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Squadron develops process, trains new mobility Airmen across Europe

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- For many new Airmen, completing upgrade training within their career field can feel like an uphill battle. There are career development courses and on-the-job training to complete, all while keeping up with the day-to-day demands of the job.

The 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base has devised a solution through their Unit Learning Center for new 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing Airmen to complete 5-level training, the next level after graduating from technical school.

“We’re the only station that does it this way for our 5-level upgrade training, and we offer it to the entire wing,” said Staff Sgt. Jacquelyn Alvarez, the 721st APS NCO in charge of the Unit Learning Center. “It’s unique in that we bring everyone here to do it at Ramstein (AB). It’s nice to get them involved in the Air Force culture, as well as the culture of the career field, to teach them how to go about talking to fellow porters.”

The center provides a three-week class covering passenger services, air freight, and ramp services for Airmen who have been on station for about six months at Ramstein AB, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England and Aviano AB, Italy.

“It helps them focus on those core tasks a lot better,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes due to mission they can get lost, and the timeline of their upgrade training takes a little longer. It also gives that hands-on aspect. And one of my rules is, ‘No question is a dumb question,’ so they can ask those questions versus going straight into the workforce.”

Due to the heavy flow of cargo and aircraft through Ramstein AB, the 721st APS is able to provide facilities and hands-on training with aircraft for porters located at smaller bases without the same resources.

“My first duty station is (RAF) Mildenhall, so it’s a smaller base, which I do like a lot, but sometimes you have to rely on your fellow Airmen to teach you and they are just as new as you,” said Airman 1st Class Katherine Murray, a 727th Air Mobility Squadron air transportation technician and student of the course. “So coming here has actually been really awesome. I can go back to (my base) and I’ll feel a lot better about my position.”

The three sections of the course are each taught for one week, starting in the classroom to cover regulations and Air Force instructions, and ending with hands-on training in the passenger terminal or on an aircraft.

“I think doing the passenger terminal first, then cargo and then ramp, it’s literally one big picture, and you get to see the full 360 degrees of all the operations,” said Murray. “Behind the scenes when you see all the different parts of the process, it’s really neat.”

Many Airmen in the aerial port career field work in only one of the three sections taught at the center, but learning every section helps students gain a better understanding of how their job interconnects with others.

“The center is important because when they do return to their section, they have a wider knowledge of the career field itself,” Alvarez said. “It’s always interesting bringing in new Airmen. It’s neat to see the dots start to connect and watch them get that spark and say, ‘Oh, I get what my buddies are doing and how it affects me.’”