by 2nd Lt. Joshua Benedetti
14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
2/14/2014 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Columbus
Air Force Base is the first base in Air Education and Training Command
to implement commercial mobile tablets into Department of Defense
training. The base is being used at a Beta test site to determine the
long term viability of a mobile tablet based Specialized Undergraduate
Pilot Training curriculum.
"No other base is doing exactly what we are doing. As far as training
goes, this is the first time these have been deployed in a SUPT class,"
said 1Lt. Justin Davison, 14th Communications Squadron.
1Lt. Justin Davison collaborated with Capt. Bill Staley, 14th Student
Squadron, and 1Lt. Kyle Hill, 50th Flying Training Squadron to develop
the concept program over the previous year. The 14th CS purchased 12
Samsung Series 7 Slates in August 2013.
"We had to come up with a plan first and once we had that then we
decided it made the most sense to choose class 14-12 because they were
beginning in January," said Staley.
Seven SUPT students from class 14-12 in the 50th FTS each received a
mobile tablet at the beginning of their T-38 curriculum which began
January 15th. The 50th FTS was chosen because of the smaller class size,
usually around seven students, and the building was already equipped
with the approved AFNET wireless infrastructure, which the tablets
require to run securely.
The goal of the Beta test period is to determine if mobile tablets are
consistent with the AETC vision of transforming training at a lower cost
while valuing Airman's time.
"If you look at students now they have their own tablets. You don't see
them walking around with notebooks anymore, said Staley. It is a new way
of education and a new way of learning."
The tablets are configured to operate on a secure wireless network
allowing the users to remotely access their courseware anywhere inside
the 50th FTS. This affords the students greater flexibility to
accomplish much of the required coursework remotely. They no longer have
to travel across base to the Computer Aided Instruction lab to take
tests and complete courseware. Digital files of flight publications,
mission planning documents and cockpit avionics study materials now
reside on one paperless, secure device.
"You can do your mission planning, studying and flight prep on one
device. It's a matter of increasing efficiency," said Staley.
By converting flight publications and other printed materials to digital
files to be utilized on a tablet, the Air Force potentially stands to
save money on printing costs. Additionally, this program could
eventually eliminate the need for the base CAI lab which costs over
$700,000 a year to operate.
"Now they can sit in the flight room with each other and do their CAI's
and not have to go over to the lab, said Hill. It will save the Air
Force a lot of money if it's done correctly."
Of all the perceived benefits of the mobile device program, the
potential to return precious hours back to Airmen and eliminate
inefficiencies may prove to have the greatest return on investment.
"Valuing airman's time is the cornerstone of this program. There are
only 24 hours in a day so maximizing your time is critical, said Staley.
Tablets are the way of the future. If we value Airman's time then this
is the direction we need to go."
So far the feedback on the performance of the devices has been mixed. As
is the case with most Beta tests, the program has gone through some
growing pains. Initially, the devices had some problems connecting to
the wireless network and student's also noticed the tablets suffered
from chronic low battery life. However, they also noted the benefits far
outweigh the limitations.
"The students like the availability and convenience of the tablets but
as is the case with any gunny pig program you are going to have your
hiccups to work out," said Hill.
The Beta test period will end in July when class 14-12 graduates. At
that time the tiger team will consolidate all metrics, feedback and
lessons learned and brief the wing leader before submitting their
findings to AETC for evaluation.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg for what tablets can do," said
Davison. "We know it's going to take some time, but I think this is the
direction we need to go. Let's change the way we do business."