Flying Yankees train for Herculean tasks

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gregory A. Behr
  • Commander, 103rd Maintenance Squadron
Have you looked out of your window lately? If you have, perhaps you've noticed a C-130 being towed around in circles on the ramp. This is not the tow crew practicing for the next NASCAR race. This is maintenance training. Even before the first new aircraft arrived, members of the 103rd Maintenance Group were deeply engaged in hands-on training, learning how to maintain and service the C-130. With the arrival of our first aircraft last month and then the second aircraft last week, this training has really accelerated.

Our training on the aircraft is progressing on many fronts. First, two months ago we sent a small cadre of maintainers down to Hurlburt Field's Field Training Detachment in Florida where they learned the basics of the C-130 and its systems. This group then traveled to Little Rock Air Force Base to accept our very first aircraft. Once that aircraft arrived on the ramp at Bradley, our folks descended upon it. With the help of a group of seasoned C-130 maintenance professionals from the 123rd Airlift Wing, our new sister unit from the Kentucky Air National Guard, informal training began.

This group of 7-levels began working with us, performing jobs and signing us off on essential tasks. This phase of training was key to the success of our recent roll out ceremony for, without it, the aircraft would not have been ready for display. This informal phase of training will continue until at least the end of the year, with members from Kentucky and the 133rd Airlift Wing in Minnesota rotating in to train us and get us signed off on tasks we need to perform on a daily basis. Special thanks for this go out to our own Comptroller Flight, led by Lt. Col. Dave Fecso, whose assistance made it possible.

On October 21, the second phase of maintenance training began. On that day, we welcomed a group of C-130 instructors from the school house at Little Rock. Formal classes, called FTTs, began here at Bradley on Tuesday for a variety of maintenance AFSCs. This training, which includes both classroom and on aircraft hands-on work, is the first formal phase of the training pipeline. At any moment for the next several weeks, one can see these classes in progress as our maintainers climb all over both aircraft with their instructors, performing actual service and repairs, while exploring the C-130 and learning their new jobs. Our Maintenance Training Office, led by Master Sgt. Sabrina Wiggett and assisted by Tech. Sgt. Amy Robison, put this all together by scheduling classes and converting spaces, some of which were literally closets, into workable classrooms.

The next phase probably won't be as noticeable around Bradley ANGB, but it is perhaps the most significant element of the whole evolution. After our maintainers have learned the C-130 in FTT class, they will be going on the road to put into practice what they have learned. Currently, we have groups of people slated for TDYs in November, December, and January. They will be going to our fellow C-130 wings, mainly Kentucky and Minnesota (yes, Minnesota in January!) to execute what they have been taught. Together with those wings' 7-levels, they will maintain and service their C-130s. They will participate in isochronal inspections, home station checks, and flightline operations in the harshest of environments. After participating in the informal training and FTT classes here at Bradley and the experience of actually working in a C-130 wing for a few weeks, our 103rd maintainers will be ready for action upon their return.

It is an exciting time in the maintenance group. We are actually watching the evolution of skilled C-21 and A-10 maintainers becoming C-130 professionals in process, as it happens. Everyone in maintenance is thrilled that what we have been talking about for years is finally happening. It's a challenge, but one that we have been working toward for a long time. I am confident that our people will take us into our new mission successfully, after learning the C-130 aircraft, both inside and out.