SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – As the Air Force continues to evolve to meet the challenges of a constantly evolving, Information Age global security environment, the 82nd Training Wing is working to transform maintenance and logistics technical training to deliver the Airmen who will form the heart of that future force.
“We are one wing in a big Air Force,” said Col. Kenyon Bell, 82nd Training Wing commander, “but because of our role and the scope and scale of our training mission, we have an enormous role in shaping the future force.”
About 44 percent of the Air Force’s technical training is accomplished at the 82nd Training Wing, Bell said – which includes logistics and most engineering career fields.
“That includes logistics readiness; aircraft, munitions and missile maintenance; and civil engineering,” he said. “We have a significant role in training all of those disciplines, either entirely within the 82nd or in concert with our joint partners and also our sister wings in Second Air Force.
“That means we have a huge challenge and a huge opportunity – to transform technical training, and specifically maintenance and logistics training, to meet the strategic demands of a 21st Century force.”
The 82nd delivers more than 65,000 graduates annually in more than 900 maintenance, logistics, civil engineering and some cyber and missile maintenance courses. These courses cover not only initial skills training, but advanced and specialty courses delivered at 60 locations around the globe.
“We’ve been doing technical training in the Air Force for a long time, and doing it very well. Here at Sheppard, it’s been part of our DNA since the base opened in 1941. The Greatest Generation gave us an incredible gift when they laid the foundations of the training enterprise that, more or less, we still use,” Bell said.
“But we now find ourselves in a situation very similar to the one they faced. They had to build the training foundations for a viable force, accounting for rapidly changing technology and a very challenging global threat on the horizon. They did an incredible job – they made such an intellectual leap that we’ve used their basic model for seven decades.
“Now it’s our turn. As an Air Force, we are in the midst of incredible technological changes happening at light speed, as well as our own challenging threat picture. The evolutionary, incremental changes we’ve made over the years to the training process are no longer enough – we need to make revolutionary changes. We need to make the same kind of evolutionary and revolutionary leap our forebears made.”
Bell said the wing, Second Air Force and AETC have been laying the foundations for this transformation for several years.
“There has been a lot of experimentation and innovation going on, especially since 2016,” he said. “It’s been incredibly important in helping us understand what works and what doesn’t. Now it’s time to start putting those lessons in play.”
Among those experiments are efforts like the Enhanced Training Day, launched at Sheppard in 2016. That effort explored ways to incorporate force development and foundational competencies – Airmanship – into the technical training environment.
Along with similar efforts at other technical training wings, the experiment helped inform Second Air Force’s Airmanship 200 program, which will formally integrate core Airmanship and force development concepts into technical training beginning this year.
Another effort more specific to the maintenance and logistics world is Maintenance Next. Activated in January 2019 at Joint Base San Antonio’s Kelly Field, its goal is to explore ways to leverage advanced technologies to train aircraft maintainers – specifically crew chiefs – more efficiently and effectively.
“Technology is changing the way we live and learn and it has opened up many opportunities to improve training to meet the needs of today’s Airman,” Lt. Col. Sean Goode, Maintenance Next detachment commander, said.
Currently, the Maintenance Next team is working with students who recently graduated basic military training. These students are able to explore through learning labs any time of the day or night in their dormitory or work center. The labs feature a variety of learning devices to include augmented and virtual reality simulators.
“Offering 24/7 access to education and diverse tools helps our team understand which tools best suit the learning needs of our Airmen,” Goode said. “We are also examining those tools to determine if they are successful at building maintainer competencies through hands-on evaluations.”
Beginning this spring, Maintenance Next will be field tested at Sheppard, Bell said.
“Sean has done an incredible job looking at how these emerging technologies can enhance training,” he said. “The next step is to test them in the formal training environment. If we get the results we expect, then we’ll focus on the next big challenge – how to implement across other maintenance specialties and then sustain it.”
While transforming maintenance and logistics training is a strategic imperative, Bell said it’s important to be realistic.
“We have to have a bias for action and move forward,” he said. “But we also have to understand that maintenance and logistics training is a huge enterprise with a long history and lots of moving parts. It’s not just about what happens in the classroom – it’s about the whole process: how we define training requirements and resource them; the processes for staffing instructors and military training leaders; making curriculum development more iterative and responsive to the field.”
This maintenance training transformation effort is a large job and will require coordination and cooperation across the enterprise, from the staff sergeant instructor at the podium all the way up to Air Education and Training Command Commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb and Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection Lt. Gen. Warren Berry.
A part of the job that often gets overlooked, he said, is communication.
“Vision 2020 is our effort to make sure our stakeholders know what we’re trying to do and why – and also to get their input, support and buy-in,” Bell said. “It’s going to take all of us working together to make this happen.”
Vision 2020 will be anchored by a series of videos featuring different aspects of the transformation effort, along with articles and other products, released throughout the year.
For more information, go to www.sheppard.af.mil/Vision-2020.