JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Although small and minimally manned, the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 14 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson plays a substantial role in developing the next generation of F-22 Raptor maintenance Airmen.
The detachment, is part of the Air Education and Training Command’s 82nd Training Wing, out of Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Detachment 14 provides formal advanced skills training to Airmen of the 3rd Wing for the fifth generation fighter F-22 Raptor.
Det. 14 is one of 27 detachments throughout the world that make up the wing’s 372nd Training Squadron.
“Our mission is unique,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Jeremy W. Finley, a Raptor crew chief instructor. “Although JBER and all the Airmen we train in the 3rd Wing fall under U.S. Pacific Air Forces, we work for AETC.”
With just 11 instructors, Det. 14 spent more than 6,332 hours training 352 students in a one-year period in many courses known as field training detachments. However great this arduous task may be, to the instructors, the rewards are in the results.
In 2016 and 2017, JBER’s 3rd Wing supported more than 13 months of combat operations in Southwest Asia.
“It’s unfortunate that we (instructors) cannot deploy, however it’s nice seeing that we directly contribute to the mission down range through what we teach our Airmen,” said Finley.
Utilizing five fully automated state-of-the-art classrooms, an engine trainer, a mock cockpit for seat and canopy training, and several labs, Det. 14 is able to provide the foundation for solving thought-provoking challenges from the safety of a controlled environment
“We get a lot of Airmen who have recently graduated from technical school, and give them a very hands-on approach to learning how to work on the F-22,” said Finley. “As an instructor, I’m not going to put my hands on anything; it’s up to them to make sure they are reading their technical data, following the proper steps, being safe and that they complete each objective we give them satisfactorily. “
The importance of hands-on training isn’t just mandatory per the curriculum; it’s also preferred by students.
“Everything that I learned in tech school consisted of a very basic breakdown of the weapons career field; we never really went into anything specific,” said Airman 1st Class Joshua Myers, F-22 aircraft armament systems team member. “Going though the various FTDs that Det. 14 has, I’ve been able to go into great depth on specific things and I also get the opportunity to work on the actual systems we use, opposed to just using training equipment.”
Although the environment is relaxed for the purpose of in-depth learning, the instructors still have standards they must meet before sending the Airmen back to their units.
“The foundation for our instruction comes from the mandatory course listing that comes down from PACAF,” said Finley. “Our courses give Airmen Community College of the Air Force credits, so it’s imperative we follow a course outline but most importantly we need to make sure they understand what they are doing and know how to apply the skills they learned.”
Finley said he and the rest of the instructors at Det. 14 take pride in making sure whatever they teach is understood; if it’s not, they will take the necessary steps to ensure no one leaves confused.
“If someone isn’t comprehending a specific course or has failed certain objectives, we pull the individual aside and offer specialized individual assistance,” Finley said. “The individual will either come in before or stay after class and we will then try and cater the learning experience to the individual’s needs.”
Getting new Airmen current on the highly technical specifics on the world’s most advanced fighter has its difficulties, but for Finley the sacrifice is multifaceted.
“Putting out maintainers who can push out an aircraft that is ready to go when the pilots need them is very important because that’s the mission of the Air Force,” Finley said. “The other side is watching that moment when all the hard work and training comes together and “clicks” for that one Airman who just wasn’t understanding it before.”