#BasicResearch Chatter — An Opportunity to chat about the AFRL Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP)

Last week we delved into the world of ESEP, AFRL’s Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program, for this month’s #BasicResearch Chatter. Jackie Sukup, Kristen Solada, and Phil Gibber joined us and filled the hour with tons of information about the program and it’s requirements.

We’ll start off by introducing our guests and then move onto the meat and potatoes of ESEP. First up is Jackie Sukup who is the Air Force ESEP Manager and is responsible for managing placement of both military and civilian personnel participating in the international science and engineering exchange program overseas as well as international participants in the United States.

Kristen Solada is the ESEP Manager for the International Armaments Cooperation Division (SAF/IAPC) within the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force, International Affairs (SAF/IA). She joined the SAF/IAPC team in October 2020.

Last, but certainly not least, is Phil Gibber who has led ESEP at AFOSR for 25 years. The wealth of knowledge that he brings is undeniable.

Now that we’ve introduced some of the people behind ESEP, let’s delve into the ins and outs of the program. ESEP is a Department of Defense effort to promote international cooperation in military research, development, and acquisition through the exchange of defense scientists and engineers.

“International cooperation is very important. We can accomplish [more] through increased collaboration.”

— Leon Plouviez

An example of ESEP promoting international cooperation can be found in this article from AFRL.

1963 saw the creation of ESEP and the first agreement was with Germany! ESEP provides on-site working assignments for U.S. military and civilian engineers and scientists in allied and friendly governments’ organizations and reciprocal assignment of foreign Ministry of Defense engineers and scientists in U.S. defense establishments. Some of the primary goals of ESEP are to broaden perspectives in research and development techniques and methods, form a cadre of internationally experienced professionals to enhance U.S. Air Force research and development programs, and cultivate future international cooperative endeavors.

ESEP offers a modern day adventure without the risks and perils associated with one like Shackleton’s arctic explorations. ESEP offers opportunities for career development, learning a language, and working with other world-class scientists on important projects. Language Training at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) is typically 6 months prior to and in addition to the 2-year ESEP tour. It’s highly recommended and you can learn more HERE.

The Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) International Office is responsible for managing placement of ESEP exchanges within the U.S. Air Force for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, providing policy guidance. The ESEP Call for Applications is sent once a year via an Air Force MyPers automatic message to all scientists and engineer civilians (GS-12 and above) and military (1st Lt-Major) personnel, respectively, and contains program information, requirements and application suspense information. Announcements are released at different times, through disparate routes. An example is civilian solicitation is released under Civilian Developmental Education (CDE) Call for Nominations. Applicant template and supporting documents are on MyPers and the Air Force International Affairs website.

Eligibility requirements for U.S. Department of Defense Civilians and Active Duty U.S. Military interested in applying for ESEP are listed below.

ESEP is one of the few opportunities for Department of Defense military and civilian members of the science and engineering community to go overseas and achieve a unique career broadening experience. Below is an illustration of the process.

International partners interested in applying for ESEP should reach out (and/or) coordinate with their international focal point. Every country has its own procedure for requesting placement.

For International applicants – 3 steps to participate in ESEP:

  1. Contact your international focal point
  2. Get approval from your organization
  3. Submit the proper paperwork

As an International Partner applicant, you’ll need to follow these requirements to apply for ESEP.

Here is a sample timeline of one ESEP participant’s experience and perspective with nomination, language training, change of station, and assignment.

ESEP participants have the opportunity to join a unique community of international engineers and scientists with access to insights from seasoned Air Force ESEP alumni. ESEP is a highly competitive program with only six candidates selected each year — it’s a chance to grow in your career and give back to the Air Force.

Captain Matthew Masters, assigned to the Institute of Flight Systems at the Universität der Bundeswehr München working on adaptive assistant systems in a helicopter simulator, says “I’m grateful for the ESEP program and the connections I’ve made with industry, academia, and to continuing work with AFRL as well.” Capt Masters encourages anyone who participates in ESEP to make sure they take advantage of the full 6 months at DLIFLC and definitely take in the sights at your location. Maybe even take up a new hobby – like hang gliding.

ESEP participant Jaime Bestard published a paper on his robotics and nanotechnology research, you can read it HERE.

“It was really truly a great assignment!”

Air Force ESEP participant, Jaime Bestard

Some advice from Bestard:

  1. Save roughly 3 months of your income before you start your tour.
  2. Know yourself, engage your colleagues and management in country, be a proactive and friendly face.
  3. Travel and explore your host country and beyond.

Email Jackie Sukup, Kristen Solada, and Phil Gibber to inquire about applying at ESEP.

A new pilot program this year is the Short Term Exchange Program (STEP). Assignments are for 179 days or less. Selections are decided on mutually beneficial technology areas, with assignments in Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. As more interest occurs countries will be added.

Our second new pilot program this year is the Innovative Teaming Exchange (ITEx) with an emphasis on team projects in the technology area of modeling simulation and analysis (MS&A). Currently it is only taking place in the United Kingdom.

To learn more about ESEP, watch Jackie Sukup’s presentation during the How to Engage with AFRL Research Ecosystem: International Edition webinar.

Have questions about ESEP? Reply to this post in the comments or check out our candidate FAQ’s.

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Thank you for joining us to learn more about ESEP! We hope we have made doing business with us a little more transparent. Join us for our next AFOSR #BasicResearch Chatter event highlighting our HBCU program.