Maintenance education empowers Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"Without maintenance, pilots are just people who wear sunglasses and cool jackets" - is inscribed on one of Staff Sgt. Jason Lanehart's coins.

While the statement may be one of harmless jest and rivalry, it is particularly appreciated among aircraft maintainers.

Lanehart's coin is displayed in a classroom, where he teaches upgrade training to KC-135 Stratotanker crew chiefs like himself. He is assigned to Detachment 8 within the 373rd Training Squadron, and is one of several instructors who support the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

"We certify Airmen through Air Mobility Command-mandated courses," said Lanehart, "which enable them to expand their maintenance capabilities. Basically everything you can think of that a crew chief needs to be signed off on - that's what we teach."

Detachment 8 offers three-day familiarization courses and two-month long courses.

Classes are held with a low student-to-teacher ratio, providing a more personal learning environment. Lanehart's classroom seats just a total of four students.

"I prefer a small classroom environment," said Airman 1st Class Levi Dorsch, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief journeyman. "It's much more personal and it's easier for the instructor to go more in-depth. Bigger classes tend to rush things and make it difficult for everyone to get enough hands-on experiences."

Airmen who belonged to a different type of airframe or even those who specialize in separate career fields but still work closely with crew chiefs can receive refresher courses at Detachment 8.

"If a hydraulic specialist wanted to learn more about crew chiefs or get qualified on some of our tasks," said Lanehart, "they can come through the familiarization course."

Advanced courses are typically reserved for more experienced crew chiefs who thoroughly understand the fundamentals of their career field.

"It's nice being able to have two years of experience before moving on to the advanced stuff," said Borsch. "Going back to the flightline after I complete the multi-point fuel systems course is going to be a lot of help."

Each lesson requires students to complete tasks at a satisfactory level before moving onto the next. If a task is completed incorrectly, the result may be disastrous. This is why some lessons are simulated.

"We use the same aircraft simulator pilots use to simulate faults," said Lanehart. "After each 'sim,' we discuss the results and how problems could have been avoided."

Class work is not strictly limited to hypothetical simulations. The students are sometimes asked to correct real aircraft problems on the flightline.

"If there is a maintenance issue, it's great for the class," said Lanehart. "We'll get our students in there, fix the problem and learn a few things while doing it."

Plans are in development to expand the detachment building and rework the curriculum, since McConnell AFB was selected as the main operating base for the new KC-46A aircraft.

"We are already preparing for the KC-46 arrival. We'll have classes ready to go because we'll need to start training people immediately."

An expanded detachment will also train new Airmen directly after their completion of Basic Military Training.

Additionally, the need for training allows instructors to go to other bases to educate other maintainers.

"Instead of sending a bunch of students to us, we just send one instructor to teach an entire squadron," said Lanehart. "It's much more cost effective."

All courses taught at Detachment 8 are accredited through the Community College of the Air Force. Graduates leave with college credits, strong credentials for their resumes and skills that can help them excel on the flightline.

"When specialists come out and see that you actually know what you've been talking about, it builds respect and helps break down the walls between career fields," said Lanehart.

Certificates from Detachment 8 also have potential to enhance the details of a crew chief's job description, and without maintenance, missions don't move - another 'coined' concept that is well understood by aircraft maintainers.