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Education with Industry Fellows Share Experiences Embedded With Industry Leaders
Posted Thursday, November 01, 2018


Three Fellows in the AF Education with Industry (EWI) program share their experiences embedded with industry leaders.  EWI, a program sponsored by SAF/AQH and managed by the Air Force Institute of Technology, is a highly selective, competitive non-degree educational assignment within an industry related to the fellow’s career field. 

The program is designed to develop qualities and abilities in selected officers and civilians necessary for effective management, professional, and technical leadership; and to provide an understanding of organizational structure, management methods, and technologies of modern industry.  By studying the best practices of industry, students are able to bring new knowledge, understanding, and empathy back into the Air Force to improve its processes.  In turn, the company benefits by receiving the fellow’s experience and perspective.

Master Sergeant Christopher Bevins, an EWI fellow working with the Fortune 500 company USAA, describes his experience learning why USAA sponsors Academy Athletics, and how they use social media to connect with the military community.

Ms. Erine Chandler, an EWI fellow working with the consulting firm The Perduco Group located in Beavercreek, OH, describes a visit to Colorado Springs to try a sports simulator that is showing potential for more tailored, realistic, and low cost pilot training.

Captain Caleb Leestma, an EWI fellow working with La Quinta Inns & Suites - a chain of limited service hotels in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Honduras, describes the leadership insight he took away from visiting with six top industry senior leaders at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts as they complete a merger with La Quinta.

Air Force vs. Navy Game 2018
By Master Sgt. Christopher Bevins

The Air Force Academy Falcons faced off against the Naval Academy Midshipmen for the 51st time, at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. on October 6, 2018. The meeting of the academies, which was the first of the season, provided an excellent opportunity to witness first-hand how USAA supports Academy Athletics through sponsorship and marketing.

The mission of the association is to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates and their families through provision of a full range of highly competitive financial products and services; in doing so, USAA seeks to be the provider of choice for the military community. With that being said, it makes sense that USAA would be a sponsor of Academy Athletics.

My immersion into sponsorship started the day before the game by meeting with members of the Endeavor team, one of USAA’s partners. Endeavor is an American talent and marketing agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and London…just to name a few. Endeavor represents artists across all media platforms, specifically movies, television, music, theatre, digital and publishing. It also represents the NFL, NHL and owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Miss Universe Pageant. USAA’s partnership with Endeavor allows them the flexibility to negotiate and facilitate large multi-million dollar contracts without having the manpower and resources of a large-scale marketing and talent firm such as Endeavor.

Additionally, I met with one of USAA’s Military Affairs representatives for that region, Mr. David Morrissey. USAA's Military Affairs team is comprised of retired officers and senior noncommissioned officers who dedicate themselves as advocates for those who are currently serving in our military, all those who have honorably served in the past, and their families. The team represents each of their services as well as the nation's Guard and Reserve forces and are responsible for creating and sustaining relationships between USAA, strategic partners, military leaders and military-related organizations so USAA can engage, serve and advocate for the military community.

On game day, I was exposed to the branding and engagement aspect of USAA’s support to Air Force Athletics. Unlike a government organization, USAA can provide monetary support to the services’ academies through branding and sponsorships. Air Force Athletics is a privately-run entity, separate of the Air Force Academy. This was done so that private companies could provide funding to support the athletic teams and to avoid trying to secure the funding through the Federal Government.

As costs keep escalating in major-college sports, federal service academies can’t keep up with their civilian competition. They can’t afford it, not without help. So, they went to Congress and since 2009, each got legislation that authorized their athletics business operations to be outsourced to separate, private entities – moves that drew little notice but were driven by one big reason: They had been sucked into the high-cost funnel cloud of major-college football and basketball.

On game day, myself and a team of 10 drove engagement with Members and potential Members by giving away “Premiums,” which entice the attendees of the game to interact with our representatives on the ground. The attendees visited the USAA tent and provided some data at our virtual kiosks. By providing the data, which included demographic input, membership status and contact information, the attendees were able to get a free, foam F-16 hat branded by USAA and a complimentary photo with player mannequins. This data is collected to help target certain demographics and to identify Member population to help tailor future marketing efforts.

In addition to the data collection, distribution of the Premiums also created a buzz on social media, increasing impressions and engagement across platforms. Social media brings the game, and all that goes along with it, to military and football fans in attendance AND beyond the stadium. USAA generated excitement about the game across all platforms and, on game day, delivered exclusive behind-the-scenes and in-game content. The table below outlines the social media metrics:

Platform Impressions Engagement
Twitter 74,698 11,404
Facebook 362,523 4,481
Instagram 88,847 7,530


During my trip, I learned that leveraging the media (social and broadcast) and in-stadium assets, helps connect the military community emotionally with values-driven messages that differentiate USAA from competitors - improving USAA’s message recall and growing a positive company opinion. Unfortunately, USAA’s military appreciation approach is no longer exclusive because competitors are using similar creative efforts to reflect their commitment to the military, causing recall confusion among consumers. According to USAA, in 2017, only 17% of television viewers could recall specific advertisers’ messages during the game and recall of USAA messages has been steadily declining. That makes personal, on-site interactions so important to the military community and USAA members.

Colorado Springs with The Perduco Group
By Ms. Erine Chandler

The trip started off with a meeting with a business development lead at LinQuest.  According to their website, “LinQuest Corporation provides innovative and cost-effective services and solutions to national security and industry customers focused on the convergence of C4ISR, information, and cyber systems in support of the Warfighter.  We are leading the way for national security and commercial space integration, developing innovative solutions to tomorrow’s challenges today.”  The meeting discussion focused around LinQuest’s desire to establish a standing partnership with The Perduco Group.  Several topics of discussion included Perduco’s growing footprint in Colorado Springs, potentially onboarding onto a Multiple Award Contract.

After the meeting with LinQuest, Dr. Stephen Chambal, Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perduco Group, provided a windshield tour of the Air Force Academy.  The Academy’s most recognized landmark, the Cadet Chapel (pictured below left) is the iconic structure of the United States Air Force Academy.  Outside the Chapel, a large pavilion known as The Terrazzo, houses four aircraft and the Air Gardens.  The F-16 (pictured below right) was donated by AFMC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.

Next, Dr. Chambal held a recruiting lunch with a potential Perduco recruit.  The recruit was planning on separating from the Air Force; with Dr. Chambal’s experience in doing the same, the conversation focused around the transition from active duty to the business sector.  Rather than pushing the recruit with a direct approach to work for Perduco, Dr. Chambal had a conversation focused on what the recruit wanted to do.  Dr. Chambal urged the recruit to create a bi-directional decision matrix with the work sectors and the trade-offs associated with each sector.  Dr. Chambal offered to aid in establishing business contacts and to help set-up interviews with multiple companies.  Rather than focusing on securing a position at his company, Dr. Chambal focused on working hard, doing the right thing, and helping people out; it will all work out in the end.

After lunch, we headed to the Academy’s math department, where Dr. Chambal provided a presentation to operations research seniors.  The presentation, The Key to Confidence in Decision Making, focused on the decision support model and bringing confidence to decision making.  Dr. Chambal started with the discussion of “all models are wrong, some are useful… but models are for insight not decisions…”  Operations research is not the process of creating the magic box answer.  Good operations research depends on having the right building blocks, a solid understanding of the problem, and tools necessary to develop an informed decision.  For decision support, the goal is confidence.  The analyst is the key to confidence, not the analysis.

We ended the work day with a demonstration of a sports simulator.  In addition to The Perduco Group, Dr. Chambal owns a sports-based company.  They have created a football sports simulation through a partnership with Sports Virtual Training Systems, Inc.  The simulation allows people the opportunity to experience the feelings of an NFL quarterback.  With the use of an actual football, the simulation tracks head and body movements as the ball is thrown to a receiver and the quarterback is sacked.

The simulation also shows potential in the Air Force pilot area.  With the ability to track head and body movements, and adjust as necessary, pilot training could move to real-time ad-hoc training focused around the pilot’s individual needs.  Further, a pilot simulator could gage the pilot’s response to acknowledging the use of a simulator and move the pilot to actual aircraft training when the simulator is no longer meeting the pilot’s needs.

Tuesday began with a meeting with a corporate strategist from Lockheed Martin.   The company expressed desire to hire The Perduco Group to assist with internal decision support.  Specifically, the corporate strategist provided scenarios where internal engineers struggled with developing a potential impact of mission failure of potential capabilities.  With Perduco’s help, the strategist believed Lockheed would be able to create a more realistic picture of a potential reality.

Finally, the trip ended with a meeting between Dr. Chambal and the Perduco lead for the Colorado Springs area.  During the meeting, the team discussed the various aspects of establishing a presence in a new geographical market.  The team discussed recruiting, developing business leads, and maintaining positive relationships with current business associates.

Wyndham Senior Leader Visit
By Capt Caleb Leestma

As a dedicated Education with Industry (EWI) fellowship partner with the United States Air Force, La Quinta Inns & Suites is highly invested in the development and mentorship of their Air Force fellows.  As part of the onboarding process for the EWI program, the fellow participates in one-on-one leadership and mentorship hour-long discussions with the company’s senior leaders.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts (WH&R) acquired La Quinta in their recent merger and acquisition.  This acquisition provides great growth opportunity for the La Quinta brand as WH&R is now the largest hotel franchise company in the world with 20 brands, 15,000 team members, and nearly 9,000 hotels in 80 countries.  The acquisition will also provide the current La Quinta EWI fellow, Capt Caleb Leestma, a unique opportunity to witness and participate in the integration of two large companies as they’ll mold their cultures into a new organization.

Capt Leestma traveled to Parsippany, NJ to meet with the senior leaders located at Wyndham Worldwide.  Capt Leestma came prepared with a series of questions ranging from leadership issues, career keys to success, personal development, and corporate military involvement, among other topics for the one-on-one discussions with the WH&R senior leaders.  Following are the highlights from his discussions with the WH&R Senior Leader Team:

Tom Barber, Chief Strategy and Development Officer

Mr. Barber explained that leadership is about being accountable for your employees’ actions and building trust and reputation among them.  A leader must build relationships with their employees through listening and supporting them.  Every interaction is an opportunity to build trust and reputation.

Bill Skrzat, Chief HR Services Officer
A leader must embrace accountability, having his or her employees’ back and taking responsibility for the team.  Emotional control is imperative.  There is always a solution for everything, a leader cannot panic.  Mr. Skrzat’s emphasis on leadership is summarized by his quote, “People don’t leave organizations.  They leave leaders.”

Mary Falvey, Chief Administration Officer

Ms. Falvey explained that the keys to her success have been to always have a positive attitude, push herself, get out of her comfort zone, and continuously learn.  Her leadership philosophy is best described by empowering her employees to make decisions, trusting them, and surrounding herself with diverse people.

Barry Goldstein, Chief Commercial Officer

Mr. Goldstein explained that his three keys to success are never being afraid to take on the hardest projects, don’t be afraid to fail, and hiring diverse people with different perspectives.  Goldstein is an inspirational leader.  He believes in pushing his employees out of their comfort zone, empowering them to make decisions, and ensuring they understand how they fit into his team’s vision.  He believes a company’s culture is imperative, as it shapes the employee from day one.  Wyndham has a kind culture, but also accountable to its employees, investors, and customers.

Tad Wampfler, Senior Vice President Global Sourcing, Design, and Construction

Mr. Wampfler is the example of servant leadership.  He makes sure that his employees have everything they need to make revolutionary change within the organization.  He hires people for their attitude and their values.  Everything in leadership comes back to the people, they must be cared for and ready to take on challenges and bring out the most success in the organization.

Scott Strickland, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Mr. Strickland’s leadership is also best described as servant leadership.  He believes in objective management and filtering the noise so that the employees can feel comfortable with clear goals.  As the CIO, his methodology encompasses three pillars:  people, process, and technology.

Through meeting with the senior leaders at WH&R, Capt Leestma was able to gain valuable leadership insight from some of the top industry leaders.  Not only will this assist in the understanding of his projects with La Quinta and Wyndham, but it will directly aid in his future leadership opportunities within the Air Force.  In addition, the willingness and openness of the WH&R senior leaders represents the culture of the company and demonstrates their support of the Armed Forces.