Edwards Air Force Base Launches Civilian Leadership School

Sheryl Tierney, Engineering Development Office Chief, and Col. Kirk Reagan, 412th Test Wing Vice Commander, pose for a photo during her graduation ceremony from the first ever Civilian Leadership School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Courtesy photo)

Sheryl Tierney, Engineering Development Office Chief, and Col. Kirk Reagan, 412th Test Wing Vice Commander, pose for a photo during her graduation ceremony from the first ever Civilian Leadership School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Courtesy photo)


In a military installation where the civilian Airmen population dwarfs the active-duty component, professional development of the workforce becomes a daunting task for Team Edwards leadership.

Active-duty Airmen have an established and ever evolving roadmap that guides and develops their careers, but the civilian workforce lacks a formalized program.

In the spirit of innovation, the 412 Test Wing recently developed and held the first ever Civilian Leadership School (CLS), a mirrored hybrid of the Airman Leadership School (ALS) at Edwards Air Force Base, December 2-6.

Fifteen civilian Airmen attended the five-day course that covered topics such as leadership, development, and mentoring and coaching subordinates that was specific to the civilian workforce.

“There are many different civilian training opportunities on Edwards, but we didn't have anything specifically focused on developing front-line supervisors,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, the 412th Test Wing Command Chief.

The newly developed CLS course was tailored off the ALS construct and everything that was active-duty focused was removed, leaving the holistic leadership fundamentals that applied to the audience.

During a normally scheduled ALS class, civilian attendance is not unusual amongst other active-duty students. However, much of the ALS course content is not relevant to the civilian employee and geared toward the active-duty Airmen.

Despite many similarities in management and leadership shared between active-duty and civilian Airmen, certain subjects are particular to civilians and the CLS was tailored to meet the course objectives.

“Management is management, leadership is leadership and progressive discipline is similar, but there are mechanisms that the active-duty force can use that you can't use in the civilian world,” said Chief Eishen. “For example, the disciplinary process for active duty is different (from civilian counterparts), so you have to train differently.”

During the week-long course the students were exposed to various military and civilian influencers from Edwards. The curriculum consisted of classes and panels designed to talk to the civilian Airmen about leadership, mentorship and lessons learned. 

“We wanted to develop a course that was not too basic or not too advance,” said Staff Sgt. Erika S. Fabian-Guzman, ALS instructor at Edwards AFB. “To prepare for the CLS course, we had to be versatile and determine how to make the subjects relevant to the diverse civilian audience. We wanted to give them a solid foundation moving forward as leaders in their respective roles.”

The course took several months to develop and the ALS staff looked at the civilian private and public sectors, as well as past course feedback to pinpoint curriculum requirements.

At the end of the course, student feedback was very valuable and pointed to a genuine benefit to those who attended, according to Fabian-Guzman. This feedback will guide further development and improvement for the next iteration of CLS. 

The CLS is being touted as an introductory supervisor’s course for civilian Airmen and so far the course has received great reviews, according to Eishen. The active-duty component has an established continuum for Professional Military Education (PME); which is something Edwards is trying to replicate in the civilian sector.

“It's a test but it's a first of kind,” said Eishen. “The CLS is the first step in building a civilian Airmen continuing education program.”

Team Edwards’ long term goal is to create a continuum of civilian courses that will be designed to develop civilian Airmen throughout their career.

“We'll start with CLS and we'll figure out what works and what doesn't,” said Eishen. “Then we'll determine if have a gap in the mid-level supervisor’s training and if so, we will build a new course to solve that problem.”

So far, the biggest challenge facing the CLS is determining the scope of the program. With a civilian population of over 7,000 and class sizes at about 15 per CLS, Team Edwards still lacks the resources to push through a large amount of students.

“There’s no way we can handle the throughput that we need, so we're just scratching the surface,” said Eishen. “But right now, we're proving the capability and the business case for CLS. So we are going to keep adding classes and keep getting bigger so we can handle more people until we build the continuum of education that our civilian Airmen deserve.”

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