Malmstrom's first civilian ALS graduate wins Levitow Award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Elijah Van Zandt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Viviana Castillo Ramirez, 341st Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, graduated from Airman Leadership School with the John Levitow Award Sep. 15, 2022, making her the first civilian to graduate ALS at Malmstrom.

The Levitow Award is the highest honor awarded in a professional military educational environment and is given to the student who achieves the highest overall standing from a combination of academic scores, performance evaluations and leadership qualities.

Castillo Ramirez is the first civilian to win the award within the 20th Air Force and Air Force Global Strike Command.

While the ability for civilians to attend ALS started in 2016, the opportunity had not available here until recently.

Ramirez said she was approached by 341st CONS senior leadership about the course.

“They explained to me how essential the course could be to my leadership and professional development and how I would be the first civilian at Malmstrom to get the opportunity,” said Castillo Ramirez. “Within the span of five minutes I made the decision to rearrange my schedule and enroll in the course.”

The ALS curriculum teaches leadership and management skills for new and future non-commissioned officers to use when supervising their subordinate troops. In addition, military studies is included in the coursework which gave Castillo Ramirez a better understanding of how civilian employees contribute to the Air Force mission.

“Up until now, I was not familiar with the enlisted structure and even in the contracting squadron the majority of my colleagues are civilians,” said Castillo Ramirez. “Through the weeks of being enrolled in this course, I have gained so much respect for all members of the military, but especially new NCO’s who are taking on such an important responsibility of mentoring young Airmen.”

While Ramirez said she learned valuable military-specific lessons from her classmates throughout the course, she said she also had the opportunity to provide advice and feedback from a civilian perspective.

“At the end of the day our mission is the same, we’re here for the same reason – the only difference is we are on different paths towards executing that same mission,” she said. “We both have a sense of duty and we both emulate the Air Force core values.”

Tech. Sgt. Jane Nucal, 341st Missile Wing Airman Leadership School instructor, supervised Castillo Ramirez’s class during the six-week course and said she was impressed by Castillo Ramirez’s ability to provide meaningful perspective from outside the enlisted structure.

“There was a lot of valuable insight she contributed to the conversations,” said Nucal. “She showed that it doesn’t matter if you’re enlisted, an officer or a civilian - we all have an equal hand in the effectiveness of the mission.”

Castillo Ramirez may be the first civilian to attend the course, but she may not be the last.

“We are very excited to continue to have members of the community enroll in this course and to see what they can bring to the table,” said Nucal. “We are a total force; we should not be confined to our titles – If you want to develop as a leader, we are here for you.”