News: Airman creates training program for mission success
Story by Senior Master Sgt. Allison Day
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - As pilots head out to do their varied missions, they depend on the men and women who maintain their aircraft for their operations to be successful.
Maintainers here at The Rock strive to achieve the goal of having the most available capable aircraft at a given time through an on-the-job-training program.
Although OJT is nothing new to the Air Force, Master Sgt. John Meyers, 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group guidance control craftsman, designed a specific training program to ensure that maintainers are well trained and thoroughly qualified.
"To those with little exposure to aircraft maintenance, there are many different career fields under the guise of 'aircraft maintenance,'" said Meyers. "Similar to plumbers, electricians, and construction workers in civil engineer, aircraft maintainers are also split up according to their specialty training."
Meyers, who deployed here from 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, designed the program for maintainers when he realized there was a shortfall of experienced personnel who were unfamiliar with other specialties within aircraft maintenance.
"Not only were they unfamiliar, but some were also not fully qualified in their own specialties - this is just the nature of the Air National Guard in that many of us only work one weekend a month, and much of this time is spent on deployment readiness, not aircraft maintenance training," said Meyers.
Being in a deployed environment where anything can happen at a moment's notice, it is important to have a fleet that is 100 percent mission capable, he stressed. To achieve this takes well-rounded maintainers.
"Maintainers should have a broad experience on an airframe," said Meyers. "It helps to streamline maintenance at the home base and it also allows maintainers that are sent downrange to quickly identify discrepancies and either fix them on the road or forward useful information to other maintainers to repair the non-mission capable status of an aircraft."
For example, if the quality assurance personnel note that there is a recurring issue with the way maintenance is documented on the aircraft forms, additional training in this area can be directed.
"Aircraft forms are very important. They give aircrew and maintenance supervisors the assurance that maintenance tasks were completed utilizing technical data directives," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Brock, 386th EMXG quality assurance inspector. "These forms are also an indication that the aircraft is safe to fly for any mission."
The training that Meyers came up with was ongoing and developed specifically for the C-130J Hercules, said Brock, who deployed here from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and is a native of West Branch, Michigan.
Meyers was able to enlist the help of experienced non-commissioned officers and senior NCOs who deployed with him from his home station.
"Many of these experienced personnel have worked and maintained these types of aircraft, since they were brand-new from the factory," said Meyers.
Using the wealth of knowledge available, Meyers charged his NCOs and SNCOs from Channel Islands to plan, conduct, and review cross-familiarization training events. These events included everything from specialty-specific safety to component location on the aircraft.
"By doing this, he was able to have maintainers, who could work on multiple specialties on an aircraft," said Brock. "It also ensured coverage when there is a shortage of people in any one area, because you end up with maintainers who can cover other specialty areas."
Meyers found that as training progressed, there was a direct correlation between an increase of training events and a decrease in maintenance discrepancies noted by quality assurance inspectors, he said.
"When QA inspects any aircraft, it's done on a random basis," said Brock. "What I found is after his OJT program was implemented that any of their aircraft inspected had a 100 percent pass rate."
The training program does not call for tons of managing time. Meyers, who is an electrical engineer when he's not wearing his Guard hat, spent a lot of time initially creating Excel workbooks that were automated, making it extremely easy for the user.
"The program also automatically creates daily, weekly, and monthly reports based on input from trainers," said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Eshleman, 386th EMXG quality assurance superintendent. "These reports allow supervisors to quickly identify the effectiveness of training as they compare these reports with ones from other areas within the maintenance complex."
One of the things that Meyers noted is that a unit training manager does not deploy, so it's up to them as individuals to provide supervisors with training reports that they require on Airmen.
"The deployed environment is not always the best place to conduct formalized training, but our operations squadron depends on us to turn airplanes as quickly as possible," said Eshleman, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who deployed from Dover AFB, Delaware. "At home station training on maintenance requires us to temporarily 'break' an airplane."
What Eshleman describes as breaking an aircraft is the removal of a part so that a maintainer learns how to replace or repair it.
"In the deployed environment that type of training is not available because planes have to be available at a moment's notice for a mission," said Brock. "Here at The Rock, training events can only be completed as real-world discrepancies occur."
In the end, Meyers' program allowed maintainers to pay careful attention to the flying schedule and open discrepancies, so that effective training could be completed while striving to decrease aircraft downtime.