EWI Fellows creating tangible results in a virtual world

Posted Friday, February 19, 2021


Several students from AFIT's 2020-2021 Education with Industry (EWI) class pose for a photo during their virtual mid-tour engagement. EWI is a 10-month developmental program for service members to glean best practices from industry through firsthand experience and integration. The 2020-2021 class of EWI Fellows includes 77 enlisted, officers and civilians, from 35 Air Force specialties across 45 industry partners, led by AFIT Civilian Institution Programs staff and EWI program managers, Capt. Jeffrey Lowder, Maj. Katie Hansen and Ms. Kathleen Royse. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by 1st Lt. Josh Tarrant).


By 1st. Lt. Josh Tarrant, Program Manager and 2020 Education with Industry Fellow at Analytical Graphics Inc., (AGI).

The United States Air Force’s Education with Industry, or EWI, program dates back to 1947.   In its 73-year history, it has seen over 6,000 Fellows from more than 35 career fields loaned out to industry for a once in a lifetime behind the scenes look at some leading industry partners, too many to name here.  Some of these Fellows went on to incredible career achievements, such as 1996 EWI alum and 2020 mid-tour guest speaker Maj. Gen. Michael J. Schmidt, a four-time program executive officer, now overseeing the command, control, communication, intelligence, and networks (C3I&N) at Hanscom AFB, Mass. 

“The EWI program was one of the best, most useful, experiences of my career.  The perspectives I gained and the relationships I built during my EWI tour really helped me bridge the government/industry divide and I think made me more successful as a program manager in terms of partnering with industry to deliver war-winning capabilities,” said Schmidt.

After their experience, EWI Fellows return to the Air Force and, as of 2021, the Space Force, having gained incredible knowledge of industry best practices, culture, recruiting and talent management, innovation, contracting, acquisition, and many more aspects of business.  So, you may ask, why should 2020 – even in the middle of global pandemic – be any different?

Roughly 60% of EWI Fellows have been working completely virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Most Fellows physically moved themselves and their families to the local area of their industry partner in hopes that we can return to offices and work centers as soon as safe and practical.  Despite the shift to hybrid remote work, as noted below, this year’s EWI Fellows have already made incredible accomplishments, learned immeasurable things from industry partners, and brought each of their own unique perspectives to the industry partners.  It is a symbiotic relationship of mutual growth. 

The 2020-2021 class of 77 EWI Fellows includes 52 officers, 10 enlisted, and 15 civilians, from 35 Air Force specialties across 45 industry partners.  It is also worth noting that 2020 is only the third year that enlisted members have participated in this unique opportunity.  There are enlisted representatives participating from 10 Air Force specialties ranging from Staff Sgt. to Master Sgt. 

“Every single Fellow amazed me from their mid-tour projects and overall knowledge and attitude," said Chief Master Sgt. Keith Castille, EWI advocate and HAF/A1DI enlisted force development chief. "It's remarkable how each and every one of these professionals are so passionate about what they are doing and how they are going to bring this back to our Air and Space Forces.  I'm excited to share this with the entire Air Force and Space Force to get more recognition of the program and more understanding why EWI is important not only to our teams but the industry partners we collaborate with.”

Below are several specific and unique examples highlighting this year’s Fellows.

Maj Greg Rushing, an Intelligence Officer, is working with the Amazon Translate product management team at Amazon Web Services (AWS), a technology company offering a broad set of global cloud-based products.  Recently, Maj Rushing had the opportunity to write for the AWS Machine Learning (ML) Blog.  His article was also published in the AWS Science Newsletter, getting distributed to 165 news outlets worldwide. (Courtesy photo submission from Maj. Greg Rushing).

Capt. Alexis Sanchez Martinez, a Developmental Engineer, works with SpaceX, an aerospace company who designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets with the goal of reducing space transportation costs. Recently, Sanchez Martinez served as the lead manufacturing engineer tasked to build a novel solution to recover two $4M fairings for the first time from the West Coast. After overseeing the build, she served as a crewmate aboard the NRC Quest vessel, directly contributing to successful recovery. Afterwards, Sanchez Martinez transitioned to mission management supporting NRO launches.  Additionally, Sanchez Martinez was recently selected for transfer to the United States Space Force.  (Courtesy photo submission by SpaceX employee Chanson Yang)

1st. Lt. Steven Groenheim, Contracting Officer, is assigned to work with Anduril Industries, a defense tech startup bringing Silicone Valley ingenuity to issues of national defense. Anduril excels in producing Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven, autonomous, software powered platforms for multi-domain counter intrusion, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and detect-defeat CONOPs.  Groenheim joined Anduril in a hyper growth period, rapidly scaling from concept in 2017 to, in 2020, generating over $100 million in revenue. Anduril is now poised to become the third startup to cross “the valley of death” and break into the traditional defense market, while reaching a billion-dollar valuation.  Groenheim works closely with Anduril’s business development team, constantly brokering briefings, demonstrations and partnerships with the United States Government. (Courtesy photo submission from 1st. Lt. Steven Groenheim)

Anduril’s autonomous, unattended ground sensor, Dust, using computer vision, detected and classified, pictured here with (left to right) Anduril’s Jackson Holahan and Kurt Freshley, and EWI Fellow 1st. Lt. Steven Groenheim. (Courtesy photo submission from 1st Lt. Steven Groenheim).


Ms. Stephanie VanDine, a Contracting Officer, is working at Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation in Colorado. She is gaining firsthand experience of their collaborative ecosystem as an economic development engine and promoter of technology advancement. She has been supporting their programs: Catalyst Accelerator, AF CyberWorx, and Platform One. Through AF CyberWorx’s Low-Code/No-Code project, Stephanie is developing an application to help leverage and sustain engagement following innovative events such as Accelerators, Tech Demos, and AFWERX Challenges. (Courtesy photo submission from Dana Speed, Catalyst Accelerator Marketing)

Tech. Sgt. Harley Davis, Ground Transportation Non-Commissioned Officer, is working with FedEx Express, a global multimodal delivery service company with its headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Recently, Tech. Sgt. Davis, Maj. Cook, Force Manager, LS1. Leber, Logistics Specialist, and the Human Resources leadership team traveled to Columbus Ohio for an HR recruitment event. The purpose of this event was to build a positive impression on the FedEx Express’ recruitment process and help identify ways to ensure and optimize the effectiveness of the recruitment program portfolio.   (Courtesy photo submission from Don Stenger)


1st. Lt. Josh Tarrant, Acquisition Officer, is working with Analytical Graphics Inc., (AGI) an Ansys company.  One of AGI’s flagship products, Systems Tool Kit, provides physics-based sea, land, air, space and cyberspace modeling and simulation for the aerospace industry and more.  Recently Lt Tarrant and the AGI team met with the United States Space Force (USSF) technical training staff and other operational units.  The visit highlighted multiple opportunities to enhance operator training and capability, in direct alignment with USSF leadership.  Additionally, Tarrant was recently selected for transfer to the United States Space Force. (Courtesy photo submission from 1st Lt. Josh Tarrant)


Capt. Jason Fontenot, Weather and Environmental Sciences Officer, Capt. Ella Marshall, Logistics Readiness Officer, and Tech. Sgt. Justin Vining, Scientific Applications Specialist, all became colleagues through the Education with Industry (EWI) program while living and working at Amazon Web Services in downtown Seattle, WA. They first met while picking up their employee badges at Amazon HQ and have since participated in numerous hikes and adventures throughout the Pacific Northwest. Utilizing Amazon’s unique work environments, they frequently collaborate in the Amazon Spheres work center, which is a living and breathing forest encased by three glass spheres in the heart of Seattle.  Additionally, Capt. Marshall is on track to finish her Master's degree in Transportation and Logistics Management by May 2021. (Courtesy photo submission from Capt. Jason Fontenot)


Capt. Ainslie Vizcarra is a Force Support Officer working at Deloitte, a global enterprise versed in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics, mergers and acquisitions, tax, consulting, audit and assurance, and risk and financial advisory services, supporting partners from government entities to consumer and entertainment. Her first project at Deloitte involved helping Air Combat Command stand up their new Spectrum Warfare Wing, which is poised to develop, host, integrate, test, and distribute electronic warfare and missionware to proactively outpace adversaries within the electromagnetic spectrum.  Additionally, Vizcarra will be promoted to Major in the United States Air Force during her EWI tour. (Courtesy photo submission from Capt. Ainslie Vizcarra)


Ms. Carolina Brost is a Contracting Officer working with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture launch service provider between Lockheed Martin Space and Boeing Defense, Space and Security.  ULA launches critical missions to various solar system orbits supporting the United States Space Force, National Reconnaissance Office and other industry partners.  Brost recently participated in several construction site visits at the Spaceflight Processing Operations Center (SPOC) to support the new Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.  As a member of the Engineering and Infrastructure team, Brost is expanding construction management procedures and best practices from Space Launch Complex 41. (Courtesy photo submission from Ms. Carolina Brost)


Capt. Tyler Almquist is a Logistics Readiness Officer embedded within UPS and their Supply Chain Solutions segment.  He is currently assigned to the Digital Global Freight Forwarding team which, in early October, released the new UPS Forwarding Hub®.  This digital hub provides customers across the globe access to manage their UPS Global Freight Forwarding Air & Ocean freight, all from a single platform.  Almquist’s duties have included assisting the Digital Team with platform development, agile software test and integration, and strategic planning for digital team expansion as the digital platform’s utilization increases.  This has all been conducted in a remote working environment to maintain health protection measures. (Courtesy photo submission from Capt. Tyler Almquist)


1st. Lt. John Diekel, a Contracting Officer, is working with Data Collective Venture Capital (DCVC), a venture firm focused on investing in defense and healthcare startups, and Gothams which is a consulting firm that aids dual-use technology startups enter and scale in the government marketplace.  The Gothams team has worked diligently over the past 8 months to transform a 7-employee sepsis testing company into Curative, a 2,000 employee COVID-19 testing company that supports over 20 states.  Diekel has worked side-by-side with Gothams’ leadership and finance personnel to identify additional opportunities for Gothams and Curative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, Diekel will promote to Captain in the United States Air Force during his EWI tour. (Courtesy photo submission from 1st. Lt. John Diekel)


Capt. Paulina Morales, an Aircraft Maintenance Officer by trade, is working for Apple Inc., at their corporate location in Austin, Texas. She works in Worldwide Operations, in the Americas Outbound Logistics team, as a Regional Supply Manager for the retail route to market.  This involves managing the supply chain and distribution of retail products for the 305 Apple retail stores in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  This entails liaising with Apple’s distribution centers, contracted freight carriers, and the Apple retail store operations teams to get Apple products on the shelves at Apple retail stores for purchase.  Recently, she planned and executed the supply chain and distribution strategy for the new product launch of the iPhone 12, HomePod Mini, and Series 5 Apple Watch to all of the North American retail stores.  Unfortunately, one day prior to the release of iPhone 12, one of the contracted FedEx freight trucks and all of its cargo was completely destroyed in an accident.  Capt. Morales was then responsible for planning the recovery strategy to deliver these associated products on time to guarantee a delightful Apple customer experience.  She does this all in a “Work from Home” environment. (Courtesy photo submission from Capt. Paulina Morales)


Capt. Joseph Thaden, a Cyberspace Effects Operations Officer, is working with VMware, a technology company providing cloud computing and virtualization software and services for both industry and the Department of Defense (DoD). Recently, Thaden provided security training for the global VMware Threat Management team, resolving a vulnerability data sharing shortfall and improving the lethality of multiple security teams. He also shared DoD best practices regarding operational risk analysis and is advancing VMware’s approval/block list tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).  (Courtesy photo submission from Capt. Joseph Thaden)


More news...

Return to the top of the page

Air Force Institute of Technology
2950 Hobson Way
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH 45433-7765
Commercial: 937-255-6565 | DSN: 785-6565