An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | May 22, 2017

Sharpening PACAF Maintainers

By Airman 1st Class Donald Hudson 374th Airlift Wing

“Your task is, by using the technical orders and working as a team member, access and rig the coordinator and fuel control linkage with no more than two instructor assists,” said Staff Sgt. Angelica Ponce, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 15 aerospace propulsion instructor, speaking to her students from the 374th Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight.

Part of the training Air Force aircraft maintainers go through is a hands-on assessment of their skills to evaluate if they can effectively trouble shoot engine problems with minimal supervision.

“This class is Organizational Maintenance and Troubleshooting,” said Ponce. “We are teaching how to analyze a system malfunction by working from the effects of a malfunction communicated by the aircrew to find the root-cause of the problem.”

Advanced training for C-130H maintainers in the Endo-Asia Pacific Region is done by four members of the 373 TRS Det. 15, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. All four instructors teach classes and have different specialties in areas such as propulsion mechanics, avionics and electronics. The classes taught by the team also count as credits toward maintainers’ Community College of the Air Force degree.

Maintainers who take the classes must have obtained a skill-level of five on the C-130H or worked on the airframe for over one year; or obtained their five-level on another airframe, but worked on the C-130H for six-months. The training the 373 TRS Det. 15 conducts is more hands-on and specific than the broad, generic training maintainers get during tech school.

“The classes are essential for the development of a maintainer’s overall skills,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Tempest, 373 TRS Det. 15 aerospace propulsion instructor. “This gives them the tools they need to identify more efficiently what needs to be done, saving maintainers time and the Air Force money.”

All the lessons learned are able to be directly applied to a maintainer’s daily duties.

“I have a deeper understanding of the engine as a whole,” said Airman 1st Class Jacob Smith, 374th Maintenance Squadron propulsion apprentice. “I understand the reason why certain things need to be done; before I was just doing what I was told without knowing why it had to be done or what caused the problem.”

Along with learning the technical problem solving skills needed, overall Airmen development is another important aspect of the course. Each morning Ponce starts the class with an Air Force history fact followed by a discussion of how it ties into the Air Force’s values.

Ponce and Tempest also take time throughout the day to answer a variety of questions from young Airmen ranging from how to view CCAF transcripts to how to contact resources, such as the Chaplin or SAPR.

For Tempest, dealing with the personal or work related issues can be the most challenging part of his job but also the most rewarding.

“We are taking a serious interest in their career and we might be the first people that do so,” said Tempest. “So we get a lot of students that come to us with their work and personal issues, so we become more of a mentor.”

The advice and guidance the 373 TRS Det. 15 instructors give their students can be as valuable to a student’s Air Force career as the technical knowledge they teach.

“Our instructors are full of little gems of wisdom that have helped me so much,” said Smith. “The knowledge and experience they’ve shared has been very helpful to me, especially as a new Airman.”

Along with teaching maintainers, the 373 TRS Det. 15 instructors are also certified to teach others how to teach.

“Trainers can come to us and learn how to enhance their teaching abilities,” said Ponce. “We show them how to read their audience, the different ways individuals learn and how to hone in their public speaking skills.” 

The instructors were picked for the special duty of teaching the future maintainers of the Air Force because of their consistent high level of operation. After being selected, they go onto specialized training in the principles of instruction at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

“We had to give 50 minute speeches in front of a whole class that was grading us; every ‘um’ or extended pause in our speech was marked down,” said Tempest. “It made us much more eloquent speakers and communicators.”

Although teaching can be stressful and a lot of work, Tempest enjoys the challenges of teaching and empowering Airmen with a newly honed skill set.

“My favorite part of what we do is seeing that light-bulb moment in a student’s eye, that moment when they have been working on a hard problem and it finally clicks on how to solve it,” said Tempest.

Although the 373 TRS is based out of Sheppard AFB, Det. 15 is serving and strengthening the Airmen at Yokota and throughout the Pacific by enhancing maintainers abilities to keep C-130H’s mission ready and by mentoring and teaching the future educators of the Air Force.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Yokota Air Base website.