Extreme Makeover: PA helps inspire the 361st TRS
By Dan Hawkins, 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 16, 2013
SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The 361st Training Squadron's redesigned "pride" room was unveiled Jan. 15 during a graduation ceremony for a TF-34 aerospace propulsion apprentice class.
To help mark the occasion, the graduation ceremony was also live-streamed over the world-wide web on the Sheppard TV channel on UStream, with interviews from the graduates themselves, as well as a tour of the new look graduation room.
Overhauling the aerospace propulsion flight's graduation room was just one part of an extensive plan by the 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs (PA) office to help inspire Airmen-in-Training as they take the first steps in telling their Air Force stories.
When the wing's mission statement was changed last August to "Train and Inspire Airmen", the change got the base's public affairs (PA) office thinking about their role in helping complete the mission.
"One of our core competencies in public affairs is Airmen morale and readiness, that's a core part of what we're supposed to focus on," said George Woodward, Sheppard's PA director. "So we asked ourselves what can we do to help the inspire piece."
It was during one of the PA office "Crazy Hat Friday" meetings that the idea of doing an "Extreme Makeover" for each of the base's training squadrons was thrown on the table.
"We were all a little skeptical when the idea was first thrown out," said Kimberly Parker, PA's social media director. "Can we pull this off and how are we going to be able to do this?"
Other parts of the makeover included filming a mission video for the squadron, in addition to creating a web page off the Sheppard Air Force Base website dedicated solely to the unit.
The major part of the makeover was completely revamping a high-traffic type room in the unit and turning it into a major source of inspiration.
After a squadron tour and with coordination between PA and the 361st TRS leadership team, including commander Lt. Col. Barton Kenerson, the decision was made to give the aerospace propulsion flight's graduation room a new look and feel.
With only a United State flag dedicated to the room by former instructor Albert DeRubbio in honor of his brother David, who died tragically responding the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and four blank walls to work with, there was a blank canvas to work with.
"When we came into the room, it was dull and boring," said Josh Wilson, PA technical designer. "There was no excitement to the room at all."
Thanks to graphic illustrators Tony Kowalick and James Rumfelt, the unit's 'Hellcat' logo quickly became the centerpiece of the room, emerging as a 3D object mounted off the back wall of the room with red lighting behind it to give the "Hellcat" a glow. Rumfelt was the driving force for the conceptual art drawing, with Kowalick's in-depth knowledge of paint and airbrush techniques turning the 'Hellcat' from a crazy idea to reality.
"Anytime you do something like designing a mascot, the challenging part is making sure it doesn't look silly," Rumfelt said. "I think we made sure of that!"
That's not to say there weren't moments along the way during the design process when the "Hellcat" seemed more like an idea gone bad than a breathtaking finished product.
"To see it actually be created was amazing," said Angela Watson, graphic illustrator. "I had my doubts at first as it was being painted, being airbrushed. I'm thinking there is no way this is going to turn out nice and then it did."
The main reason behind the feature part of the room is about building up pride amongst the squadron members, both students and instructors.
"The 'Hellcat' is all about building squadron pride," Woodward said. "We want the students who come through these classes to be proud their 361st trained 'Hellcats'."
Making sure the room was designed with the "Train and Inspire Airmen" mantra as messaging fell to Parker.
"Originally I was way out there with what I wanted to do," Parker said. "After seeing what was planned with the Hellcat, I thought everything else should be complementary."
Combining Sheppard's history with specific aerospace propulsion career paths and linking both to the final wall highlighting the fact that AiT's are about to begin their Air Force journey was the end result.
"We do the training part of our mission very well," Parker said. "The inspiration piece is the one we were trying to work on and this room can help add to that inspiration."
The end product was the epitomy of a team working together towards a common goal.
"This project incorporated every aspect of the PA mission," Woodward said. "From graphics, to photography, web design, not to mention video, it required every person to make a project like this happen. I'm very proud of my team."
Kenerson was thrilled with the final result.
"You (PA) put into words, and a layout, what we have been trying to do for quite some time," the 361st TRS commander said. "I am stoked about the 'Hellcat'...it brings out the attitude of the squadron. We couldn't be happier with how this turned out!"
For one TF-34 graduate, the day was extra special with the addition of the live internet broadcast of the graduation on Sheppard TV. Airman 1st Class Brittney Moses, on her way to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. and whose father is a master sergeant in the Air Force currently serving on a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, was excited her father was able to watch her special day live.
"It was so nice to be able to share my graduation with my father," Moses said. "It makes the day that much more special when you can share it with your loved ones."