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Lance Cpl. Jordan Landry, USMC, inspects antenna cable during the Communications Cable and Antenna Systems apprentice course Jun 26, 2012 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The United States Marines Corps graduates approximately 60 students annually from the course, along with approximately 290 students from the Air Force and Army. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dan Hawkins)
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USMC's top "Devil Dawgs" embrace joint training at Sheppard

Posted 6/27/2012   Updated 6/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Dan Hawkins
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

6/27/2012 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Looking around Sheppard Air Force Base, it's usually a sea of Airman Battle Uniforms marching around. Try taking a little closer look inside the 364th Training Squadron's Communication Cable and Antenna Systems apprentice and you might notice there's a different type of uniform present--the brown digitized camouflage variety.

With a United States Marine Corps presence at Sheppard since the 1980's, it's not uncommon to see a Marine on the base--just not very many. The course is the only one of it's kind on Sheppard with Marines in attendance; approximately 60 Marines and 350 total students annually graduate from the class.

According to Gunnery Sgt. James Behrmann, instructor supervisor for the course, only the top "Devil Dawgs" come to Sheppard for training from the USMC's Switchboard Operators class, which is held at Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, Calif.

"These Marines are the very best at what they do," said Behrmann. "They (Marine students) graduated at the top of their switchboard operator class and usually come to Sheppard in pairs. Once finished with this course, they are the experts wherever they go."

The cable and antenna systems apprentice course covers telephone pole climbing, installing and terminating commercial fiber and copper cable lines, in addition to splicing fiber cable over 13 weeks of instruction. Marines are only here for nine of the 13 weeks of the class; the last blocks of instruction involve training tasks the USMC does not require for their mission.

Along with their fellow Air Force and Army trainees, the Marines earn the Electronics Technician Association national certification as a fiber optics installer, making graduates marketable both inside the service and out.

There are currently three USMC instructors embedded in the 364th TRS as instructors for the course, along with Air Force, Army and civilian instructors. 

For Lance Cpl. Jordan Landry, from Eureka, Calif., learning about each service's different missions has been the most interesting part of being at Sheppard.

"I've been here a month and love the hands-on training we get," Landry said. "But getting the chance to interact with the Air Force and Army on a daily basis and learn what they bring to the fight is really eye-opening."

In addition to the technical training Marines receive here, the detachment's instructors also train students in the USMC Martial Arts training program, helping them earn their gray belts as they try to earn meritorious promotion points.

Although there are some differences between instructing at an Air Force accredited technical training schoolhouse as opposed to a USMC-only arena, the Marine instructors enjoy the chance to experience the joint environment.

"We tell the students all the time to enjoy this take it all in," Behrmann said. "They may never get this chance again, but each student is fully prepared to work with the different branches of service if necessary."

Doing a tour as a technical training instructor with the Air Force has also necessitated some of the Marine instructors to earn college degrees through the Community College of the Air Force to ensure the course stays accreditated for college credit through Air University.

"Getting the opportunity to earn a CCAF degree is another neat aspect of teaching here," Behrmann said. "Typically in the Marines, it's all about "Shoot, move and communicate", so focusing on our education is a great side benefit of teaching at Sheppard."

It's not just technical training at Sheppard that keeps the Marines busy. They are also heavily involved with the Iwo Jima Survivor's reunion held every year, acting as the main points of contact for the event and escorting the veterans to the various events held during the week.

They also recently held a combat fitness demonstration for the children at Sheppard's Child Development Center during their summer program.

The 364th Training Squadron is the Air Force's most diverse training squadron, training more than 3,700 U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine personnel, along with international and civilian Department of Defense students, annually.

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