FRANCIS E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyoming — About a year after a Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, field training detachment began missile maintenance training at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, instructors are seeing more mission-ready Airmen head to the field.
More than 20 personnel at the 373rd Training Squadron’s Detachment 21 stood up the detachment in October 2016 to bolster missile maintenance training that better meets the needs of the Air Force and Global Strike Command. After decades of a legacy training platform called “team training” that was owned by each of the Air Force’s three missile wings, the historic move to standardize maintenance training is paying dividends.
Tech. Sgt. DeMichah Rumph, a 15-year missile maintenance veteran who served as an instructor in the legacy system from 2009-2011, said he has heard from some of his colleagues in Warren’s 9,600-square-mile area of responsibility that they are receiving a highly trained Airman ready to go to work when they complete the FTD’s training.
“It feels great,” he said. “I thought even before, I took pride in how we train and putting those technicians out there. But now, I feel even more proud. I know that these technicians that are going out now will definitely uphold our national security to the highest because of our training that they’re receiving.”
As certified Air Education and Training Command instructors, the cadre is able to apply the method of teaching used by instructors at Sheppard Air Force Base that enables missile maintenance Airmen to better retain the instruction and operate in the field. Rumph, who is a facility maintenance technician, said Airmen going through training at the detachment are instructed and shown a specific procedure, then practice it before performing a progress check. If an Airman does not pass the progress check, instructors can reteach the concept to ensure proficiency before moving on.
Missile Maintenance Team instructor Tech. Sgt. Errick Wernecke, who has been at F.E. Warren since 2008, said the legacy training was adequate and got Airmen task-qualified to go out to launch facilities and work. But, the materials used to train Airmen there weren’t necessarily the same as what was being taught at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and Minot, North Dakota, meaning an Airman who moved to one of the other two wings might not be fully qualified on that base’s procedures.
He said subject matter experts from all three wings got together to look at their respective processes and how they could turn that into a system that was consistent and provided a standardized set of instruction. The result, he said, was a program that was already superior to the legacy program when the new platform launched in January 2017.
Wernecke said another difference between the legacy program and the new platform is AETC works to develop and invest in their instructors.
“That’s one of the big switches with AETC,” he said. “We are putting in that time to develop our instructors to make sure they are teaching standardized content across all three wings.”
Wernecke said he is confident the Airmen being fielded now from the AETC-led program are more confident in their skills because of the new set of standards and training systems developed by the AETC-Global Strike team. He said the Airmen have a better understanding of how and why maintenance should happen and in what order.
While there might be some growing pains as all involved get accustomed to the new way of conducting initial qualification training, Wernecke said the change that happened in 2016 was right from an operational standpoint.
“Any organization, and the Air Force in large, is made better by good Airmen and good NCOs doing the right thing and holding a high standard, and that’s not something I brought here. That came from the (intercontinental ballistic missile) community and that came from the Air Force,” he said. “I had the pleasure of putting that together and working with a great team.”
The change was prompted by a 2014 nuclear enterprise review that identified a delay in initial qualification training because Global Strike Command wings were responsible for both executing their mission and training their Airmen. AFGSC and AETC were then each given a task: AFGSC was to look at how they could train Airmen faster, and AETC was to look at whether or not a formal training program was needed for missile maintenance Airmen.
Leadership of both commands agreed in 2015 that formal training detachments at the three missile wings was the best way to train instead of the legacy programs. The three detachments were activated in October 2016.