DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Dillon Lackus became the first civilian Airman to graduate from the Staff Sgt. Julio Alonso Airman Leadership School at Dover Air Force Base, May 18, 2023.
Lackus, a prior Marine, was one of 30 students, and the only civilian, enrolled in ALS Class 23-E. He is a mortuary clerk assigned to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.
“As a civilian employee and veteran of the Marine Corps I learned not just about leadership but also about the Air Force,” said Lackus.
Civil Service employees who are prior service and have not already graduated from ALS may attend at the recommendation of their commander or higher authority. All students are treated equally and are held to the same academic expectations, whether civilian or military.
“Civilians play a critical role in our Total Force and a lot of times [they] work directly with our Airmen and supervise them,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Hoffman, 436th Force Support Squadron ALS commandant. “The goal is to offer our civilian teammates some additional knowledge they may or may not have known and hopefully better their work center dynamics. The relationship works both ways as civilians also bring in a different perspective during guided discussions that our Airmen may not have thought of.”
When offered the opportunity to attend ALS by his leadership, Lackus accepted the opportunity and his name was submitted.
Lackus stated, “I felt honored to be the first civilian to attend ALS on Dover AFB.”
His instructor noted that having Lackus in ALS had a positive influence on his fellow classmates throughout the five-week course.
“Having a civilian in the class was positive, and seemed like the class turned to him when faced with different and difficult tasks,” Staff Sgt. John De La Cruz, 436th Force Support Squadron ALS Liberty Flight instructor. “Dillon was able to give Airmen different perspectives of life, as a Marine and as a civilian. This experience served the class well because he was able to provide the class with different avenues of approach when dealing with tough times, especially when put in a leadership role.”
Lackus was one of four students nominated by fellow ALS classmates to compete for the school’s Leadership Award.
“The Leadership Award is presented to the student who most influenced the class through his or her example in the areas of teamwork, initiative, dress and appearance, and professionalism,” said Hoffman. “As a civilian attending ALS, having his own classmates selecting him shows the importance of relationships and their impact on the military members.”
ALS strengthens Airmen and prepares them for future supervisory and leadership roles, military or civilian. ALS achieves this by teaching students about leadership, problem solving skills, culture and mission during the curriculum.
“My favorite part of the ALS curriculum was the presentation assignments,” said Lackus. “Public speaking is not my favorite thing to do, so this really helped me to open up and perfect my public speaking skills which gave me an incredible amount of self-confidence.”
Skills acquired in ALS will help him become a well-rounded supervisor in his civilian career.
“I'm excited for Dillon to share what he has learned [with] the greater AFMAO team as a civilian Airman,” said Col. Chip Hollinger, AFMAO commander. He has a unique perspective that we value and appreciate. We are very proud of Dillon's motivation and his family’s commitment to support him during this professional development and educational program.”
After completing ALS, Lackus acknowledged that he, as a civilian, better understands how the Air Force operates and how he, along with military Airmen, can work together to achieve the mission of the Air Force.
“The skills I learned in ALS such as interpersonal communication, problem solving and critical thinking, will help me to identify issues or problems and work through them with my team,” said Lackus. “This will make me an even more effective team member at AFMAO as we provide honor, dignity, and respect to our fallen service members and care, service, and support to their families.”