Science and Technology News

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Aerospace ground equipment Airmen get base-specific

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

9/10/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Senior Airman Jordan Behounek, a 3rd Maintenance Squadron aircrew ground equipment technician, started up the A/M32A-60B Generator Set, but instead of hearing the building whine of a turbine engine winding up to full power, a tongue of flame shot  into the wintry air. People in the vicinity took off running for their safety.

"Well, we've obviously got a problem here," Behounek said after shutting the screaming engine off. "We should take it back to the shop."
Working with aircraft and their supporting equipment is dangerous business, that risk is compounded by the fact that each Air Force Base has their own type of aircraft and their own equipment, each with their own set of risks.

To ensure Airmen have every opportunity to safely support aircraft operations and mission success, Airmen will sometimes go through additional training to specialize their skill set toward the particular airframe they will be supporting.

That's when they go to the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 14.

This training, though not Air Force Specialty Code-awarding, is a valuable stepping-stone Airmen need to accomplish, and is accredited toward a Community College of the Air Force degree, said Senior Master Sgt. Clinton Stapleton, Detachment 14 superintendent.

"We provide advanced skills for the F-22 [Raptor]," Stapleton said. "But we have a few other courses like advanced wire maintenance and basic soldering."

"It really affects the 3rd wing as a whole because not only do the F-22 maintainers come, but the 703d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 517th Airlift Squadron; [National] Guard, and Reserve Airmen can also take advantage of our classes."

Some of the more general training is on equipment which is commonly used on other bases, like the A/M32A-60B Generator Set Behounek shut down. The generator is a trailer-mounted power unit capable of providing AC and DC power for aircraft electrical systems as well as high volume air for starting aircraft engines, and is commonly referred to as the Dash-60 start cart.

However, because the classes are designed to refine the more general training of the technical school all Airmen go through, much of what is covered during training at Detachment 14 is specific to the types of aircraft stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"Tech. school is mostly for people who are new to the Air Force, this is people who are new to this aircraft." said Tech. Sgt. John-Paul White, an F-22 weapons instructor at the detachment. "I call it tech school 2.0."

The schoolhouse produces an average of 700 graduates a year with a staff of 14 instructors and two non-instructors. This translates to about 10,000 instructional hours per year, Stapleton said.

"Our core mission for the 372nd Training Squadron is to make great maintainers and communicators even better," Stapleton said.

While the detachment has a singular mission, it manifests itself in many different ways. Airmen from a variety of different AFSCs come to the detachment to refine their skills - avionics, aerospace ground equipment, weapons, crew chiefs, and egress just to name a few.

"I'm aerospace ground equipment, so I teach aircraft support equipment," said Tech. Sgt. Curtis Williams, an aerospace ground equipment instructor at the detachment. "I teach C-17 [Globemaster III] support equipment as well as F-22 equipment. In my career field, I teach 12 courses - mostly generators, compressors, air conditioners, heaters, etc."

Being stationed in Alaska, Airmen may be called on to repair or troubleshoot large space heaters frequently used around the flightline for Airmen during the winter. The unique difficulty they run into is when the heater is broken, minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit makes for a great motivator toward efficient work, Williams said.

While Detachment 14 specializes in providing advanced Raptor maintenance training to Airmen as they transition into working on JBER's F-22s, the school has a much bigger impact.

"We have students come in from active duty, Guard and Reserve, so we definitely are a total force integration partner," Stapleton said. "We are part of a global network of schools so we have capability to post our classes worldwide; if there's someone at another base who needs our class, they can schedule it and come TDY to our schoolhouse here.

"It's not just a local customer base, we're worldwide."

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