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ARLINGTON, Va. – The Under Secretary of the Air Force, Erin Conaton, recently honored six East Tennessee manufacturing companies for supporting the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO21) Executive Leadership Course.

From L to R: Ken Boling, Tim Versprille, Herb Bradshaw, James Cody, Carolyn Cuddy, Tim Fischer, Ms. Erin Conaton, Everick Spence, Alex Miller, Chris Jackson, David Tillotson, Chuck Parke and Craig Woodford.

Conaton, in collaboration with the College of Business Administration’s Center for Executive Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, formally recognized the companies for helping the Air Force increase its effectiveness, efficiency and resilience during a time of economic and global uncertainty, a goal of AFSO21, Air Force officials said.

“I applaud these corporations who have freely given their time to educate Air Force leadership by showcasing the quality levels of their manufacturing facilities. Applying continuous process improvement tools and techniques is how the Air Force will transform to become more efficient and effective in order to remain viable, strong and resilient,” Conaton said.

Conaton and Chuck Parke, executive director of UT Knoxville’s Center for Executive Education, presented a framed award to Alcoa, JTEKT Morristown, JTEKT Vonore, La-Z-Boy, StandardAero and Thomas & Betts for their dedication to the Air Force and the AFSO21 Executive Leadership Course.

Since 2006, over 1,200 Air Force senior leaders have attended the two-day AFSO21 Executive Leadership Course and have been given plant tours by senior and mid-level management teams.

“These companies are true partners with the college and the Air Force,” Parke said. “They have provided more than 30 facility tours in the past four years, giving over 100 hours of their time.”

Each company has its own reasons for supporting the AFSO21 Executive Leadership Course.

“We wanted to be good corporate citizens,” said Everick Spence, continuous cold mill manager at Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of aluminum.

“It is our honor to share some of our experiences and expertise with the men and women dedicated to preserving our security and civil liberties,” said Herb Bradshaw, Athens plant manager for Thomas & Betts, makers of electrical outlet boxes and components.

The experience has been educational for plant employees as well as the military leaders. This has been some employees’ first exposure to high-ranking Air Force officers, according to Michael Bowers, vice president of JTEKT North America.

“Our employees were honored by the visits and the genuine interest and questions shown by the officers,” Bowers said.

“Each of these companies exhibits a true American can-do spirit,” Parke added. “They continue to prove that when teams apply continuous process tools and techniques to streamline processes, maintaining strong and competitive companies is a reality in spite of tough economic times.”

Accepting the awards on behalf of these six companies were:

Alcoa: Chris Jackson and Everick Spence

JTEKT-Morristown: Ken Boling

JTEKT-Vonore: Craig Woodford

La-Z-Boy: Tim Versprille

Thomas & Betts: Herb Bradshaw

StandardAero: Tim Fischer

To find out more about the College of Business Administration’s Center for Executive Education, visit