New 'Port Dawgs' set up for success at Charleston AFB

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mary Hinson
  • 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 437th Aerial Port Squadron here have found a unique way to get their Airmen trained smarter, faster and better -- it's called the Port Dawg University currently being taught at Charleston AFB. 

The Port Dawg University Program is "aerial port's way of streamlining everything 
to make sure Airmen have all core tasks signed off" before getting to their duty sections, said Master Sgt. Catherine Richardson, 437th APS Unit Learning Center NCO in charge.

"I would like to see all Air Force units, not just aerial ports, doing this," said Sergeant Richardson. "It's not just an APS thing. Every new person entering the service goes through the same acclimation process. If we can make that process easier, the whole Air Force will benefit with more capable Airmen."

According to Sergeant Richardson, the idea came about when Chief Master Sgt. Jose Silva, 437th APS air terminal manager, had a vision to do something to take care of  Airmen. 

"He said, 'What can we do to better our Airmen?'" said Sergeant Richardson. That is when the idea was introduced to start a class to help new aerial porters to not only get their initial in-processing completed, but also to get signed off on their core tasks for their five-level training. 

Many of the squadron's new Airmen, who were previously going directly into their duty sections, were taking up to 2.5 months to get their in-processing and training done, said Tech. Sgt. Serge Ladd, 437th APS and university instructor. With everything now completed at the university, that time is cut in half. 

The program is seven weeks long, with the students spending two of those weeks at Charleston AFB's First Term Airmen Center. The remaining five weeks are designed to give the students training on all aspects of the aerial port career field, not just the section they have been assigned to. 

"They need to be able to transition well," said Sergeant Richardson on the broad scope of the training. "We don't want them blindsided in the field" if they have to switch to others jobs while deployed. 

Although some of the training is Web- and classroom-based, the hands-on portion is the key to the students succeeding. 

To graduate from the university, students must successfully complete all the core tasks, but the instructors are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure each student completes the course, even if it means spending extra time on a particular task. 

"It would be a disadvantage to the trainee, us and the squadron if we sent them back before they knew their job," added Sergeant Richardson. 

Although the program is aimed at getting upgrade training complete, it is also concerned with more than the work aspect of being a "Port Dawg." 

According to Sergeant Richardson, they are also helping the Airmen be "well rounded" by requiring them to participate in physical training three times a week, volunteer in the community and get involved with squadron functions, such as farewell dinners and booster club events. 

"They have made me feel comfortable and I have a better understanding of my job and its impact on the Air Force as a whole," said Senior Airman Raymond Banks, from the 437th APS and a current university student. 

Additionally, they are giving the students career counseling and helping them to start making informed decisions about their future careers. "We are giving them all the tools they need to get to be good Airmen," said Sergeant Richardson. 

As with any new program - it's only on its second wave of students - there have been some kinks to work out, such as scheduling conflicts and rolling in new students. 

"We're trying to do it smarter. With each class we're getting better," said Sergeant Richardson. 

Although the program is still a work in progress, instructors and students both see a great impact with the work they are doing. 

"I think they are doing an excellent job," said Airman Banks. "They created this from the ground up."