Powering our force

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Thirty feet above the ground, under the scorching North Texas sun, the 366th Training Squadron electrical systems apprentice course prepares Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors to help power our world.

 

Electricity impacts our military in more ways than one could count. Learning the technical skills required to become an effective electrician is no small feat and the career field continues to innovate.  

One of the most obvious safety concerns about climbing a 30 foot pole is, of course, falling. In previous years, military electricians were essentially free-climbing without gear that would properly prevent falls.

“We used to average about one troop each class who would get injured and have to be held back,” said Army Staff Sgt. Robert Pepperling, electrical systems apprentice course instructor. “We weren’t graduating as many troops and it was bad for confidence.”

Enter the Super Squeeze. This innovative, new climbing belt uses a collection of straps and metal ridges to grip the pole and prevent climbers from falling should they slip while working.

Since the implementation of the Super Squeeze belt, the 366th TRS has gone nearly four years without a single fall. The belt is so effective that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration now mandates its use for all climbers, military or civilian.

“The belt allows us to graduate a greater number of highly skilled electricians for the operational military” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Shaw, electrical systems apprentice course instructor. “Without worrying about falling, they can just focus on their job.”

Confidence is key to becoming a top performer in any career field. Now that students aren’t concentrating on the possibility of falling, they’re able to quickly overcome any natural fear of heights.

“I don’t mind climbing now,” said Airman Alex Woten, electrical systems apprentice course student. “At first I was nervous but with the belt, there’s nothing to be scared of. I just go up there and do the job.”

Woten’s class recently received the chance to operate outside the standard training curriculum when they assisted instructors in replacing climbing poles that will be used to train future students.

“This whole class is going to go out in the real world and not be as apprehensive because of this experience,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. William Long, electrical systems apprentice course instructor. “The class did an awesome job.”

The Air Force, Army and Navy each send troops to attend the electrical systems apprentice course. The joint service training environment has a variety of benefits for the students and the military as a whole.

The instructor team notes that electricians almost always work in a joint service environment while deployed. The training received at Sheppard Air Force Base prepares electricians from each branch to work together seamlessly.

“It definitely helps the communication between each branch and it makes us come together as one,” said Woten.

At the beginning of their operational careers, newly trained electricians will waste no time when it comes to powering our force. Today’s military simply cannot function properly without electronic communication, maintenance tools, runway lights, and all other equipment powered by electricity.

“As electricians, we are the behind the scenes part of the military that keep installations going,” said Shaw.

Military electricians are capable of deploying anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. In addition to military operations, electricians support humanitarian and natural disaster relief efforts. Before anyone can provide aid to a community in need, it is essential to get the power up and running.

“We’re the ones out there when the weather is horrible and no one has power,” said Pepperling. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on, we’ll get the power back on.”

The thankless jobs are often the ones that fill the most important needs. The 366th TRS is committed to training the Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors that will continue to find innovative ways to power our military.