4 Commander. "They creatively tackled analysis of GPS signal accuracy, one of the Air Force's indispensable enablers and a capability used by billions of worldwide users. Together, they automated a complex GPS analysis database tool reducing critical analysis by hours, if not days," said Colonel Baldauff. "The time saved will allow future GPS test teams to accelerate reporting timelines and support better knowledge based acquisition decisions."

AFOTEC's Detachment 5 at Edwards AFB, Calif., made Cadets First Class Bryan Holtz, Timothy Ryan and Mathew Thomas full-fledged members of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Test Division, Mobility Test Division, and Bombers Test Division.

"Cadet Holtz designed and completed a database that will help decode a long-standing dilemma in the collection and analysis of data points from the RQ-4's Ground Moving Target Indicator sensor," said Maj. Paul Wojtowicz from AFOTEC Detachment 5's UTD. "This database will parse hundreds of thousands of data elements into an exploitable test data set, improving overall test accuracy. Cadet Holtz was fully integrated into the test planning activities of the UAS team."

"Cadet Ryan acted as any normal member of the MTD," said Maj. Arthur Bryce from AFOTEC Detachment 5's MTD. "He participated in numerous training events and attended all MTD daily and weekly meetings. In particular, though, he helped filter through 4,022 data points for the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program Raptor Model and worked with the C-130 AMP data dump to create mean time between failure graphs and report trends. His efforts enabled MTD test team members to focus their attention on other high priority projects while he took these tasks under his wing," said Major Bryce.

"Cadet Thomas was an integral member of the BTD," said Maj. Pete Toves of Detachment 5's BTD. "He designed a user-friendly MATLAB tool that would accomplish two things: first, time-synchronize both aircraft raw test data with time, space, position information data, and second, convert latitude, longitude and elevation of both data sets to earth-centered, earth-fixed Cartesian coordinates, making it easy to compute the difference between the data sets in feet. This tool can span any platform. His MATLAB tool will be used in future tests. Cadet Thomas was not only an integral member of the BTD during his tenure, but also a very professional and intelligent young man who will be a great officer in the U.S. Air Force. I am honored to have worked with him," stated Major Toves.

"We provided more than a simple orientation program for these cadets," said Col. Dave Cohen, AFOTEC's Detachment 5 Commander. "We intimately involved them in data analysis on our mobility aircraft and Global Hawk tests, and designed tools used to provide better fidelity in terms of space and time for all aircraft testing. I was extremely impressed with their professionalism and technical capabilities. They are shining examples of what the Air Force's future will look like."

AFOTEC's Detachment 6 at Nellis AFB, Nev., had Cadet First Class Andrew Novak analyze suitability metrics from recent F-22 tests.

"His analysis provided us a quantitative basis for establishing how much data collection is required in future tests to provide appropriate metric confidence levels," said Col. Jimmy Clark, AFOTEC Detachment 6 Commander. "In other words, we know how much flying needs to be done to establish confidence in our reported metrics. Cadet Novak also was a great addition to our Detachment and he fit right in with our officers, NCOs, civilians, and contractors. We would be happy to have him back any time."

"Hosting detachments and program points of contacts will gather lessons from the summer program experience and use it to further refine the program for 2010," said Lt. Col. Scott Hunt, Headquarters AFOTEC point of contact for the program. "The gathered lessons learned from this year and last year will be integrated into the CSRP Operations Plan in preparation for next year's cycle and to share feedback with Academy POCs."

"These kinds of programs enable our future U.S. Air Force leaders to enter active duty with a better understanding and awareness of how the knowledge and skill they gain at the Academy will allow them to make a positive impact on delivering capabilities to warfighters expeditiously, to more effectively conduct their operations with less risk to our Airmen, and often our Joint and Coalition partners," said General Sargeant. "We look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial mentoring partnership with USAFA well into the future."