MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Team Misawa constantly maintains a high operations tempo, preserving their force lethality while developing the best leaders to dominate in air, space and cyberspace.
To help maintain the wing's F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet, the base received an influx of new Airmen who are expected to flawlessly generate Wild Weasel sorties.
In order to bring these new Airmen on as effective members of Team Misawa as soon as possible, the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron initiated their Misawa Ready Technician program mid-August, a one-of-a-kind initiative within Pacific Air Forces.
“This program is more of a mentorship-based training versus standard upgrade training which is more checklist-oriented,” said Master Sgt. Michael Mahaffey, the 35th AMXS assistant superintendent. “It focuses on performing every aspect of the job perfectly with emphasis on doing things right the first time, developing good habits from the beginning to create positive routines.”
The program’s design bridges the gap between new Airmen and experienced, soon-to-be-departing personnel, who pass on their wealth of knowledge through their years of working in the operational Air Force.
“It’s an informal, peer-to-peer-based training and mentorship for first-duty location 3-level aircraft maintainers,” Mahaffey explained.
During this program, newer personnel receive training while generating aircraft for real-world missions, including learning how to work with the Viper's avionics setup, preparing sorties and executing preflight and post-flight checks for high tempo operations.
“There are differences between the airframes taught in technical school and the ones we have at Misawa,” Mahaffey said. “The program highlights those differences as well as prepares our Airmen for their 5-level upgrade and career development course material.”
Upon graduation from their technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, new personnel achieve a skill ranking of three, meaning becoming task certified is their primary focus, followed by exercising their knowledge on flight theory, hydraulics principles and other aircraft systems.
“The biggest difference between technical school and the operational Air Force is you must go through learning processes to see what skills someone should focus more on,” said Airman 1st Class Tyler Bunn, a 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “You end up asking your superiors a lot of questions.”
The course facilitates their upgrade training, while concentrating on job capabilities.
“Having Airmen participate in the program benefits the wing by providing qualified and ready technicians to meet the needs of the 35th Fighter Wing and be ready to ‘fight tonight,’” Mahaffey said.
Bunn said another benefit the program has is preparing Airmen for job flexibility in the early stages.
“I think learning things early on helps the squadrons because it makes you more knowledgeable on jobs,” Bunn said. “The more proficient we become with our skills the better quality service we can give pilots when they need us for something.”
Although Mahaffey said this is the first time the program has been implemented, he said other bases in different major commands have similar programs, but hopes it will carry on to other careers outside of aircraft maintenance.
Once solidified, Mahaffey said larger groups of maintenance Airmen should expect to be placed into the program when they arrive at Misawa.
“This program will hopefully encourage Airmen to take initiative in their own development and go ‘against the grain’ and not get complacent within the maintenance realm,” Mahaffey said. “It’s easy to take short cuts, but if Airmen can lead by example, be knowledgeable and have initiative, we can save the Air Force time and money in the long run.”
As Misawa’s program continues to grow, Mahaffey concluded he is sure it will eliminate any training gaps between technical school and the first-duty location work center requirements, fast tracking Airmen to be self-sustainable, reliable and qualified technicians meeting the needs of the 35th FW.