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AFE: keeping aircrew safe starts at the 361st TRS

  • Published
  • By Julie Svoboda
  • 82nd Training Wing

Changes in Aircrew Flight Equipment course curriculum and instruction methods initiated by career field managers and instructors are providing Airmen in Training with more interactive, engaging, and relevant training before they begin their careers. 

AFE specialists are required to have a wide breadth of knowledge and skill to maintain every piece of equipment that not only keeps a pilot safe, but could potentially save that pilot’s life.

Three years of audits and planning culminated in “shredding” the Air Force Specialty Code into AFE specialists who work with either ejection or non-ejection equipment, whereas before the change, all AiTs received the same training. This change was the first course re-write in 14 years and required hiring new instructors.

According to Master Sgt. Juan Arrieta, 361 Training Squadron Flight Chief, the previous AFSC created knowledge gaps and additional job training requirements.

 “When I graduated tech school, I went straight to Dover, Delaware,” he said. “I stayed there for years and I learned nothing but non-ejection aircrew equipment. Then I got orders to Langley where they work with nothing but fighters. I could go to a brand new base and not know any of the equipment. So, you have people in supervisory roles who are not subject matter experts.”

Tech Sgt. Colten Wells is an instructor for the ejection side of the course. He further explained the benefits of the new curriculum.

“Now the subject matter experts teach either ejection or non-ejection,” he said. “The students are getting more stories to fill in the gaps instead of just teaching the lesson. They are learning about experiences.”

Another advantage of the new curriculum is increased hands-on training with career-relevant AFE equipment.

“Students are required to have a certain number of repetitions per piece of equipment,” Arrieta said. “For parachutes, instead of just practicing and testing out, they have to pack it five times to get qualified.”

In addition to curriculum changes, instructors are exploring training methods that create a more interactive, student-centric approach that goes beyond instructor-led lectures, papers and memorization. Funds that were awarded for improving training technology have been earmarked for interactive technology, whiteboard tables and tablets so students can easily brainstorm and present information in class.

“We’re trying to make it more interesting than just sitting in front of a screen,” Arrieta said. “They can be more involved in the discussions that we have in class. It creates a better understanding than just memorization and tests.”

According to Arrieta, the improved curriculum and continued evolution of instruction methods produce AFE technicians who are better prepared for the demands of the career field.

“The AFE career field confronts a multitude of challenges due to the integration of new portfolio items and advanced technologies, along with high operational tempo and frequent changes in location,” he said. “AFE technical training at Sheppard AFB is striving to revamp their efforts and upgrade the quality of training and proficiency of AFE technicians. This endeavor is accomplished by retaining expertise within specific platform equipment types to support their assigned mission set.”