373rd trains Aussie C-17 mechanics

Royal Australian Air Force Cpl. David Roberts (center) and Leading Aircraftsman Michael Clarson (left), go over computer-based technical orders with Tech. Sgt. Troy Barber, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 5, at the 373 DET. 5 training building Sept. 29. Twenty-four RAAF members have been at Charleston AFB since July 31 receiving training on C-17 maintenance procedures.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sam Hymas)

Royal Australian Air Force Cpl. David Roberts (center) and Leading Aircraftsman Michael Clarson (left), go over computer-based technical orders with Tech. Sgt. Troy Barber, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 5, at the 373 DET. 5 training building Sept. 29. Twenty-four RAAF members have been at Charleston AFB since July 31 receiving training on C-17 maintenance procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sam Hymas)

Royal Australian Air Force Cpl. David Roberts receives training on replacing the nose landing gear of a C-17 by Tech. Sgt. Troy Barber, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 5, at the 373 Det. 5 training building Sept. 29. Twenty-four RAAF members have been here since July 31 receiving training on C-17 maintenance procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sam Hymas)

Royal Australian Air Force Cpl. David Roberts receives training on replacing the nose landing gear of a C-17 by Tech. Sgt. Troy Barber, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 5, at the 373 Det. 5 training building Sept. 29. Twenty-four RAAF members have been here since July 31 receiving training on C-17 maintenance procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sam Hymas)

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Members of the 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 5, are providing first-of-its-kind training for 24 Royal Australian Air Force mechanics with a custom-made program at their C-17 training facilities here. 

In March, Brendan Nelson, the Australian Minister for Defence, announced his country's purchase of four C-17s to enhance their global airlift capability. The first aircraft will be delivered to Australia Dec. 5. 

"This is a brand new capability for the RAAF and we're excited to be a part of it," said Flight Sgt. Peter Ranson, the ranking Australian air force student. 

Det. 5 members created a 382-hour training course specifically designed for the Australians as a trial run for other international students they are expecting soon. 

The course covers all things mechanical on the C-17 as the Australian maintenance career fields are divided up into only two sections; mechanics and avionics. 

Twelve instructors teach the course which includes general maintenance, hydraulics, landing gear maintenance, engines and auxiliary power units, environmental systems and inspections. 

"The RAAF sent us 24 of their best mechanics," said Tech. Sgt. Troy Barber, 373rd TRS Det. 5 airplane general instructor. "They're eager and willing to learn and are very excited about their job and about getting C-17s." 

The mechanics come from a C-130 background and were ready to take on a new challenge. 

"We've had a very good time," said Sergeant Ranson. "We're very impressed with the training facilities and the level of training we've received." 

"We've been thoroughly impressed with the students' knowledge," said Capt. Don Gray, 373rd TRS Det. 5 commander. "It's a win/win situation - learning has gone both ways." 

Although both countries speak English, there was still a hurdle to overcome. 

"The language barrier was tough at first," said Sergeant Ranson, "It's also been a source of humor." 

Tech. Sgt. Mark Montrose, 373rd TRS Det. 5 airplane general instructor, requested and was given a 17-page list of "Aussie" slang and their equivalent American translations to help overcome the language barrier. 

Additional Australian students will arrive next year for training as well as students from Canada and Sweden. Those countries have also recently purchased C-17s. 

The Australian students graduate from the course today during a ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Bldg. 60 auditorium. The 24 "Aussies" will remain on base for the next month getting first-hand experience with operational C-17s on the flightline.