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Combat Air Force Fellowship teaches defense acquisitions

  • Published
  • By Allyson B. Crawford, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Today, Lt. Col. Robert Waller, Jr. is Director of Operations for the 780th Test Squadron. This is a turn from how he began his Air Force career as an F-15E combat and test pilot.

Waller studied Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and then commissioned 15 years ago.

Waller successfully completed the Combat Air Force (CAF) Fellowship, which is a professional military education (PME) program for midcareer officers. It is not common for pilots to enroll in the CAF Fellowship. In fact, Waller was only the second test pilot selected for the program. To date, two have completed the program, while two more are currently taking part in the program. As part of the fellowship, Waller was embedded in the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB.

“The idea of the program is that I will understand more clearly my role in defense acquisitions and hopefully improve our timelines and success rates for the acquisition program,” explains Waller.

Waller arrived at WPAFB in 2018 and finished his program there during the summer of 2020. After program completion, he and his family moved to Eglin AFB where he assumed his current leadership role. During his training at AFLCMC, he would attend meetings and write down unfamiliar phrases and programs to discuss with mentors. This helped him learn the new “language” of defense acquisitions.

“My experience at Wright-Patt definitely opened my eyes to the complexity and difficulty associated with rapid defense acquisitions. Terminology you hear now is ‘speed of relevance.’ What I hope to bring to this position is appreciation for the challenges from our program managers and to be able to have a relationship and speak in the same terms as our program office counterpart so we can work together in trying to make programs as successful as possible, as quickly as possible.”

At Eglin, Waller helps manage ongoing test operations for the weapons portfolio across the joint force. This includes everything from small arms fire like rifle rounds all the way to components for nuclear missiles. Some of the big programs he helps oversee includes Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, the top weapons development program in the air-to-air portfolio for the Air Force and Navy.

Waller will spend the next two years at Eglin and hopes to stay in the Air Force his entire career. His next goal is to lead at either the squadron or materiel branch level in a few years.

More information on Air Force fellowships is available on the Air University website.