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Gearing Up
Sheppard graduated the Air Force’s first group of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Avionics Systems apprentice’s Nov. 7. They will soon be responsible for making sure the aircraft's electronic systems are functioning properly, (courtesy photo)
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Sheppard graduates Air Force's first RPA avionic maintainers

Posted 11/12/2013   Updated 11/12/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

11/12/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Sheppard graduated the Air Force's first group of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Avionics Systems apprentice's Nov. 7, during a cermeony here.

The group of newly trained students is stepping into a career field that's seen an increasing amount of importance in the Air Force mission, which recently reached its two million hours of flight Oct. 22.

"I can't wait, I really want to get on that flight line," said Columbia, S.C. native, Airman 1st Class Adryen Reed, a 365th Training Squadron graduate.

The aircraft, which provide enhanced mission capability while keeping service members out of harm's way, will soon have its first batch of formally trained Airmen. Before the course itself came into existence, avionic maintainers had to learn through on the job training. With the first class of graduates, the avionic technicians are formally trained to ensure the electronic systems on RPAs are functioning correctly, and are ready to meet the mission objective of global readiness.

As Reed prepares to move on to Creech Air Force Base, Nev., he is proud of his new career and the role it will play in defending America.

"I'm very happy," he said. "Taking care of it means the people we're defending aren't getting hurt over there."

As the Airmen received their diplomas and pinned on their coveted occupational badges, there were a mixture of emotions for attendant and attendee alike.

"Everyday bought new challenges, but they (students) overcame them all," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Ashley, RPA and F-22 Raptor element chief.

For Airman 1st Class Austin Catey, a 365th TRS student from Lincoln, Ill., he looks forward to the impact he will have on the aircraft itself.

"I feel important because what I do matters," he said. "I like watching them take off and knowing I'm the reason why."

Teaching the course for the first time presented challenges as well for the instructors. 

"It was overwhelming at first," said Staff Sgt. Stan Dunahoo, primary RPA avionics course instructor.

Regardless of the initial difficulty of being an instructor for the Air Force's first RPA avionics class, Dunahoo knew he wanted the job from the moment he took it.

"I had pride from day one, I jumped at the opportunity," he said. "To be a part of that is amazing."

Dunahoo looked forward to the challenges his job offered and impacting other Airmen's lives in a positive manner.

"UAV's are the future," he said. "To be one of the pioneers teaching the course is a good experience."

When the graduation ended and each Airman filed out, having overcome one set of challenges, they face an entirely new one of going into a career field where the sky is literally the limit.

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