McDaniel Center Open House

Cpl. Vernon Lee Burge’s photo hangs on a wall of a McDaniel Center classroom, Jan. 8, 2021, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Burge was the first American enlisted man to be certified as a military pilot, he was a pioneer in aviation and an innovator. (U.S. photo by Airman 1st Class Rebeckah Medeiros)
Cpl. Vernon Lee Burge’s photo hangs on a wall of a McDaniel Center classroom, Jan. 8, 2021, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Burge was the first American enlisted man to be certified as a military pilot, he was a pioneer in aviation and an innovator. (U.S. photo by Airman 1st Class Rebeckah Medeiros)

McDaniel Center Open House

by Airman 1st Class Rebeckah Medeiros
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- During the second week of January 2021, the McDaniel Center hosted their first open house of the year; welcoming service members with food, games and prizes and commemorating innovative historical figures by renaming two classrooms.

The McDaniel Center is home to Team Kadena's First Term Airmen Course, two career assistance advisors and several other professional development programs. Many service members, civilians and military local contractors say they consider the organization to be like another welcoming family.

The McDaniel Center staff talk to Airmen about changes happening within their own programs, and encourage Airmen to think outside of the box to be innovative in their own offices. Kadena’s CAAs believe if a person isn’t taking risks or pushing their comfort zones, then they’re not growing. Not only can innovation be a key to growth as a person, but it’s also one of the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s priorities in the “Accelerate Change Across the Air Force” CSAF action orders, published in 2020.

Senior Master Sgt. John Firlik, a CAA from the 718th Force Support Squadron, is always thinking of new ways to improve processes within the McDaniel Center as well as ways to inspire Airmen to do the same in their work centers. Hosting the open house was a deliberate move to show Airmen that at any level, they can persuade and demonstrate the changes they want to see, he explained.

The main event from the open house highlighted innovative historical Airmen. Two classrooms were renamed in honor of American enlisted Airmen that made impactful changes which can still be seen to this day.

“For classroom one, I want to dedicate to Cpl. Vernon Lee Burge, who was the first American enlisted man to be certified as a military pilot, a pioneer in aviation and an innovator,” Firlik said. “If you look at an airframe from 1910, they were landing on skis. It was his idea to go with the three-wheel system, one in the front and two in the back … If you look at our F-15’s out there right now, you will see we still use that same system today.”

The second classroom was dedicated to the first American enlisted man to be assigned aviation duties in the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps, Cpl. Edward “Eddie” Ward, who assisted in airplane demonstrations and learned how to fly and maintain dirigibles amongst many other accomplishments throughout his 28 years in service.

Much like Ward, Mr. Scott Gericke, the Force Development flight chief from the 718th FSS, believes education and knowledge are important to growth no matter where a person is in their career. The McDaniel Center is a place for just that, offering foundations for professional and personal development from all of the facilitators and instructors. Gericke believes learning is an ongoing process and encourages individuals to learn from other’s experiences.

Despite the numerous challenges COVID-19 posed in 2020, the McDaniel Center managed to continue FTAC, lunch and learns, and one-on-one meetings with the CAAs. The organization plans to continue being innovative in order to stay relevant to new generations of Airmen and to continue providing the members of Kadena Air Base more opportunities for growth.

“Being a part of the McDaniel Center team means so much to me, it has provided me the opportunity to be able to reach a lot of Airmen, I touch 97 different AFSC’s from across the Wing on a weekly basis,” Firlik said. “I bring innovation, new ideas and am constantly changing something – either physically or curriculum wise – to remain relevant in the courses to our new generation of Airmen and what the Air Force is trying to drive.”

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