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First DRIVE program candidate placed into civil service

Female civilian walks dog.

Elizabeth Ross, 341st Training Squadron animal caretaker with the Military Working Dog Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, checks her kennel Sept. 25 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Ross, also a former Airman, is the first candidate successfully placed with the Develop, Redistribute, Improve, Vault and Expose (DRIVE) program. DRIVE is a collaborative effort between the Air Force's Personnel Center and 737th Training Support Squadron to help highly qualified and motivated Airmen, who are medically disqualified from service at BMT, continue to serve the Air Force through civilian service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

Female civilian scoop food for dog.

Elizabeth Ross, 341st Training Squadron animal caretaker with the Military Working Dog Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, prepares food for her dogs Sept. 25. Ross, also a former Airman, is the first candidate successfully placed with the Develop, Redistribute, Improve, Vault and Expose (DRIVE) program. DRIVE is a collaborative effort between the Air Force's Personnel Center and 737th Training Support Squadron to help highly qualified and motivated Airmen, who are medically disqualified from service at BMT, continue to serve the Air Force through civilian service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --

A former medically disqualified Airman with a unique set of skills will continue to serve as a civil servant thanks to a new talent acquisition and transition program.

Elizabeth Ross, an Oklahoma State University graduate with a degree in Zoology and former Airman, was recently hired as an animal caretaker with the Military Working Dog Center, 341st Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland through the DRIVE Program. 

“The program is a collaborative effort, between the Air Force’s Personnel Center and Basic Military Training’s 737th Training Support Squadron, whose personnel coined the name for Develop, Redistribute, Improve, Vault and Expose,” said Stacy Nelson, DRIVE Program Manager. “Its intent is to help highly qualified and motivated Airmen, who are medically disqualified from service at BMT, continue to serve our Air Force through civilian service. We have screened more than a dozen applicants to date, referred four, and are excited to successfully place our first candidate from this program.”

“We created the program as a way to provide innovative opportunities for medically disqualified Airmen, and garner a return on the Air Force’s investment into these young men and women,” said Lt. Col. Cheo Stallworth, 737th Training Support Squadron commander. “Our group and wing leadership immediately noticed the value and threw their full support behind this initiative. We pitched the concept to AFPC senior leaders, and they helped take it to a new level. It has truly been a team effort! We are amazed at how quickly the program is already paying dividends and excited to see how much it expands in the coming years.”

“This opportunity is mutually beneficial for me and the Air Force,” Ross said. “Even though I was medically discharged from the Air Force, I am still able to use my experiences and knowledge of animal care to work for the Air Force.”

The 737th Training Support Squadron supports medically disqualified Airmen by providing resume development assistance through the Airman and Family Readiness Center and setting up job experience opportunities at Lackland as they await their discharge. Taking the resumes and transcripts captured by AFPC’s Talent Acquisitions team, the Center’s Talent Management Division reviews them and looks for opportunities for these Airmen to serve.

“Right now we are still in the developmental stages of codifying this program and exploring various avenues, partnerships and hiring authorities to help us place these incredible young people,” said William Cavenaugh, AFPC’s Force Renewal Branch Chief.  “It’s a work in progress but we made a commitment not to let this type of opportunity pass anyone by while working out all of the specifics.”

The Air Force loses approximately 2,000 trainees each year due to medical issues that arise at BMT.

“The majority of the time these trainees are lost for good,” Cavenaugh said. “Most of these young Americans have a strong desire to serve and many of them possess unique skill sets the Air Force can benefit from.”

And, the program is just getting started.

“AFPC is looking to place 30 candidates this year to continue to grow the program,” Nelson said. “We are in discussions and working some initiatives to create more opportunities and potentially expand this to other accession sources in the future.”

“I knew quite a few people during my time in med hold that had so much to offer the Air Force, but were discharged for medical reasons beyond their control,” Ross said. “This program is a great way to allow people like us to continue being an asset.”

For more information on the DRIVE Program, call 210-632-2227.