SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. in “Accelerate Change or Lose,” his blueprint for the service’s way forward, has called for a fundamental shift in how Airmen are prepared for the high-end fight.
The 363rd Training Squadron’s Air Force Logistics Officer School is on the leading edge of transforming the way officers learn their craft in its three logistics career fields – aircraft maintenance, munitions and logistics readiness. A little more than a year from concept to implementation, the first course to undergo this innovation in teaching methodologies – aircraft maintenance officers – graduated its first class April 22, 2021, during a ceremony here.
“It’s exciting,” said Capt. Reis Griffin, Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course instructor supervisor. “It’s exciting to know we’re developing our young maintenance officers with the right skills to do the job. The ability for them to go out there and critically think, to communicate effectively with senior leaders and senior NCOs, they’re going to go out there and have the tools and skills necessary to run their organizations and effect positive change for the Air Force.”
AMOC, in this case, has flipped the classroom on its head by moving from knowledge-based, instructor-focused interaction to one that is student-centric and fixated on core competencies of the career field. That meets Brown’s waypoint in his first action order zeroed in on Airmen by having a “renewed focus on preparation and readiness.”
Griffin said the course rewrite process began in November 2019 when he was deployed to Afghanistan. He said he was unaware of the directive to initiate change in the program when he arrived at the 363rd TRS in July 2020, but he had a sense of relief to see the type of training put into action that logistics officers have needed for a while.
The 10-year veteran of aircraft maintenance from Florida said the training he underwent in 2010 wasn’t bad training, but the course lacked context for what he was learning or how to apply it to his first duty station. Students went to blocks of instruction, listened to an instructor, learned concepts, studied and tested on those concepts. For example, they learned about equipment used in aircraft maintenance, but they didn’t learn the importance of some aspects.
Griffin said the new model of learning requires AMOC students – and soon students in munitions and logistics readiness courses – to begin the process of learning about and developing theories of the aircraft maintenance world long before they arrive at Sheppard. Officers will begin a 90-day prerequisite course at their home station, which includes a Logistics Officers Orientation Program over the first 30 days that introduces them to aircraft maintenance officer principles and how they apply to their specific unit. The final 60 days consists of distance learning discussion boards where students further build upon the concepts and context of aircraft maintenance.
“Now they come here after those 90 days and have a pretty good understanding of the maintenance organization,” he said. “That really helps, especially when we transition to student-centered learning. It helps the students have good discussions in class. That’s one of the hallmarks of student-centered learning – don’t just stare at the instructor, let’s have a discussion.”
Capt. Jessica Farris, a student from the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell AFB, Kansas, said she didn’t have many opportunities to lead Airmen during her first five years in the Air Force as a developmental engineer at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The opportunity to transition to several different areas presented itself in 2020, but the Missouri University of Science and Technology product specifically selected aircraft maintenance as her new career field after working and talking with maintainers. She also had some working knowledge of aircraft maintenance by virtue of being a battle damage repair engineer before the switch.
That presented a challenge when she arrived at the Kansas base and took on the role of an officer in charge of a maintenance section.
“The way the course is written now, we’re exposed to things that I was kind of getting fire-hosed with in the specific position I was in,” the native of Rolla, Missouri, said. “I can now go back with more confidence that I have these tools to assess situations or scenarios that we’ve gone over here are very realistic to things that I’ve already seen but maybe didn’t have the toolset to use before.”
Farris said she feels that the student-centric model of instruction is setting Air Force officers up for success by introducing them to different ways of thinking dependent upon where they are and the mission they are guiding.
The captain said she is excited about taking back to McConnell information she has learned regarding manpower as well as aircraft generation and maintenance operations schedules.
2nd Lt. Daniel Weipert, a member of the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, said he was excited and stressed when he arrived at the maintenance unit about a year ago and assigned to lead a team of 60 Airmen. The team guided the green lieutenant along, he said, seeing how he would react in certain situations.
“I learned a lot based off of those experiences,” he said, “but it was definitely trial by fire.”
He said the AMOC curriculum, however, provided more context to what he experienced during his first year in the Air Force, whether it was how to lead in a specific situation or what maintenance practice to perform. Every day in the course, he said, addressed something he experienced at Shaw.
The Alamogordo, New Mexico-native said he also had some “learning lessons” that addressed some how-not-to’s during his first year on the job.
Griffin said the whole focus of the enhanced curriculum is to create a maintenance officer that is competent, capable and articulate, and a motivated and trusted leader who is a problem solver and advocate for the Air Force, their Airmen and the career field. He said students leaving this new iteration of AMOC will be better equipped and prepared leaders for the Air Force, which is needed to apply critical thinking skills to address global threats now and in the future.
“That may be hard to think about for our young lieutenants, but under a construct like agile combat employment or dynamic force employment, there’s a chance that those younger lieutenants are going to be the ones sent forward with a small contingent of aircraft,” he said. “They’re going to need to be able to think quickly, and we are producing that.”
Griffin said the career field was previously heavy in technical competencies, but the new course teaches the soft skills needed to effectively lead a maintenance unit. This training, he said, is going to “vastly improve” the end product of maintenance officers. But when the course rewrites and implementation of the new logistics readiness and munitions officer courses are complete, it will provide a core cadre of officers that will change the course of Air Force logistics in the future.