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Building basics: FTD forms maintenance professionals

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Armed with wrenches, protective gear and iPads stocked with technical orders and schematics, these Air Force maintenance professionals are ready to go back to school.

The school isn’t a normal college or university; these Airmen are attending the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 202 F-16 Field Training Detachment, a geographically separated unit from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

Courses at the FTD are designed to teach advanced aircraft equipment and munitions maintenance to Airmen already working in those career fields, said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Patterson, 372nd TS, Det. 202 chief. The advanced skillsets learned at the FTD build on the basic level of training Airmen receive in technical school and through on-the-job training.

“The FTD is critical to maintainers’ development,” said Patterson. “As they increase in skill level, they need to keep (basic) skills current as things are changed and modified on the aircraft and weapons systems.”

Though the largest group of Airmen who attend the FTD come from the 20th Maintenance Group, others travel from as far as Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to participate in the hands-on training. Another percentage of Airmen attending these courses belong to the Air National Guard or Reserves, or are preparing for a permanent change of station to an area with a high operations tempo.

“As an Airman it helps me be more rounded, more proficient at my job and all-around a better worker,” said Senior Airman Collin Reeder, 96th Maintenance Group weapons standardization technician assigned to Eglin AFB. “I expect my peers to be doing the same thing; if they take this class I hope they get the benefit out of it that I do, so not only am I proficient but my coworkers are as well, and we can get the job done fluently.”

Reeder attended the FTD for approximately 3 weeks, starting at a refresher course for basic skills such as finding schematics and wiring diagrams in the technical orders, and working up to tasks like disassembling and reassembling the M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon.

The courses held at the FTD are not specific to one career field; 17 instructors from nine Air Force Specialty Codes provide training for a wide assortment of Airmen belonging to career fields such as avionics, aircrew ground equipment and munitions.

“The FTD impacts the mission by getting Airmen qualified to perform their taskings and to improve their proficiency and skillsets,” said Patterson. “As the (aircraft) fleet ages, it tends to fail a bit more frequently, and we are able to train these Airmen how to repair them and get them back into the fight.”

In one classroom, four Airmen work together to remove a piece of an engine as their instructor stands nearby, offering words of encouragement and advice. In a different room, two Airmen perform an operational check of the component they previously learned to remove and reinstall as their instructor grades them. In yet another, three Airmen follow along as their instructor shows them how to navigate and read the many schematics found in technical orders.

Scenes such as these showcase the dedication and hard work of instructors and students alike as they work together to ensure the future of the Air Force and its fighting fleet.