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Advanced training prepares boom operators for future

Advanced Boom Operator Training

Staff Sgt. Derrell Vann, 60th Operation Support Squadron KC-10 Extender boom operator instructor, wears 3D glasses during his simulator training at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The updated simulator allows boom operators to have a more realistic view of air refueling capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Advanced Boom Operator Training

KC-10 Extender boom operators from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., use the Cargo Load Trainer at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The CLT helps KC-10 Extender boom operators become proficient at loading cargo. Boom operators also serve as loadmasters on the KC-10 Extender. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- Within the past year, KC-10 Extender boom operators have been receiving cutting-edge, three-dimensional simulator training and life-size cargo load training that benefits the boom operator career field around the world. The training is especially welcome because KC-10s, aircrews and maintainers are regularly deployed since the beginning of operation Desert Shield.

Travis Air Force Base was the first base in Air Mobility Command to receive the upgraded 3D simulator and is the only base in AMC with the new state-of-the-art cargo load trainer.

The Boom Operator Trainer has been upgraded with an advanced visual system replacement. The new BOT-VST provides greater capabilities than the old one, said Rob Tabor, KC-10 Extender boom operator instructor and contractor with FlightSafety International, a state-of-the-art instructor.

“The new system has the ability now to produce a three-dimensional visual image, we’ve gone from a flat rear projection display to a culminated 4K display,” Tabor said. “Instead of projecting an image onto a flat screen, we’re now projecting the image onto an 11-foot mirror.”

The upgraded image provides more realistic depth perception to boom operators during training. Previously, this sense of depth could only be experienced on an aircraft.

“The whole environment is much more realistic,” Tabor said. “That transition from simulator to aircraft is much more visually realistic than in the past.”

“We train all active duty and reserve Airmen here at Travis, and we also train foreign students from Italy and the Netherlands,” Tabor said. “We train over 600 students each year.”

Training courses include the initial qualification course, an instructor upgrade course and a requalification course. Once certified, every boom operator is required to complete the two-day refresher course every quarter. The most demanding and time-consuming course is the initial training course.

“The initial qualification course is a 38-day intense, scenario-based simulator training,” Tabor said. “Students must pass the course, then pass the Air Force-administered evaluation in the simulator before they can start refueling in the aircraft.”

So far, the upgrade is seen as a success among those boom operators who have trained under both systems. Staff Sgt. Derrell Vann, 60th Operation Support Squadron, KC-10 Extender boom operator instructor says he appreciates what the new upgrade brings to the table.

“I like the new system compared to the old one,” Vann said. “The visuals give you a more realistic idea of what it actually feels like refueling aircraft.”

Vann is responsible for training other boom operators at Travis and has received positive feedback from those who have been trained on the new system.

“The upgrades are definitely worth it,” Vann said. “I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from other boom operators that the training is better than what we used in the past.”

Another training upgrade is the new cargo load trainer. The CLT is a life-size model that allows boom operators to become proficient at loading cargo. This is extremely important because boom operators are dual-hatted and also and also serve as loadmasters on the KC-10. Ricky Jackson, aerial port lead for Pinnacle Solutions oversees the training.

“It’s a mock KC-10 Extender aircraft from the cockpit door back which was built from the ground up,” Jackson said. “The Air Force did an amazing job purchasing everything we needed to make the training as realistic as possible.”

Although training has been in place less than a year, instructors have already built a variety of courses. There’s an initial qualification course, a requalification course and a refresher training course. And since this is the only CLT in AMC, the trainer is getting a lot of use.

“We built this CLT for boom operators so they could experience different types of load configurations,” Jackson said. “The 21-day initial qualification course allows students from all over to experience scenarios they’ll potentially see on the aircraft.”

For one student, the training has been helpful as a new boom operator. Airman 1st Class Meghan Sylvia, 32nd Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender boom operator, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, said she’s more prepared now having used the CLT.

“This is my third temporary duty to Travis training on the CLT. We don’t have one at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” Sylvia said. “Having a full-scale CLT is very advantageous. The training provides us a foundation on how to properly load equipment before going out and doing the real thing.”

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