SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – When the Air Force goes to war, most people instantly think about fighter aircraft and munitions.
While those pieces are important to the fight, the deeper reality is it takes a vast network of resources such as people, equipment, supplies, infrastructure and more to wage war. To do so, a skilled group of men and women is needed to make that logistical challenge happen, and they get their initial skills training here at 363rd Training Squadron’s Air Force Logistics Officer School in aircraft maintenance, munitions and logistics readiness officer courses.
After several years in the field, logisticians return to Sheppard AFB for their respective intermediate course. The Maintenance Officer Intermediate Course, which hosts aircraft maintenance and munitions officers, is upping its game by transforming and experimenting with how experienced logisticians are trained on complex logistics principles as well as how they are tested on their understanding of and ability to articulate those concepts during a capstone event. It went a step further recently when logistics readiness officers were looped into the modified final thesis.
Maj. Cassidy Bair, an aircraft maintenance officer and MOIC instructor since June 2018, has led the charge on the course transformation, adding that his experiences in the field and down range created the desire to improve the course. The end goal, he said, is to produce better logistics officers with a firm conceptualization of managing logistics in any environment and location.
“We want to test you here in a safe environment where you can learn, where there is no impact on the mission or the people,” he said.
The construct of MOIC the past 10 years or so has consisted of two blocks of instruction with multiple-choice exams at the end of each block. A discussion of the concepts taught was also part of the course, but it didn’t really engage the students on a level that put them in a stressful situation to put their knowledge to the test.
Bair said the thesis presentation method was developed and implemented to put teams consisting of four students in front of experienced logisticians – some with 20-30 years of experience – with a given scenario. MOIC students are provided source documents such as Operational Plans, War and Mobilization Plans, Time-Phased Force Development Data, Manpower and Equipment Force Packages and many more.
The scenario requires students to discuss the deployment and set up of combat operations anywhere in the world, even a bare base if necessary, and how to methodically establish combat capability through logistics. This includes, but is not limited to, working with contracting for support, engaging local governments, placement of different operations and more. The officers then have to identify limiting factors and shortfalls, develop and implement logistics solutions and defend those decisions and solutions to a panel.
Each capstone event has led to significant improvements, Bair said, based on feedback of his performance as an instructor and how students presented their case. Each career field – 21As for aircraft maintenance and 21Ms for munitions – brings something to the table, and it even differs in each field as they respectively deal with different aircraft or missions.
Putting the 21As and 21Ms in a room together is when the “magic happens,” he said, because they put their experiences together to come up with solutions.
The most telling improvement, he said, came during an experimental capstone event that included students from the Intermediate Logistics Readiness Officer Course, or the 21Rs in the logistician equation. Bair said 21Rs handle the bulk of logistics issues – airlift, supplies, fuels, vehicles and others.
“A lot of the lessons learned aren’t just from the materials and academics, but they’re learned from each other,” he said.
Bair said 21As and Ms were able to tap into the knowledge their 21R colleagues possessed and develop stronger plans and presentations for the panels. He said it’s how logisticians in the intermediate courses should have been trained and graded for some time.
The format forces students to spend quite a bit of time researching and planning for their specific scenario before presenting to a group of logisticians who already have the answers and the experience to know whether or not they have acquired and retained the complex principles.
“You can’t cover it up. You can’t fake it,” Bair said. “You have to brief it. You have to know it. You have to understand it.”
Work still needs to be done before the new MOIC capstone construct and inclusion of ILROC students can become a formal training concept and assessment procedure. That’s another logistics issue to work through, with the 363rd TRS leading the way.