SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Introducing new technologies is a major focus for the Air Force and Air Education and Training Command as we continually seek to improve the quality, speed and relevance of the training enterprise.
Sometimes that means gadgets you wear, like the virtual and augmented reality headsets being tested at Sheppard for both technical and pilot training. But sometimes, that new technology is way too big to fit on your head.
The MC-130P Combat Shadow that recently arrived on Sheppard’s tarmac may look just like the other venerable Hercules aircraft that have been serving for more than half a century, but it nonetheless brings some important, advanced technology to the training arena.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Martinez, a 362nd Training Squadron C-130 crew chief instructor, said the aircraft, brought in from the California National Guard in October, has a few key differences that give Airmen experience that is more in line with operational realities, as well as a little insight to the different missions the venerable cargo plane conducts.
For example, the braking system on the MC-130P allows Airmen to learn on equipment that is currently being used in the field, the instructor said. He said the majority of the C-130 training aircraft used at Sheppard have the obsolete multi-disk braking system, whereas C-130s in the field use a new carbon-style system.
“This allows our Airmen to come in, get the training they need on this new-style brake and then utilize that at their home stations,” he said, having graduated the first class Nov. 6 of C-130 crew chiefs to learn on the carbon brakes.
Martinez said when the Air Force changed the type of braking system on the airframe, that meant changes to technical orders, or maintenance manuals, as well as the types of tools used to remove wheels and tires and work on the brakes. He said they are making due, but the important part is the Airmen are being exposed to the equipment before they get to their first assignment.
Ernesto Acosta-Rivera, 362nd TRS training manager, said the process to get the new GITA to Sheppard began in August. He said the CANG is replacing their MC-130s with updated models, which meant tail number 0216 was available.
“It was pretty quick,” he said of the acquisition process. “Within a month it was ready to fly from Moffett Field.”
Acosta-Rivera said many of the aircraft used for training by the crew chiefs were older E models. Now when Airmen go to a 15-day course at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, after their 69-academic-day course here, they’ll be familiar with components they will see during their follow-on training.
Martinez, who has served on just about every C-130 variation ever flown and over as many locales, said he enjoys training new crew chiefs on the airframe and imparting his knowledge he has amassed over the years. After all, he said, he knows he is training his eventual replacement and he wants to train and inspire them.
“These Airmen need to know that what they are doing here is vital for our Air Force,” he said. “If we cannot get these aircraft up in the air and maintain them correctly, then the mission doesn’t happen and it actually can fail and people’s lives are at risk."