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    517th Airlift Squadron implements virtual reality training

    517th Airlift Squadron implements virtual reality training

    Photo By Airman 1st Class Mario Calabro | U.S. Air Force TSgt Valerie Stephens, a C-17 evaluator and loadmaster assigned to the...... read more read more

    JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The 517th Airlift Squadron is implementing virtual reality into their training operations in order to provide more time-efficient training, and save millions of dollars at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

    Virtual reality equipment can project exact visual models of the exterior and interior of any aircraft the trainees need to familiarize themselves with. Trainees can look at a cockpit and work alongside their instructor to learn the controls and proper procedures. Any virtual aircraft they need to train on is provided through the Department of Defense, free for download to people who have the equipment.

    “When we get into training, if we don’t have an aircraft outside or if there’s a blizzard going on, maintenance can work on their aircraft virtually,” said Master Sgt. Kyle Anderson, 517th AS senior enlisted advisor. “Instead of trying to schedule that space, we can just do it in-house immediately. We save time, and we save a lot of money because we don’t have to generate the aircraft, apply power to it, burn fuel, burn electricity, and waste time for maintainers.”

    Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where many of the Airmen in the 517th went to for technical school, already established the VR technology, so new Airmen won’t need to waste time reacquainting themselves with this style of training.

    “By the time they get to us, they’ve already seen the plane multiple times, and for upgrade training or initial training, we’re able to save a flight or two for them to actually be mission-ready,” said Anderson. “When I say one flight, that’s about five hours of flying. We burn about 20,000 pounds of fuel in that first hour. So you think 20,000 pounds of fuel, times how much it costs for fuel per hour, and we’re saving five hours.”

    The new training provides new opportunities to continue training whenever limitations prevent Airmen from getting the real experience. Now, Airmen won’t have to wait for aircraft to be available; they can simply speak with an instructor and train with an aircraft at no additional expense to personnel or the Air Force.

    “You can read about the jet all day, but having access to throw on the headset and being able to put the words to the jet makes a huge difference,” said Staff Sgt. Andre Buckmon, 517th AS instructor airdrop loadmaster and noncommissioned officer of training. “From a limitations perspective, scheduling is a huge thing up here in Alaska; we’re dealing with the elements, the cold, and limitation of [aircraft]. When it comes to ground training and training days, I feel like this VR platform will allow us to have the comfort of being in that space in the office.”

    The 517th’s current setup has the VR headset, two controllers, a laptop, and a few additional add-ons that can be stored on a cart and used to transport all the equipment, which allows instructors to set up the training in any room within the squadron to provide that hands-on experience.
    Other squadrons at JBER, like the 3rd Maintenance Squadron, are also looking into this new form of training. Their current training technology delves into the realm of augmented reality, a similar but slightly different form of high-tech innovation. Instead of an entire virtual world, AR superimposes a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world.

    “Maintenance, service, and training squadrons have limited time and resources to quickly and continuously train Airmen on how to operate or troubleshoot various new and old equipment and systems,” said Master Sgt. Eric Macias, the 3rd MXS propulsion flight chief. “After a five-minute tutorial, it’s like second nature to them. They even prefer this method over the traditional block-and-line diagram, marrying the three learning styles [visual, auditory, and hands-on]. Our solution reduces training time and cost, decreases aircraft downtime, and improves operational efficiency.”

    Like other institutional training platforms, such as the new MyLearning system which provides and tracks computer-based training, the system the 517th AS is implementing provides the squadron with a full-spectrum overview throughout an Airman’s career.

    “We’re able to track from the first time they set foot in that virtual classroom to 20 years [later] when they retire,” explained Anderson. “We have a whole spectrum of their career, how they trained, the highs and lows, what helped them, and what didn’t. We take that and we’re able to incorporate that into the training. This prepares them to not reinvent the wheel, but innovate it in a way that they train faster, and learn longer, and we’re able to efficiently maximize that time.”

    The flexibility and versatility of AR and VR technology in training environments helps minimize costs, and comprehensively trains new Airmen faster and more efficiently. This form of grassroots innovation at every level ensures the Air Force of tomorrow produces highly qualified Airmen, capable of performing their mission with cutting-edge efficiency.



    Date Taken: 12.01.2021
    Date Posted: 12.01.2021 20:22
    Story ID: 410283
    Location: JBER, AK, US

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