RSAF students flourish under Alotaibi leadership

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Royal Saudi air force Col. Bader M. Alotaibi knows a thing or two about training Airmen for service in highly technical career fields. After all, he spent 13 years at the RSAF Technical Studies Institute in a variety of leadership roles from 2002-2015.

The colonel served as cadet squadron commander beginning in May 2015 for the RSAF at the Defense Language Institute at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. But it was his move to Sheppard AFB in July 2016 when he was able to effect and see changes in regards to RSAF aircraft maintenance Airmen in training passing through here, witnessing and learning how their U.S. Airmen in training counterparts train.

“For our Airmen, we learn from Sheppard and it’s good,” the RSAF senior country liaison officer said. “I believe, as a TSI officer working in TSI, I believe Sheppard Air Force Base is the best environment and the best place for our Airmen due to it is a military base, discipline, applying all roles, and they teach our Airmen in the schoolhouse at a high, professional level.”

The improvement in military discipline, bearing and standards under Alotaibi’s watchful eye has paid dividends for the RSAF and their investment in their Airmen here. Since Alotaibi’s arrival, the attrition rate of RSAF Airmen in training has gone from about 50 percent before his leadership to less than 2 percent now.

With the RSAF’s F-15SA modernization program underway, the coalition partner has a need to train aircraft maintainers in everything from crew chiefs to sheet metal technician, aerospace ground equipment, avionics and more.

Ralf Taylor, chief of the 82nd Training Wing International Military Student Office at Sheppard, said part of the success has been the willingness to work Airmen through training quickly instead of waiting for a class to open up.

Alotaibi said when RSAF students leave their country for the United States, they already have their equivalent of an Air Force Specialty Code and airframe assigned to them and they have a certain amount of time to complete their training.

If the student completes the language portion of training early, Sheppard and the RSAF work together to get the student in a different class and, perhaps, a different specialty.

“What we will do, with Col. Alotaibi, is we’ll reassign them to a different AFSC to get them through school earlier and get them back home so they can be an asset to their country,” Taylor said.

Because of the more complex nature of some of the aircraft maintenance specialties over others and the difficulty some students might have at picking up some of the tasks or skills required, Taylor said Alotaibi has also played an important role in helping determine and find another AFSC the student can go into to ensure Saudi Arabia and the RSAF are getting a return on their investment.

While training is the reason RSAF students are at Sheppard, Alotaibi said they are also able to cultivate relationships with U.S. Airmen here as well as pick up on some of the cultural differences, especially those in such a diverse community as Wichita Falls that includes international relationships built through the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program.

Alotaibi recalled a story he was told by 82nd TRW Vice Commander Col. Scott Belanger during his time here. The colonel said the vice commander was on a trip for official business when he saw U.S. and RSAF Airmen interacting and exchanging contact information so they could stay in touch after their training was over.

“This is our aim,” Alotaibi said. “To make good relationships.”

Relationship-building continued within Wichita Falls as the RSAF contingent and students were invited to community events such as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo at Kay Yeager Coliseum in April and Sheppard Military Affairs Committee dinners.

The colonel will soon wrap up his tour here at Sheppard within the next couple months. Alotaibi reiterated that Sheppard is the best place for RSAF aircraft maintenance students to train in their specific careers. He said there are a few “takeaways” that he will take with him when he returns to the RSAF Technical Studies Institute including teamwork shown at Sheppard, the hands-on approach to training, and the training environment used here.