STEM careers, education and recruiting on the rise

Bryan Wolfe, Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agent and superintendent, assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., demonstrates equipment on Feb. 14, 2018, which special agents use in the field to extract data from mobile devices and to create copies of information from computer hard drives. Often the information is sent to AFOSI subject matter experts who are employed for their science, technology, engineering and math expertise, professional fields that the Air Force and AFOSI actively recruit for. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kiersten McCutchan)

Bryan Wolfe, Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agent and superintendent, assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., demonstrates equipment on Feb. 14, 2018, which special agents use in the field to extract data from mobile devices and to create copies of information from computer hard drives. Often the information is sent to AFOSI subject matter experts who are employed for their science, technology, engineering and math expertise, professional fields that the Air Force and AFOSI actively recruit for. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kiersten McCutchan)

Malmstrom Air Force Base --

Today's Air Force recognizes there is a critical need for science, technology, engineering and math specialists to lead the Air Force in future technology and innovation efforts.


The U.S. Air Force mission – to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace – requires the greatest minds the nation has to offer. The driving motivation for many STEM specialists is often a desire to serve, be a part of something bigger and make a difference. 


Law enforcement, youth programs and the library at Malmstrom have expanded outreach efforts to help the Air Force STEM program meet its mission.


At Malmstrom, the goal is to recruit people for jobs and to provide information to students and Airmen about STEM education paths and vocations.


Air Force Office of Special Investigations

“If we build a diverse pool of STEM professionals, the Air Force and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations can keep pace with day-to-day technological advances and maintain our dominance,” said Bryan Wolfe, AFOSI special agent and superintendent, at Malmstrom.


“STEM capabilities are critical to the success of our mission. Almost every crime we investigate involves science and technology in some way,” he said. “Whether it’s investigating cybersecurity crimes, hackers, spies, terrorist financing, sexual assaults or drug offenses, we make use of new technologies at every turn."


“STEM professionals support readiness and provide a combat edge for our armed services. We look to the larger Air Force to get the word out, but locally we try to advance recruiting and education, too,” he continued.


“Airmen with competency and familiarity in STEM are force multipliers for us and highly sought after. We hope students who choose civilian or active duty STEM careers will be attracted to the Air Force, especially AFOSI,” Wolfe said.


“Reaching out to the younger generation, and talking to people locally about STEM is our way to get the message out,” Wolfe said.


“If any Airmen or civilians are interested in careers with AFOSI, they should contact their closest detachment office for an informational session,” he said. AFOSI has several specialties for agents with backgrounds in STEM to include forensic science agents, computer crime investigators and digital forensic consultants.


About STEM

According to the Air Force STEM office, the program provides employment to more than 15,000 scientists, analysts and engineers who work for the Air Force in laboratories, technical or weapons systems fields, test facilities, support centers, medical services, pilots or any area requiring technical skills.


Overall, the Air Force STEM mission is to empower Air Force entities to develop, improve, and coordinate STEM outreach for grades K-12 STEM and college-level STEM. The office also works with Department of Defense components, academia and industry to efficiently and effectively improve STEM literacy.


Additionally, the Air Force offers numerous programs to help high school to post-graduate students map their growth and find opportunities like fellowships, internships and apprenticeships. Key to the program is the recruitment of civilians already qualified in STEM vocations.


“Air Force STEM is focusing more and more on the aging workforce and the skills necessary to support the future Air Force mission. STEM professionals are critical to ensure the future,” said Vicki Stoneking of the Air Force STEM office. 


Why it’s important to talk about STEM early

The first step toward a STEM career is being exposed to ideas in STEM. For many, if it becomes a path of study, it can lead to a rewarding career.


“The idea is to plant the seed early,” said Annjeanette "Stevie" Brown, 341st Force Support Squadron youth and teens program leader.


“We have been doing STEM work with boys and girls for some time,” Brown said. “We want to give them a chance while they’re young to begin to think about their education in these fields so we plan ways to get them excited.”


The 341st Missile Wing’s youth center builds programs with partners from the community where kids can create robotics, learn about new equipment building for space exploration and have the chance to build their own elaborate building systems using their own diagrams.


The youth center offers a STEM oriented event at Malmstrom about once a month, and the programs are for age 6 years and older, with children ages 6-8 years old accompanied by a parent, she said. Children and teens must also be a youth center member, which is $40 a year. Parents should ask about other costs.


“Some programs where we partner with the community will cost additional money, like with 4-H Club, which hosts after school programs very often related to STEM,” Brown said.


“As of January this year, the base library has new STEM material making it easier to provide information for students from kindergarten to college with information on how to build a career in STEM, and how to choose your path,” Brown said.


STEM and a future for girls

The STEM field has been dominated by men, U.S. reports say. The youth center at Malmstrom has recently rolled out efforts to capture girls’ imaginations of what they can do in STEM.


“The youth center here, the Department of Defense and the Air Force are making a hard push to inform girls at an early age about jobs in STEM,” Brown said. “Since we’ve started our programs, we’ve found that we can catch the curiosity of girls and get them to think about this as their future.”


“And they are participating in it,” she said. “We’ve had some female engineers come in to talk about STEM with just the girls, and it was exciting for the girls to see these opportunities.”


The youth center is always looking for volunteers with STEM expertise, so people who have skills in this area we encourage to give us some of your time, Brown said.


For more information

Go to Air Force STEM outreach office website as it is the central clearinghouse for STEM related activities and events currently offered. By offering a broad range of STEM education and outreach programs, the Air Force can provide students, parents, teachers and mentors with access to STEM programs and partnerships. The link is: https://afstem.afciviliancareers.com/index.html


For more information on STEM materials from the Arden G. Hill Memorial Library, call 731-4638 or go to www.341FSS.com/Library.


For more information on STEM youth programs, call the Malmstrom Youth Center at 761-4079.


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