AFRL hosts 1st civic leaders in lab’s inaugural immersion program

  • Published
  • By Kiara Palmer
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, hosted community leaders from across the country for the lab’s first civic leader immersion program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base April 30 to May 2, 2023.
The goal of the visit was to introduce leaders to AFRL’s broad mission, enabling the inaugural cohort to become informed and well-connected advocates that advise and collaborate with AFRL. 
“Our civic leaders are invaluable! As members of our team, they champion AFRL’s vision and priorities and energize our efforts to engage diverse communities,” said Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL commander. “This immersion program was the first step in building their understanding and appreciation of the AFRL workforce and mission, but it also connected them to our warfighters’ challenges and the technological opportunities that AFRL pursues.”
The program began with a meet-and-greet in Beavercreek, Ohio, with civic leaders joining members of the AFRL leadership team, including Pringle; Timothy Sakulich, AFRL executive director; and Col. Joel Luker, AFRL vice commander. The informal gathering allowed AFRL ambassadors a chance to connect with the AFRL workforce on a more personal level.
“I was impressed with the amount of time AFRL leaders spent during and outside of the program,” said Sindy Yeh, civic leader and senior business ambassador for Arlington, Virginia, Economic Development. 
While the amount of time leadership spent with its community members was effective, it was the professional and personal bonding with AFRL command that made the most impact. 
“I was content interacting with leadership professionally, but getting to know AFRL’s best and brightest people was a great opportunity to truly build bonds and connections,” said Dr. William Laird, civic leader for Edwards Air Force Base and director of educational services at Antelope Valley Union High School District.

Divided into small group discussions and tours, the Civic Leader Program began with Pringle, Sakulich, members of AFRL leadership and the civic leaders delving into the AFRL mission, workforce, partnering and digital future through senior-leader conversations. 
During hands-on tours, the group visited various labs across Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, including the 711th Human Performance Wing’s centrifuge, Advanced Framework for Simulation and Integration and Modeling and U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. 
Attendees also had the opportunity to visit and participate in a guided tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, where civic leaders were exposed to the impact of AFRL throughout history. Civic leaders also spent time engaging with history that hit much closer to home. 
“Being able to see firsthand a model of the aircraft my great uncle designed and built was unreal,” said Laird. “I think anytime you can connect with history in a more personal way, it makes the story more powerful.”
While the civic leaders came into this immersion program unaware of how AFRL supports the warfighters, the AFRL workforce or the nation, the leaders felt encouraged to take what they experienced back to their communities. 
“Everything I learned in this program was new to me,” said Yeh. “Now that I am more knowledgeable, I feel inspired. I am working to develop a program where I can connect AFRL to local business leaders accelerating science and technology in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area.”
While the team is looking ahead for future programming and engagement with AFRL advocates, Lenell Kern, AFRL strategic engagements team lead, is proud of the success of AFRL’s first Civic Leader Program.
“This event and the Civic Leader Program wouldn't have been a success without the leadership of Maj. Gen. Pringle and the teamwork of the AFRL workforce,” said Kern.

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit