AQIC unites acquisition professionals, operators in warfighter mission

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson

Warfighters who “accelerate the kill chain” are often pictured as fighter pilots jumping into cockpits, just as their mechanics turn that last wrench before they take off into the sunset. Individuals far from the frontlines executing acquisition tasks may not look like they are part of the “kill chain,” but those Airmen, Guardians and civilians are also warfighters.

Maj. Matthew Johnson, former Department of the Air Force Acquisition Instructor Course student and now course instructor, explained that on the first day of AQIC, students are told, “Acquisition is a weapons system in itself.”

“It’s not the same ‘pointy end of the spear’ that an F-22 strapped with missiles is, but if the acquisition system is not properly honed and used in an effective and efficient manner to provide that F-22 or the next generation of planes, we fall behind,” Johnson said.  “Acquisition is a weapons system that needs to be deployed properly.”

The title “acquisition professional” is a broad term encompassing many different career fields including scientists, engineers, program managers, finance and contracting professionals, intelligence officers, and more. It takes all these different types of expertise to ensure operators have what they need to succeed.

In the past, many of those working in acquisition never met an operator or saw an engine or aircraft that they played such a large part in acquiring. This course, established with a full syllabus in 2022, puts those career fields into the same Air Force Weapons School where pilots and navigators train. This elevates the skill level across all fields and allows acquisition professionals to better understand how important their individual jobs are to the art of war.

“Each student may be an expert in their area,” said Johnson, an engineer by trade. “But the course makes each player even more lethal as they widen their focus.”

Justin Freitas is a member of the 23B AQIC cohort, which completed studies this month. Freitas, a finance expert, is one of the few civilians who has taken the course.

“The course was demanding, but it really bridged the gap between what the operator wants and what we can do to get it to them,” he said. “I hope more civilians will apply.”

Freitas, formerly active-duty Army, said he was often amazed at how well-equipped his Air Force counterparts were in Iraq. When he became a civilian employee, he was intrigued by the prospect of learning how the Air Force handles logistics, and he applied for AQIC.

“I gained a better understanding of how we fight as the Air Force,” he said. “I was especially impressed by the experiential experiences where we went into the units who were flying or testing the things we procure.”

The AQIC is currently accepting applications for the cohort beginning in July 2024. Strong candidates will be interviewed prior to acceptance into the 5 1/2-month course of instruction.

“Acceptance to the course is competitive,” said Maj. Gervé Tillman, AQIC commander. “We target early to mid-career level Airmen, Guardians and civilians who have enough experience with the military to see the lack of connection between career fields and who are motivated to succeed.”

AQIC students are on temporary duty during the duration of the course, allowing them to focus entirely on the curriculum and building relationships with those in the field.

“The course is demanding, and students must be able to take criticism and grow from it,” said Freitas. “But students will also be exposed to truly awe-inspiring things they may never normally get a chance to see in their career.”

For more information and how to apply by the Jan. 26, 2024, deadline, visit: or email