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AGE Tech. Training endures after snowstorm forces them out of schoolhouse

A photo of the damage within the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. 210 training resources (equipment, hands-on trainers, etc.) were moved within two days. AGE continues training in their neighbor's schoolhouse and is slowly moving back. Complete repairs are estimated to take longer than a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

A photo of the damage within the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. 210 training resources (equipment, hands-on trainers, etc.) were moved within two days. AGE continues training in their neighbor's schoolhouse and is slowly moving back. Complete repairs are estimated to take longer than a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

A photo of a damaged office within the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. Some of AGE's labs for training have recently been cleared for use, but the main corridor that held most of the classrooms and offices for the 361st Training Squadron's faculty is still devastated and will stay unused for quite some time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

A photo of a damaged office within the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. Some of AGE's labs for training have recently been cleared for use, but the main corridor that held most of the classrooms and offices for the 361st Training Squadron's faculty is still devastated and will stay unused for quite some time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Master Sgt. Gabriel Bessette, 361st Training Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment flight chief, holds one of their computers that was damaged by flooding at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The snowstorm caused pipes to freeze then burst which caused flooding in parts of the AGE Tech. Training Schoolhouse. These computers were filled with water and drained when moved. It is most likely the data on these computers cannot be recovered. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Master Sgt. Gabriel Bessette, 361st Training Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment flight chief, holds one of their computers that was damaged by flooding at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The snowstorm caused pipes to freeze then burst which caused flooding in parts of the AGE Tech. Training Schoolhouse. These computers were filled with water and drained when moved. It is most likely the data on these computers cannot be recovered. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Damaged furniture and parts of the ceiling lay in a hallway in the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse and left it defunct. Pipes bursting caused flooding to damage the building itself and the items inside of it. The pipes would also break off completely and fall through the ceiling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Damaged furniture and parts of the ceiling lay in a hallway in the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse and left it defunct. Pipes bursting caused flooding to damage the building itself and the items inside of it. Some pipes would also break off completely and fall through the ceiling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Items are left on instructor's desks after they are forced to move due to flooding in their schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Aerospace Ground Equipment tech. training schoolhouse was flooded after pipes burst due to the snowstorm that hit Texas Feb. 14, 2021. The part which was most damaged was the corridor that held both the classrooms and the offices. Around 200 personnel (I.e. students, faculty, supervision) were forced to relocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Items are left on instructor's desks after they are forced to move due to flooding in their schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Aerospace Ground Equipment tech. training schoolhouse was flooded after pipes burst due to the snowstorm that hit Texas Feb. 14, 2021. The part which was most damaged was the corridor that held both the classrooms and the offices. Around 200 personnel (I.e. students, faculty, supervision) were forced to relocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

The damaged main corridor of the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. This whole corridor was flooded and was the most damaged part of the schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

The damaged main corridor of the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. This whole corridor was flooded and was the most damaged part of the schoolhouse. All classrooms, offices and facilities were forced to move. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Damaged furniture and broken sprinklers sit in the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. Pipes bursting caused flooding. Some pipes connecting the sprinkler system would also break off and cause the sprinkler to fall through the ceiling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Damaged furniture and broken sprinklers sit in the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. Pipes bursting caused flooding. Some pipes connecting the sprinkler system would also break off and cause the sprinkler to fall through the ceiling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Items are placed near the front door of the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The AGE schoolhouse was flooded after pipes burst due to the snowstorm that hit Texas Feb. 14, 2021. When personnel were allowed to access damage on Feb. 19, they found four inches of water flooding the main corridor of the building. They saved as much as they could and left low-priority/damaged items. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

Items are placed near the front door of the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The AGE schoolhouse was flooded after pipes burst due to the snowstorm that hit Texas Feb. 14, 2021. When personnel were allowed to access damage on Feb. 19, they found four inches of water flooding the main corridor of the building. They saved as much as they could and left low-priority/damaged items. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

What happens when you come into your office on a Friday in the aftermath of a major snowstorm and you find your sprinkler systems busted, the pipes leaking foul liquids, the flooding is damaging the main portion of your Technical Training Schoolhouse with all your classrooms and offices, the flooding then freezes and leaves you, your instructors, and your students without a place to call their own? Well, it’s simple, just do what the 361st did when that happened to them -- resume training on Monday.

On Feb. 19, 2021, Master Sgt. Gabriel Bessette, 361st Training Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment flight chief, was given the good-to-go to return to base after the major snowstorm that hit Texas in mid-February. The old AGE building that has held strong since 1993 was now a swimming pool filled with ceiling tile debris and smoking wires.

 “Corridor A and the main corridor got hit the hardest,” said Bessette. “That’s where the classrooms were, where my instructors were, the TRR folk and our commander and supervision. It was all in there.”

A photo of a damaged office within the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. Some of AGE's labs for training have recently been cleared for use, but the main corridor that held most of the classrooms and offices for the 361st Training Squadron's faculty is still devastated and will stay unused for quite some time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)
Snowstorm Damages AGE Schoolhouse
A photo of a damaged office within the Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. Some of AGE's labs for training have recently been cleared for use, but the main corridor that held most of the classrooms and offices for the 361st Training Squadron's faculty is still devastated and will stay unused for quite some time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)
Photo By: Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio
VIRIN: 210304-F-YT646-0003

That was it, there was no, ‘lets just sweep out the water and continue.’ The AGE building was lost. And with that all of AGE training. Except … that’s not how Air Force Maintainers think.

“Anyone in maintenance works well in crises,” said Bessette. “You can plan your day, but there is never a day when there’s no stuff going wrong. There’s going to be stuff breaking, we’re used to that. We’re good in those situations and that’s why were able to take this and run with it.”

In some folk’s reality this could have been a knockout punch, although for AGE, this was just another problem that showed up on their doorstep. They handled it as if it was normal for snowstorms to wreck their shop every year.

“The reason we were able to do it quick, is because our guys were superstars,” said Bessette. “From our commander, who gave us all the support we needed, to the instructors to the volunteers from the other flights. It was all of us coming together. Their help is greatly appreciated and that’s what I like to see and show off in the Air Force. All of us coming together to get something done.”

Bessette said he wanted to thank the 361st and all the volunteers from their flights, AGE, Propulsions, Metals Tech., Fuels and Egress, the Commander, all of whom came with determination and some even with trailers. He said besides the 361st family they appreciated the help from the firefighters who came to shut off the water, the 82d Communication Squadron technicians who helped disconnect and reconnect their E-tools, the 363rd TRS members who lent a hand and their forklift and the motor pool folk who went through the correct channels to get them a truck. They all worked together to get AGE back in the mission.

A photo of the damage within the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. 210 training resources (equipment, hands-on trainers, etc.) were moved within two days. AGE continues training in their neighbor's schoolhouse and is slowly moving back. Complete repairs are estimated to take longer than a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)
Snowstorm Damages AGE Schoolhouse
A photo of the damage within the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The Feb. 14, 2021, snowstorm damaged the AGE schoolhouse leaving it defunct. 210 training resources (equipment, hands-on trainers, etc.) were moved within two days. AGE continues training in their neighbor's schoolhouse and is slowly moving back. Complete repairs are estimated to take longer than a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)
Photo By: Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio
VIRIN: 210304-F-YT646-0002

Within starting the move on Friday they were able to move everything they needed to the 361st TRS’s Aerospace Propulsion Schoolhouse who welcomed them with open arms.

Bessette said he loves the 361st as even though they may bicker and tease each other, they are like a family and when it comes down to it, they have each other’s back. When Sheppard returned to normal operations that Monday, AGE was ready to train, but believe it or not, there were some issues when moving a whole schoolhouse into another.

Problems with scheduling, space, missing tools and especially missing the specific configurations of the old schoolhouse caused issues for the training.

Bessette said the biggest setback they encountered was the loss of days. They had a strict schedule and timeline, they could make up one or two days, but a week or two? There were ripple effects caused by this (I.e. some classes graduating late) but with what they have and where they are, their main focus after this hardship was making sure the other Major Commands get the same quality Sheppard trained Airmen.

“We are not going to cut corners,” said Bessette. “If something took us two hours before all this happened – it’s going to take us two hours now. We’re not skimping. We’re making sure the training is what it needs to be.”

With the snowstorm and the move fading more and more into the past, the future for AGE starts looking more and more normal. On March 3, 2021, Bessette said they should be able to use some of the labs within the A, B and C corridors, which were less damaged than the main corridor. He said they will begin slowly returning back to their old building while giving their all and continuing to train the best AGE Airmen.

Items are placed near the front door of the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The AGE schoolhouse was flooded after pipes burst due to the snowstorm that hit Texas Feb. 14, 2021. When personnel were allowed to access damage on Feb. 19, they found four inches of water flooding the main corridor of the building. They saved as much as they could and left low-priority/damaged items. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)
Snowstorm Damages AGE Schoolhouse
Items are placed near the front door of the 361st Training Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment schoolhouse at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 4, 2021. The AGE schoolhouse was flooded after pipes burst due to the snowstorm that hit Texas Feb. 14, 2021. When personnel were allowed to access damage on Feb. 19, they found four inches of water flooding the main corridor of the building. They saved as much as they could and left low-priority/damaged items. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio)
Photo By: Senior Airman Pedro Tenorio
VIRIN: 210304-F-YT646-0009

Even though they lost most of their schoolhouse, Bessette said one thing shined through all this hardship and hard work.

“The best thing is seeing that we not only train to work together and that we say we are all Airmen, but actually showing our teamwork and show that we actually mean it,” said Bessette. “We have different parts in the mission, but in the end, we all have the same mission.”