Light Attack Academy Takes Learning To New Heights
From left to right front row: Megan Bailey, COMM/NAV project lead; Allison Hallock, logistics analyst; Lindsay Morgan, acquisition analyst. Back row: John Northcott, in-service logistician; Brandon Cousins, FMS configuration management analyst; Rebecca Connors, air vehicle program manager; Brendan Barry, software engineer; Heather Wicks, air vehicle program manager; Jackie DePiazza, avionics analyst; Caroline McPherson, MOD/RETRO program manager.
From left to right front row: Megan Bailey, COMM/NAV project lead; Allison Hallock, logistics analyst; Lindsay Morgan, acquisition analyst. Back row: John Northcott, in-service logistician; Brandon Cousins, FMS configuration management analyst; Rebecca Connors, air vehicle program manager; Brendan Barry, software engineer; Heather Wicks, air vehicle program manager; Jackie DePiazza, avionics analyst; Caroline McPherson, MOD/RETRO program manager.

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– H-1 Light Attack Helicopter Programs Office (PMA-276) launched the pilot Light Attack Academy (LAA) on May 9. LAA is a new initiative to provide short, focused, and intensive training to increase personnel knowledge and skills for successful project execution.

LAA aims to improve personal performance and high-fidelity contributions to the fleet by providing foundational knowledge, tools, and lessons learned to help Level III project managers function within the PMA environment to the best of their abilities.

PMA-276 Program Manager Col. Vasilios Pappas welcomed the inaugural 10 project managers to the first course with an introduction to the program office.  He focused on the mission, vision, Mission Aligned Organization, program office organization, and how the PMA works holistically to support the warfighter.

“As a team, it’s important for less experienced project managers to understand all the stages of their projects and how each team can support each other,” said Pappas. “The LAA pilot course provided an engaging and collaborative environment to build a community that inspires teamwork, cooperation, and career development.”

LAA consists of 12 program management-focused modules that follow a project’s life cycle.

“The idea was conceived as a program management ‘boot camp’ that would allow for rapid, timely, and job-specific training for program analysts/managers within the PMA,” explained Erin Lesko, deputy lead for Vertical Takeoff and Landing Family of Systems. “There is a systemic issue at NAVAIR where we aren’t providing our new talent with the basic real-world PMA-specific knowledge to succeed in their jobs.”

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and their teams spent months collaborating on each module to ensure an in-depth understanding of the stages and tools involved in managing a project. LAA included all stages of acquisitions, from requirements development to sustainment.

“Developing the LAA courses was a true team effort. Each team’s hours and dedication to the course is evident,” explained Acquisition and Operations lead Sharon “Mee Mee” Shaw. “LAA is the first-of-its-kind course offered by a NAVAIR program office. We were excited to launch this unique curriculum and pilot program.”

Course participants said LAA provided them with a better understanding of the different processes within the program office and their expectations as project managers.

Megan Bailey joined the program office four years ago. She has served as the Avionics Integrated Product Team (IPT) Communication/Navigation project lead for two years. Bailey said LAA reiterates the importance of communication and proper planning while managing a project.

“Each team has its own role, methods, and procedures. Even though the function areas operate individually, we are interdependent upon each other to keep the whole machine moving forward,” Bailey explained.

Program manager for the Modifications and Retrofit IPT, Caroline McPherson, joined her team two months ago. She desired familiarization with the overall PMA-276 portfolio, leadership, functional subject matter experts, and program office processes and preferences.

“Every one of the participants and presenters has vastly different professional backgrounds, from counselor to a teacher to mechanic to an entrepreneur. The diversity of experience enhanced the course, and in turn, we were offered a baseline of project management expectations and tools,” McPherson noted. “The course material provided the unique occasion to explore the breadth of project management principles concerning H-1 project-specific applications.”

Each course included a SME to serve as the module instructor; a commentator and an auditor joined them to observe the pilot course and offer feedback for future LAA courses.

“It was my pleasure to pass on some knowledge to a group of eager professionals,” said Scott Kelley, Product Support manager. “My hope and my ask are that they all stay hungry for knowledge and improvement, and they continue to use all the resources they have at their disposal.”

PMA-276 hosted LAA over two weeks, and at the end of the course, participants received a certificate of completion and a commemorative LAA challenge coin.

The program office plans to host the next LAA course in October.

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