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982nd instructors provide aircraft lessons for Sheppard, Air Force and beyond

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
Nearly 70 instructors are providing lessons on proper maintenance of an F-16 Falcon at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. 

At Yokota AFB, Japan, six are teaching how to maintain a C-130 Hercules.
More are instructing on how to fine tune a F-15E Strike Eagle at Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C. 

All of these individuals are assigned to Sheppard and are members of the 982nd Training Group. The group exists at installations throughout the world, dedicated to training Airmen in aircraft maintenance, while the personnel permanently assigned to Sheppard constantly make visits to those remote squadrons both to monitor progress and maintain morale. 

After completing basic military training at Lackland AFB, Texas, Airmen who enter the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard spend months acquiring general aircraft maintenance knowledge, earning their 3-level before moving on to their first base of assignment or one of many Air Force-wide 982nd TRG 'Mission Ready Airmen' detachments. After graduating from an MRA detachment and/or arriving at their first base, maintainers receive further training at 982nd TRG detachments. 

For example, a student who intended to focus on the F-16 would take a 19-day basic introductory course at Sheppard for fighter planes, then spend four weeks at the MRA detachment at Luke AFB to concentrate on F-16 maintenance. When the second course is completed, the Airman is assigned to their first base. 

The 982nd TRG currently has 45 detachments, 35 of them in the United States and the other 10 reaching as far as Europe and the Pacific. Depending on the number of aircraft at a particular base, a detachment can have as many as 80 personnel or as few as five. 

"Luke AFB, for example, has nine squadrons, so more training is needed. We have about 70 people out there," said Lt. Col. Douglas Crabb, deputy commander of the 982nd TRG. 

Instructors have traveled as far as Singapore, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Australia, Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria to train members of foreign militaries in aircraft maintenance. 

"We've currently got guys training the British and Australians in maintenance of the C-17," said Colonel Crabb. 

Det. 18 of the 373rd Training Squadron, located at Jackson Air National Guard Base, Miss., the most recently formed detachment, trains the National Guard as well as active personnel. Little Rock AFB, Ark., is developing plans to train Marines on C-130 maintenance. 

While the 982nd TRG has more permanent personnel than any other group at Sheppard, it also has the fewest members actually dwelling here. 

"We have 1,300 active duty, civilians and contractors in the group. Only 300 of that is at Sheppard; the other thousand are spread out across the globe," said Colonel Crabb. 

Even those few personnel are constantly en route, serving temporary duty assignments at detachments for inspections, and to let the instructors and students alike know they are not far from their thoughts. 

"We do aircraft maintenance, meet with the instructors to find out what Sheppard can do to support or enhance capabilities," said Chief Master Sgt. Marvin Prince, the 982nd TRG chief superintendent. 

"We always contact the local maintenance group commanders and ask how our instructors are doing, if they're supporting that base's mission. We always get rave reviews," Colonel Crabb said. "We want to make sure the 82nd guys assigned there are doing the mission. 

"Someone is TDY at least once a month from this building. Some of the trips are short, others last two weeks. I was at Tyndall in April myself, and I just returned from Seymour-Johnson last week," he said. 

Colonel Crabb's most noteworthy TDY memory since joining the 982nd TRG involves his attendance at a yearly symposium hosted by the British Royal Air Force. There, he learned what advancements the British have made in training their own troops. 

"They're using the same types of technology and methodology, incorporating it into their training," Colonel Crabb said. "Airmen are more tech-savvy now, and they realize that. It's something to see the similarities in how we train them." 

For Chief Prince, it was a visit to Nellis AFB, Nev. 

"They jump-started work on the Predator there, our guys were on top of that maintenance first. The next thing I know, after 9-11, I hear that Predators are being used in Iraq. Knowing that Airmen, with the training we provided, would be out there maintaining those fighters, was a good feeling," he said. 

Colonel Crabb agrees with the sentiment of the group's far-reaching effects. 

"The planes and bombs used that resulted in the death of (Al-Qaeda member) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were worked on by people trained at Sheppard and 982nd dets," said Colonel Crabb. "We even have instructors deployed to the theater training technicians in the Iraqi Air Force. 

"We support much more than what happens here at Sheppard," he said, "and we're proud to be a vital part of the 82nd Training Wing mission."