Maintainers further training on Raptors

TYNDALL AFB, Fla. -- They've taken off their "greenbelts," put on the coveted American Hornets patch, and launched and recovered F-22 Raptors many times, but these enlisted maintainers will always make time to complete more training. 

Three years ago, the 372nd Training Squadron/Detachment 4 here began the F-22 maintenance course for 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit personnel. 

"Every student out of technical school learned how to maintain aircraft through a Mission Ready Airman program using an F-15 Eagle airframe," said Staff Sgt. Richard Outenreath, 372nd/Det. 4 instructor. 

That is why initially, all 43rd AMU maintainers go through the Raptor common course. This introductory course gives students an overview of the airframe. They'll take this knowledge to the 43rd Fighter Squadron's flightline and use it on their daily job. 

Once they complete the common course, they'll enroll in additional classes at the detachment that are more Air Force Specialty Code specific. When F-22 maintainers have the opportunity to return to the detachment for approximately a month of training, they will take specialty courses geared toward their specific career fields such as crew chief, avionics and weapons technicians. 

"There are some things on the jet you don't use in your daily job and you wonder what they are for," said Airman 1st Class Michael Stulz, 372nd TRS/Det. 4 student, who is improving his crew chief abilities. "This class goes in depth, covering things I haven't worked on before." 

In one part of the curriculum, students in the F-22 course will learn how to use the Integrated Maintenance Information System, as well as how to operate and maintain the portable maintenance aid. 

They will also be trained in concepts of operations, hazard zones, system operations, aerospace ground equipment and aircraft ground handling. Additionally, they will perform canopy operations and ejection seat positioning procedures, as well as ground communication and external power converter operations, according to the course description. 

"Maintainers in the weapons field will learn how to remove and install the gun, missile launchers, bomb racks and weapons bay doors," said Tech. Sgt. Jody Forcha, 372nd TRS/Det. 4 instructor. 

What instructors teach in the detachment is knowledge of tasks performed on the flightline, he said. 

"A majority of the course work is not hands on, but theory," said Tech. Sgt. Paul Bradley, 372nd TRS/Det. 4 instructor who is currently teaching avionics. "We get into how the system works and why we change a part. That is the big thing." 

Maintainers come with the knowledge and know-how of hands-on repair and maintenance of parts on the flightline. Advanced computer systems give students the "virtual feel" of hands-on experience in the classroom. 

"The concept is the same," said Senior Airman John Green, 372nd TRS/Det. 4 student. "If I had never touched an airplane before, this class it would help me (perform my duties)." 

When aircraft are available for training, instructors schedule time for their students. But with four-hour tasks like removing panels on an air conditioning system, the operational mission comes first. 

The training system, featuring in-sync computer screens (with the option of a self-paced instructional mode), surround sound and controlled lighting, makes for an advanced learning environment. 

"Another thing that is a big plus for maintainers is all the technical orders are in one PMA. This replaces about 25 five-pound books with one seven to 10-pound computer," said Sergeant Outenreath. 

This PMA will be used in the classroom, on the aircraft and with any task the maintainer does. The PMA can be used separately or integrated with the classroom computer system and will be placed on all F-22 jets so the maintainers can use it at any time. 

In the end, all the education pays off. Students become more proficient maintainers, earn Community College of the Air Force credit and can look forward to being a qualified seven-level maintainer. They can also choose to take all their maintenance skills and put it toward training in other airframes when they get to that level of experience. 

"Basically, every student, new on the job or experienced, becomes well-rounded and productive," said Sergeant Outenreath. "They know what they are doing and how to do it the right way. They get aircraft operating safely and most efficiently."