SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Air Force leadership has made a call to action for Airmen to get innovative – to get creative, to take risks, to utilize all their skills and be unafraid to fail.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said it is crucial for the Air Force to innovate so that it can win a new war.
“Some of you in this room will take to war in 10 to 20 years,” Wright said in his address to the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. “So, we have to think about the technology and the innovation that we need 10 to 15 to 20 years from now. We have to start thinking about it and start building it right now.”
Sheppard AFB’s 365th Training Squadron F-15 avionics course accepted this challenge; riding the Air Force innovation wave.
Instructors from the 365th TRS coordinated to do away with traditional, antiquated paper training materials and transitioned to teach an entire course using tablets, a teaching method today’s Airmen are accustomed to. The first class to use the tablets will graduate in August.
While many training squadrons have implemented the use of hand-held technology for the storage and teaching of technical data, the 365th TRS F-15 avionics course is the first to disperse all course information electronically. Upon beginning the course, each Airman was given a tablet containing files with 94 training days, 12 chapters and 900 work book pages worth of F-15 avionics information.
Tech. Sgt. Cody Kirkpatrick, 365th TRS F-15 avionics course instructor, has played a key role in implementing technology as he is the first instructor to teach a course entirely using the tablet.
He spoke about the many benefits he has seen his Airmen reap as a result of going virtual.
“Most of these Airmen are coming to us straight out of high school,” he said. “They’ve gone from using hand-held devices in school like iPads, tablets or Chromebooks, then coming into the Air Force and learning from paper. That’s just not how they receive information. By learning from the tablets, they are learning faster and retaining more.”
Kirkpatrick explained that as he lectures, a PowerPoint is displayed on a smart TV at the front of the classroom, and Airmen also have the slides on their tablets, closely following along and highlighting or taking notes as they go.
Don’t take just Kirkpatrick’s word as to the effectiveness of innovation in the classroom.
Airman Jonathan Radecki, 365th TRS F-15 avionics course student, also attested to the usefulness of the tablets for training, and for the convenience of having the tablet while on the go.
“The best part of the tablets is the flexibility,” he said. “All the files are already on there. So as we learn, we don’t have to scramble to write everything down, just listen and use the highlight feature or take extra notes on the sides. It’s nice that if we have the tablet, we have everything we need to study. It’s definitely easier for me to learn this way.”
The Airmen have their tablets with them for classroom lectures, hands-on training in the hangar and even with them in the dorms at the end of the duty day, allowing Airmen to study wherever they go, even without internet connection.
“Our hope for the future is that once Airmen graduate basic military training and arrive at tech school, they will receive their tablet and it would follow them into the operational Air Force,” Kirkpatrick said.
Although this may sound like a very pricey investment, Master Sgt. Brion Kennedy, 365 TRS F-15 avionics flight chief, said it would actually save the Air Force money in the long run.
“By purchasing a tablet, roughly $200, or similar device for each Airman, and using it for the entirety of their training, in tech school and on the job, it would eliminate the need for classroom equipment like desks, overhead projectors and dual monitors,” he said. “Everything is right there in the palm of their hands.”
Kirkpatrick said another possibility for the future of tablet training is a self-paced course.
“While the full 94 training days would be available to complete the course, Airmen who pick the concepts up quickly could work ahead and graduate whenever they finished the work,” he said. “This would make time at Sheppard shorter and help maintainers get out in the operational Air Force faster.”
The tablets do have internet capability, however, for training purposes, it is not enabled at this time. Kirkpatrick said he hopes that to enable internet access in the future for interactive learning exercises such as “Kahoot,” a tool for using technology to administer quizzes, discussions or surveys.
For now, the 365th TRS will continue to use their innovative mindsets and creativity to push the envelope on the future of training to help develop warrior Airmen for the world’s greatest Air Force.