Enlisted aircrew training winds down at Keesler

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Although packers are busy disconnecting and crating equipment, training continues for the last 10 students in the 1A3 airborne mission system specialist course in the 332nd Training Squadron here.

The last Keesler class graduates Tuesday as part of the transition to the Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence at Lackland AFB, Texas.

"I don't look at the move as a loss for Keesler as much as a gain for the Air Force and the country," said Lt. Col. Steven Ramsay, 332nd TRS commander.

"In this era of transformation, the center of excellence makes great sense, and preparing the Airmen to support the war on terrorism allows the Air Force to accomplish its mission," he said.

The new center was created to provide more efficient academic training at less cost, said Senior Master Sgt. Dean Ross, superintendent of the enlisted aircrew training flight.

Previously, students completed basic training and took the 14-day enlisted aircrew undergraduate course at Lackland AFB before going to survival training at Fairchild AFB, Wash., then continued to three-level specialty ground schools at various bases before going to their respective flying training units.

Sergeant Ross said by moving the ground schools to Lackland AFB, a great deal of travel time and expense can be saved.

Over the past few months, instructors and equipment have been moved gradually so the course could begin at Lackland while still being taught at Keesler AFB.

The first course started at Lackland AFB Nov. 7 and graduates Feb. 7. Another class began at Lackland AFB in early December. The course lasts 55 academic days at Lackland, rather than the 50 days possible with Keesler's compressed work schedule.

Six of the eight Keesler AFB instructors who are moving to Lackland AFB have already departed. Three others are returning to flying, and three new instructors are coming from other bases to take their places.

"It's a unique situation," Sergeant Ross said. "We had to do concurrent operations for the course -- we couldn't shut down the training pipeline because we have programmed flying dates and needed to continue to develop aircrew members to prevent any shortfall to the annual trained personnel requirements."

"We've already completed two of the four equipment shipments," said Tech. Sgt. Brian Sommers, one of the Keesler AFB instructors. "It takes a lot of effort to coordinate and get the shipments out on time so they can be set up and usable in early January, but we haven't lost any training days in the process."

"The reason this process has worked so well is the outstanding planning and work from our enlisted aircrew members over the last year," Colonel Ramsay said.

Another course previously taught in the 332nd TRS, the 1A4 airborne battle manager course, was the first of seven specialties to move to the new center at Lackland AFB last spring. Approximately 80 students in six classes have graduated since then.

In addition to those two courses, other specialties included in the center are 1A0 aerial refuelers from Altus AFB, Okla.; 1A1 flight engineers from Kirtland AFB, N.M., Little Rock AFB, Ark. and Altus AFB; 1A2 loadmasters from Altus AFB and Little Rock AFB; 1A6 flight attendants from Andrews AFB, Md.; and 1A7 aerial gunners from Kirtland AFB.

"The bottom line is all these Airmen are meeting their program flying dates and hitting real-world missions quickly," Sergeant Ross said. "The field units are happy they're getting well-trained students. We've had calls from students who've only been gone eight or nine months, who've already been to 40 countries."

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