By Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs / Published July 28, 2020
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCORD, Wash. -- The 62nd Airlift Wing is conducting a trial run for a new way to train C-17 Globemaster III aircrews and keep them up to date on qualifications from July 1 to Dec. 31, here.
Maj. Nick Burke, 62nd Operations Support Squadron director of wing training, partnered with the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) to design a new training plan and is executing a small group tryout (SGTO) with the 7th Airlift Squadron.
Research done by AFIT into C-17 training showed air crews have been struggling to balance training schedules with operational and administrative commitments.
“This is about preserving the sanctity of training,” Burke said. “I am trying to design a program of training methodology that one, helps protect the training resources we are given and use them more efficiently, and two, clearly correlate training completed to C-17 mission readiness.”
Burke shaped his training reform based off a research paper written by Lt. Col. Sean McConville (M.S. Operations Management, 2019), Secretary of the Air Force acquisitions analyst, who wrote the paper while at AFIT. In his study, McConville stated under the most ideal circumstances, together McChord Field and Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, had 87 pilots short of what they needed to organize, train and equip, run administration and execute the mission.
“There was a lot of parallels to the research and structure that McConville proposed in his research paper,” Burke said. “I reached out to him to get more background and details to help develop it into a trial here. I was trying to capitalize on the research he did and help Air Mobility Command (AMC) in their endeavor to correlate readiness.”
Training sorties generally take two days: one for planning and another to fly. In the current method, aircrew members are often pulled from the instructional period to fly operationally or for administrative duties. This means they may go into the training flight with very little idea of what is expected from them.
Training sorties themselves are also filled with a variety of unrelated training and qualification tasks. According to McConville, they are like if a high school, in one period, taught 10 minutes of algebra, five minutes of chemistry, 10 minutes of literature, 10 minutes for study hall and 10 minutes for gym. His study also showed that on some these flights, pilots were having to sit in the cargo compartment because there were so many on one sortie.
“Our training sorties in the past have lacked coherence and focus,” he said. “What we are trying to do is group similar skillsets together to help those training sorties to be more effective. We have used mathematical modeling that has shown our training is more efficient when we do it this way.”
The current training model also makes it difficult to correlate completed training tasks and mission readiness.
Burke’s plan attempts to mitigate both the correlation issue and unfocused training sorties by grouping the training into skill set-based sortie profiles. Instead of having one flight that consists of instrument flight, low-level flight and approach work, each one of those would be broken up into its own training sortie. This makes the training more effective and efficient, saving the aircrews about 15 percent in flight hours.
The profiles will also make it easier to see what skill sets a pilot has accomplished and therefore what missions they can fly. Instead of completing one aspect here and there required for a particular mission, all the requirements will be completed on the same sortie profile. Then, when a pilot is needed to fly an operational mission requiring certain skill sets, one would only have to see who had completed the profile or profiles that correlate to that mission.
“This isn’t about overwhelming them with advanced skills sets,” McConville said. “This is about taking a building block approach and protecting training so we can put the necessary blocks in place for crews to be successful in the environment heralded by the national defense strategy.”
The final change Burke’s plan is implementing is when training sorties are due to be complete. Currently, all the training is required to be completed at the end of each semi-annual period and it is up to individual pilots to complete all their training in the time frame. Burke has formatted the new plan, so it forms a continuously rolling currency. Each profile will be due at a certain time during the period so aircrews can focus on completing that training before moving on to the next.
“The new training plan has received a lot of support from the aircrew members themselves,” Burke said. “We have had a few growing pains just getting used to the methodology. I think once we establish a nice routine over the next couple of weeks, I expect good things.”
Capt. Shelby Foster, 7th AS pilot, participated in an air refueling training sortie under Burke’s new training plan.
“I thought the training went great,” Foster said. “This was my first flight under the new training. I’m really curious to see how it works with the other training profiles. I am very optimistic; I like how it gives us a good objective to focus the majority of our time on during the sortie.”
Starting in October, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, will also conduct an SGTO will the new training plan. The hope is to take lessons learned from the McChord and Charleston trials and begin another trial period in January, and eventually change the way C-17 training is conducted across AMC.