SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — A roughly two year process to improve the 365th Training Squadron’s avionics fundamentals course at Sheppard Air Force Base has led to a more efficient way of training Airmen and introducing them to basic concepts that span all airframes.
Archie Pedigo, avionics training manager, said the course was at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, for several years until it was moved to Sheppard with the first course beginning in January 2015. He said it made sense to move the course to North Texas because Airmen attending the program at Keesler would eventually end up at Sheppard after completing basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, and the fundamentals class in Mississippi.
But moving avionics fundamentals wasn’t enough. Leadership in the 365th TRS wanted to make the course better.
“By moving certain things here and restructuring this course, we were better able to meet the needs of the field in the follow-on courses,” Pedigo said. “So, the student that’s leaving is getting more modern material and more modern information. More up-to-date training, and there was no cost.”
A few changes were made to the course to align it more with how training is conducted at Sheppard, namely adding progress checks to gauge how well Airmen were picking up the concepts being taught.
Tech. Sgt. Andrew Post, an avionics instructor who moved with the course from Keesler to Sheppard, said assessments were conducted at the Mississippi base using the same questions as progress checks, but the assessment didn’t have a pass/fail component to it.
The big change in the course, which led to a course rewrite, came soon thereafter the initial modifications were made, Pedigo said. A Specialty Training Requirements Team was assembled to take a deeper look at what was being taught in avionics courses that wasn’t airframe-specific.
“We looked at all the different courses and everything that was being taught in the different courses and the requirements,” he said. “Anything that was common to back shop or heavies or fighters … then we put it in avionics fundamentals.”
Pedigo said common concepts include safety, technical data, tool usage and wiring, for example. By taking those common tasks and putting them in the fundamentals course, it has resulted in more efficient training time for students and instructors.
The new course was validated Oct. 5, 2017.
Master Sgt. Brion Kennedy, flight chief for the fundamentals course, said the benefits to the student go beyond the classroom. For example, now that the course is at Sheppard, the Airmen in Training don’t have to go from Lackland AFB to Keesler and then to Sheppard. Now they graduate the 39-day fundamentals course and begin their follow-on training conceivably the next day at a base they are already familiar with.
“Even though it’s the military, each base has different rules, so they’re in the same rule set, they don’t have to learn anything new, there are no changes for them, they know where all the buildings are,” he said. “So, it just makes things a little simpler so they can hit their next course running and be successful.”
Another benefit for the avionics fundamentals students is they are exposed to more military instructors at Sheppard as opposed to the civilian-heavy cadre that was at Keesler. Kennedy said military instructors as well as former Airmen-turned-civilian instructors are able to share real-world experiences with the students.
“As instructors, we’ve got a chance to grow the next group” of avionics Airmen, he said. “When you’re on the line, you usually have maybe two or three people that you’re supervising or molding. Here you’re molding 20 of them at a time.”
Pedigo said the biggest challenge during the rewrite was to make sure the revamped course was common to each avionics specialty. Another test was transitioning to the new course while completing old courses that Airmen had already started.
Some avionics fundamentals instructors also had to make some adjustments when the new course began.
Master Sgt. John Glover, heavy aircraft avionics flight chief, said that during the course of standing up the course, he pulled in more than 20 instructors from different courses. He said those instructors were used to teaching eight Airmen at a time, not the 20 Airmen taught in a multiple-instructor setting in the fundamentals class.
“It was a bit of a shock for them and it took a while for them to get used to it,” he said. “But over time having to do it every day, you always know you’re going to have an audience of 20. The team adjusted to it. There are a lot of guys that we watched go from a good instructor to an amazing instructor.”
Pedigo said as a result of the successful restructuring of the avionics fundamentals course and savings in manpower, the 365th TRS was able to modify back shop, fighter and heavy aircraft avionics courses by adding more systems and training requirements.