AFOTEC and USAFA partners for first Cadet Summer Research Program

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara
  • AFOTEC Public Affairs
When the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy launched a new and powerful mentoring program in March, it energized the center's involvement in the USAFA's Cadet Summer Research Program where cadets give up leave to travel and work on real-world Air Force projects. Six months later, seven cadets traveled to four AFOTEC locations to work as members of test teams and gain exposure to operational testing processes, products, and experiences and accomplished important tasks as full-fledged members of operational test teams.

Participating cadets took part in individual five-week sessions that covered the period from May 19 through August 1 at AFOTEC detachments in California, Colorado, Florida, and Nevada.

"The AFOTEC Mentoring Program is a joint effort between AFOTEC and the Academy that coordinates common tasks, responsibilities, and requirements in various collaborative activities," said Maj. Brian Bassham, Headquarters AFOTEC point of contact for the program. "The program leverages AFOTEC experience in operations, acquisitions, and test to create a comprehensive mentoring program to assist USAFA cadets during their academic and professional development."

At AFOTEC's Detachment 2 at Eglin AFB, Fla., Cadets First Class Richard Kirwan and Stephanie Schmidt engaged in testing activities for the ALR-69A Radar Warning Receiver operational assessment, the Laser Maverick integrated test team and data management and analysis plan, as well as F-15 Identification, Friend or Foe Mode 5 development testing.

"Both Cadet Kirwan and Cadet Schmidt were integral members of the Detachment during their summer tour" said Col. Tom Bell, AFOTEC Detachment 2 Commander. "They performed as test team members on several high-visibility projects and we leveraged their analytical skills to ensure our plans and reports were of the highest quality."

AFOTEC's Detachment 4 at Peterson AFB, Colo., integrated Cadets First Class Jeremy Thompson and Bryan Freeman into the Wideband Global Satellite Communication program's post test analysis team. As members of the team, the cadets reviewed contractor statistical reliability data, aided in writing the final report and helped deliver the final test presentation to the detachment commander.

"Seasoned analysts, including members of the Aerospace Corporation, were stymied by how to predict satellite operational usability at end-of-life. Cadet Thompson developed and executed an innovative analysis method and authored the section of the final report that will inform senior Strategic Command decision makers' satellite replenishment strategies," said Col. Suzanne Beers, AFOTEC's Detachment 4 Commander. "Cadet Freeman's detailed research on winds aloft will significantly contribute to the Missile Defense Agency's ability to accurately model interceptor fly-outs and engagements with threat ballistic missiles."

AFOTEC's Detachment 5 at Edwards AFB, Calif., made Cadet First Class Garrett Dilley a full member of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Test Division. Cadet Dilley completed shifts in the mission control element conducting data collection, post-mission data processing, and report generation activities. He gained unique insight into the Global Hawk program from an operational and developmental perspective by participating in test missions in the control shelter alongside the pilot and sensor operator as well as experiencing a launch operation with the chase vehicle driver. Additionally, Cadet Dilley capitalized on the opportunity learn more about his intended test engineer career preference by attending Test Pilot School classes and briefings and receiving an F-16 flight introducing him to test chase requirements.

"Cadet Dilley was an invaluable and integral member of our Global Hawk Test Team," said Col. Dave Cohen, AFOTEC's Detachment 5 Commander. "His enthusiasm and growing depth of knowledge were critical to ensuring successful operational testing of this invaluable combat asset."

AFOTEC's Detachment 6 at Nellis AFB, Nev., had Cadets First Class Jered Smith and Scott Brenner do analysis of A-10 Joint Direct Attack Munitions drops conducted on the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Utah Test and Training Range. The cadets conducted detailed analysis of the scoring methodology used on both ranges.

"Cadets Smith and Brenner provided our test teams with invaluable information about the results obtained from live weapons drops on live ranges," said Col. Jimmy Clark, AFOTEC Detachment 6 Commander. "The cadets also participated in a HH-60 training mission while deployed to Nellis, learning how U.S. Air Force combat search and rescue operations are conducted."

"Hosting detachments and program POCs gathered several lessons from the experience that will be used to further refine the program," said Major Bassham. "The gathered lessons learned will be integrated into the CSRP Operations Plan in preparation for next year's cycle and to share feedback with Academy POCs."

According to the AFOTEC Commander Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Sargeant, "the AFOTEC Mentoring Program enables these 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 joint and coalition partners."

The idea for the AFOTEC Mentoring Program grew from a meeting between General Sargeant and Brig. Gen. Dana Born, USAFA's Dean of Faculty, in October 2007 when they discussed ways to create opportunities to fulfill the then Secretary of the Air Force's desire to increase cadet understanding of and excitement for engineering and scientific career field options to them after commissioning. The generals agreed to pursue a collaborative mentoring program involving AFOTEC personnel with Academy senior cadets and faculty.

The AFOTEC Mentoring Program overall focuses on all four classes of cadets by providing officer mentorship and operational testing experience in four areas: capstone design projects, the Cadet Summer Research Program, a guest speaker program, and Major's Night.