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Boom’s experience drives passion for instructing

Airman 1st Class Patrick Napolitano, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, tests his oxygen mask before a refueling flight, July 12, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Before any flight, oxygen masks are tested as part of the boom operator’s pre-flight checklist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller)

Airman 1st Class Patrick Napolitano, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, tests his oxygen mask before a refueling flight, July 12, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Before any flight, oxygen masks are tested as part of the boom operator’s pre-flight checklist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller)

Staff Sgt. Lane Nunier, left, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator instructor, observes Airman 1st Class Patrick Napolitano, 350th ARS boom operator, as he completes a checklist prior to a refueling mission, July 12, 2017, over the Pacific ocean. As an instructor, Nunier observes and asks questions to new boom operators to gauge their level of understanding to ensure every new boom is qualified before they are able to operate on their own. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller)

Staff Sgt. Lane Nunier, left, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator instructor, observes Airman 1st Class Patrick Napolitano, 350th ARS boom operator, as he completes a checklist prior to a refueling mission, July 12, 2017, over the Pacific ocean. As an instructor, Nunier observes and asks questions to new boom operators to gauge their level of understanding to ensure every new boom is qualified before they are able to operate on their own. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- In the military, every situation can be used as learning experience. For boom operators that holds especially true.

After completing specialized training to become instructors, they are qualified to train the next generation of booms.

“I like instructing and teaching,” said Staff Sgt. Lane Nunier, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator instructor “I like being able to show booms how to do our job. To have the opportunity to look at my past experiences and giving them what I learned and things I wished I would have known when I was a young boom.”

Although Nunier has only been a certified boom instructor for a little over three months, his instruction has proven invaluable to one of the new boom operators.

“I was taught a lot of stuff when I was in the initial boom qualification course, but there is a lot of things that weren’t taught, like how to fill out specific paperwork and what needs to be accomplished on a daily basis,” said Airman 1st Class Patrick Napolitano, 350th ARS boom operator. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job without [Sgt.] Nunier showing me the ropes.”

When a new boom operator arrives to McConnell from technical school, their training isn’t over. They complete 120 days of mission continuation training where they learn the local procedures for the base, said Nunier.

“Everything we do is hands-on,” said Nunier. “It’s the hand on experience that makes a boom confident to do their job. Every chance we get, we try and send them on temporary duty, so they can ask questions while they have an instructor there before they are on their own.”

While TDY, boom operators get hands on experience that can’t be replicated in a classroom setting, while having the safety net of a boom instructor nearby ready to step-in if needed.

“[Sgt.] Nunier is a good instructor,” said Napolitano, who recently completed the first TDY in his Air Force career. “He put me out there and let me do my thing. It was cool to have him there to back me up and to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.”

It’s the knowledge gained from his past experiences that drove him to be an instructor.

“I want to be better for the new booms, I want to be there for them,” said Nunier. “I want to be what I wished I had as a young boom. It’s what makes me want to be an instructor.”