(Fort Detrick, Md.) - Fort Detrick hosted a graduation ceremony Friday for 24 students who earned Advanced Acquisition Professional certificates as part of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School's distance learning program.
The 12-month AAP program is open to military and federal civilians, and provides an in-depth review of the Department of Defense acquisition process. The distance learning program lets students earn graduate credit toward an NPS master's degree, as well as qualify for a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Level III Certification in Program Management.
Many students had already been tasked with program management responsibilities in their full-time jobs. Training was critical, but time constraints created a hurdle. Graduate Patricia Dubill, a biomedical engineer at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, was thankful for the flexible alternative to the traditional classroom.
"Our command, and others, saved significant time and financial resources by being able to take the NPS course here in Frederick," said Dubill.
The program follows an ambitious outline, with coursework covering such topics as acquisition and program management, information technology, financial management, contracts, logistics and leadership.
Retired Col. Dave Matthews, 16-year veteran NPS lecturer in Defense Systems Acquisition and Project Management, stressed the program's main goal: "It greatly enhances the students' professional development and qualifications."
In 1985, Matthews graduated from a similar 19-week, resident program at the Defense Systems Management College. "DSMC is still teaching an evolved equivalent of what I took in 1985," explained Matthews. "The advent of the DAWIA in 1991, and its inherent prerequisite certification requirements to hold key acquisition positions, intensified and focused acquisition training and education."
Matthews' professional experience helped shape his curriculum: "Having 'been there, done that' is essential to being a credible pedagogue. In my case, I ended my active-duty career with four years as the project manager for the Army Tactical Missile System."
Dubill appreciated that her instructors had worked in program management, either for the government or a defense contractor, and could offer invaluable insights.
"It is very important to have instructors with this type of hands-on experience, rather than just ivory tower theorists who've studied 'program management' but never had to apply it in an actual workplace," said Dubill.
Students were just as eager to share their perspectives, a dynamic welcomed by fellow graduate Dr. Mark Dertzbaugh, chief of the Business Plans and Programs Office at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
"[Two] were very outspoken during the class, and made it engaging," said Dertzbaugh. "This class had a number of students who had responsibilities at the second- or third-tier management level for their activities who will probably be in those positions for a long time, providing continuity in knowledge to the command."
Dubill added, "I always benefit tremendously from the networking aspect of training - learning from the expertise of other people and being able to draw on them as resources in the future. There was tremendous synergy stemming from our different backgrounds - technical, logistics, finance."
The best programs impart lessons that sustain a lifelong career.
"A critical point that one of our instructors made throughout his class was the importance of PM's needing to take risks in order to be successful in their work," Dubill said. "This reinforced my inclination to go out on a limb in seeking solutions to difficult medical care challenges, and the importance of seeking creative solutions to problems in general."
Advanced Acquisition Professionals: