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ALCM summer training program prepares students for career opportunities

  • Published
  • By Mel Ricks and Melody Spencer, Air Delivered Capabilities Directorate
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center

More than 20 students learned about the day-to-day challenges Airmen face by working through real-world scenarios during the 2023 Air-Launched Cruise Missile Summer Training Program, held in two June sessions at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The program is conducted by Missile Sustainment Division of the Air Delivered Capabilities Directorate at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

The AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, is the United States’ only nuclear cruise missile and since 1982 it has been a key component of the nuclear triad, providing the nation with strategic capabilities that assure America’s allies and deter its adversaries.
Although the missile was initially designed with a 10-year service-life, it has been in use for the past 40 years due to the sustainment program managed by the Missile Sustainment Division.

While it is hoped that the ALCM never has to be used, it can also never be doubted. That’s where the Missile Sustainment Division comes into play. The division’s team members are working to sustain the future of such an important mission through outreach programs like the ALCM Summer Training Program. Since 2019, the program has graduated 79 high-performing students, including 23 who attended during this summer’s sessions.

“The ALCM Summer Training Program is an exciting opportunity to expose the next generation to the functionalities of a program office and educate students about the ongoing career opportunities available in this field,” said Edward Rua, chief of the Missile Sustainment Division. “Our hope is through this and similar events, students will consider degrees in the functional disciplines represented in program offices and seek these opportunities to build lasting careers after they graduate.”

The program affords students a fun way to learn more about the Air Force mission at Tinker AFB. Its tours, presentations and hands-on team project also promote the importance of communication and collaboration.  

Team members said they hope these activities will spark interest in potential career aspirations in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields as well as in program management, logistics, contracting, finance and operations areas.

They designed the program to allow students to gain real-world insight into the day-to-day challenges faced in a modern military program office. 

On day one of the weeklong program, the students split into groups and were immersed in a problem. The students had to learn and assign roles, process new information, and decide how to work the problem, all while discussing their risks.

“We run kids through the scenarios of some of the real issues we’ve had related to the ALCM and allow them to come up with things to think about and move ahead, how they would go about solving that process, and brief the senior leadership team to get approval to move forward and execute a proposed solution,” Rua said. “These are the real things we do inside of the program office.”

The division hopes to continue the program in 2024.

“I’ve always thought — and still believe — that this is our future,” Rua said. “If we can get high school students interested, not necessarily working here in this office, but finding something that they can build from and be really excited and interested to work in here at Tinker, that’s good for the Air Force, the Department of Defense and the nation as a whole.”

Tours, presentations and briefings were provided by a variety of Tinker AFB organizations, including the 72nd Operations Support Squadron, 557th Software Maintenance Squadron, 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron and 76th Commodities Maintenance Group. Guest speakers included the Air Force Sustainment Center’s historian and several officers who provided presentations covering aspects of qualifying for the U.S. Air Force Academy, ROTC and Officer Training School for students interested in serving the nation in uniform.