Airman Accelerators become agents of change

  • Published
  • By Julie Svoboda
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

The Airman Accelerator Program challenges 82nd Training Wing students to identify issues that negatively impact training, procedures, or quality of life and then propose a solution. The 82nd Training Wing started the AAP in May 2023. Since then, 25 Airmen in Training have been certified as Airmen Accelerators.

“The Airmen Accelerator Program bridges the ‘Accelerate Change’ initiative of the 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. and ‘Follow Through’ initiative of the current Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Gen. David W. Allvin, on transformation and force development by igniting and coaching Airmen, at the lowest levels, to identify, assess, quantify, and produce solutions to everyday challenges that our units face,” said Maj. James Hedgepeth, 361st Training Squadron Commander. “They create pitches, with feedback from our Accelerator Leaders (typically NCOs who are trained in various concepts, like Continuous Process Improvement and AFWERX guidelines), that are vectored into an actionable outcome. The process promotes an inclusive environment for our Airmen to be heard, with engagement from squadron, group, and wing leaders to ensure resources are applied in the appropriate places to rectify issues that plague our people. Known as ‘Accelerators,’ these Airmen finish the program with a sense of accomplishment, connectedness, and ownership. The programs foster critical thinking skills that enhance people’s confidence, while promoting a Mission Ready Airmen culture.”

AiTs and students from other military branches in training at Sheppard enroll in the 3-week training program as Airman Accelerator Candidates. The candidates complete multiple training sessions before preparing to pitch their solution first to their squadron commander, who determines if the idea is feasible. Teams who pass that hurdle pitch the group commander next, and if their pitch is strong enough, go on to present the idea to the wing command team.

Airmen from the 361st TRS were the most recent team to present their idea to at the wing level, tackling physical training issues. According to Airman Emmanuel Ogbodu, the three-man group decided to create a program that would get Airmen reengaged in physical training through a program called Physical Training as a Lifestyle, which incentivizes high PT scores.

Ogbodu and his colleagues Airman Rudy Fierro and Airman Luke Alexander came up with an initial plan and then surveyed their peers to gauge interest in the program, which would allow Airmen who with PT scores of 95% and higher to perform PT at alternate locations and in alternate forms. The group theorized this would improve morale and motivate Airmen to achieve higher scores.

After first pitching the plan to a non-commissioned officer, they went through a series of coaching and practice pitches until they reached the Command Team’s office, a level achieved by roughly 25 percent of AAP participants.

The candidates were initially nervous about speaking to wing leadership, but the experience bolstered their confidence.

“I would definitely advise this for a lot of the AiTs who are going through to join the Airman Accelerator program,” Luke said. “You get to meet a lot of people that you wouldn't otherwise meet unless you go through this program. I know there are a lot of people that are on this base who have not talked to a colonel and have been here for a long time. The simple fact that we were able to come into the 82nd Wing and talk to the Deputy Commander of the whole base was very eye opening for me.”

Fierro added that his experience with the AAP has made him feel more invested in his own career and his potential to impact the Air Force.

“It gave us the opportunity to see that not only do you have opportunities to speak to your NCOs, but you also start having an opportunity to speak to your officers and get a valued response from them when it comes to having concerns at our level,” he said. “And so having this positive, impactful opportunity of having have done this, it shows that not only does your voice matter, but action can be taken from your voice.”