Building basics: FTD forms maintenance professionals

A team of four U.S. Airmen, overseen by their instructor, work together to remove the accessory drive gearbox from an F-16CM Fighting Falcon engine during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The FTD is responsible for training not only active duty maintenance Airmen, but also Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen, and those preparing for a permanent change of station to the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

A team of four U.S. Airmen, overseen by their instructor, work together to remove the accessory drive gearbox from an F-16CM Fighting Falcon engine during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The FTD is responsible for training not only active duty maintenance Airmen, but also Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen, and those preparing for a permanent change of station to the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Airmen listen to their instructor during a class at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The FTD teaches advanced maintenance skillsets to students from a variety of maintenance career fields, such as avionics, electrical and environmental systems, and weapons standardization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Airmen listen to their instructor during a class at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The FTD teaches advanced maintenance skillsets to students from a variety of maintenance career fields, such as avionics, electrical and environmental systems, and weapons standardization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Justin Tillman, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion journeyman, learns how to remove the accessory drive gearbox (ADG) from an F-16CM Fighting Falcon engine during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The ADG is responsible for running accessories such as fuel pumps that are essential for the operation of the engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Justin Tillman, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion journeyman, learns how to remove the accessory drive gearbox (ADG) from an F-16CM Fighting Falcon engine during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The ADG is responsible for running accessories such as fuel pumps that are essential for the operation of the engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Airman Christian Lank, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion apprentice, works on removing the accessory drive gearbox of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The FTD aims to improve upon the existing skills of maintainers, through teaching advanced techniques and troubleshooting procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Airman Christian Lank, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion apprentice, works on removing the accessory drive gearbox of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The FTD aims to improve upon the existing skills of maintainers, through teaching advanced techniques and troubleshooting procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Collin Reeder, weapons standardization technician assigned to the 96th Maintenance Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., assists in a gun hydraulic bleed and leak test on a mock F-16CM Fighting Falcon body during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017.  Reeder spent approximately three weeks at Shaw to attend the advanced aircraft equipment and munitions training offered by the FTD. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Collin Reeder, weapons standardization technician assigned to the 96th Maintenance Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., assists in a gun hydraulic bleed and leak test on a mock F-16CM Fighting Falcon body during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. Reeder spent approximately three weeks at Shaw to attend the advanced aircraft equipment and munitions training offered by the FTD. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

Lights on a panel indicate power is connected during a gun hydraulic bleed and leak test on a mock F-16CM Fighting Falcon body during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The operational check ensures the gun functions properly after its removal and reinstallation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

Lights on a panel indicate power is connected during a gun hydraulic bleed and leak test on a mock F-16CM Fighting Falcon body during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The operational check ensures the gun functions properly after its removal and reinstallation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Watson, 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 armament systems instructor, explains the final steps of a gun hydraulic bleed and leak test to Senior Airman Brent Brocklehurst, weapons load crew member assigned to the 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and Senior Airman Collin Reeder, weapons standardization technician assigned to the 96th Maintenance Group out of Eglin AFB, Fla., during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. Training at the FTD is not specific to F-16 aircraft; it also focuses on the maintenance of the equipment and munitions needed to keep the aircraft in the fight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Watson, 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 armament systems instructor, explains the final steps of a gun hydraulic bleed and leak test to Senior Airman Brent Brocklehurst, weapons load crew member assigned to the 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and Senior Airman Collin Reeder, weapons standardization technician assigned to the 96th Maintenance Group out of Eglin AFB, Fla., during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. Training at the FTD is not specific to F-16 aircraft; it also focuses on the maintenance of the equipment and munitions needed to keep the aircraft in the fight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brent Brocklehurst, weapons load crew member assigned to the 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flips the dogfight switch on a mock F-16CM Fighting Falcon during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The mission of the FTD is to train and develop the advanced skillsets required of maintenance Airmen to maintain aging aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brent Brocklehurst, weapons load crew member assigned to the 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flips the dogfight switch on a mock F-16CM Fighting Falcon during training at the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment (FTD) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 25, 2017. The mission of the FTD is to train and develop the advanced skillsets required of maintenance Airmen to maintain aging aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Armed with wrenches, protective gear and iPads stocked with technical orders and schematics, these Air Force maintenance professionals are ready to go back to school.

The school isn’t a normal college or university; these Airmen are attending the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment, a geographically separated unit from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

Courses at the FTD are designed to teach advanced aircraft equipment and munitions maintenance to Airmen already working in those career fields, said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Patterson, 372nd TS, Det. 202 chief. The advanced skillsets learned at the FTD build on the basic level of training Airmen receive in technical school and through on-the-job training.

“The FTD is critical to maintainers’ development,” said Patterson. “As they increase in skill level, they need to keep (basic) skills current as things are changed and modified on the aircraft and weapons systems.”

Though the largest group of Airmen who attend the FTD come from the 20th Maintenance Group, others travel from as far as Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to participate in the hands-on training. Another percentage of Airmen attending these courses belong to the Air National Guard or Reserves, or are preparing for a permanent change of station to an area with a high operations tempo.

“As an Airman it helps me be more rounded, more proficient at my job and all-around a better worker,” said Senior Airman Collin Reeder, 96th Maintenance Group weapons standardization technician assigned to Eglin AFB. “I expect my peers to be doing the same thing; if they take this class I hope they get the benefit out of it that I do, so not only am I proficient but my coworkers are as well, and we can get the job done fluently.”

Reeder attended the FTD for approximately 3 weeks, starting at a refresher course for basic skills such as finding schematics and wiring diagrams in the technical orders, and working up to tasks like disassembling and reassembling the M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon.

The courses held at the FTD are not specific to one career field; 17 instructors from nine Air Force Specialty Codes provide training for a wide assortment of Airmen belonging to career fields such as avionics, aircrew ground equipment and munitions.

“The FTD impacts the mission by getting Airmen qualified to perform their taskings and to improve their proficiency and skillsets,” said Patterson. “As the (aircraft) fleet ages, it tends to fail a bit more frequently, and we are able to train these Airmen how to repair them and get them back into the fight.”

In one classroom, four Airmen work together to remove a piece of an engine as their instructor stands nearby, offering words of encouragement and advice. In a different room, two Airmen perform an operational check of the component they previously learned to remove and reinstall as their instructor grades them. In yet another, three Airmen follow along as their instructor shows them how to navigate and read the many schematics found in technical orders.

Scenes such as these showcase the dedication and hard work of instructors and students alike as they work together to ensure the future of the Air Force and its fighting fleet.