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SPINSTRA powers Air Force innovation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Abbey Rieves
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

Clean-cut hairlines and tight hair buns fill a classroom.

Electricity sparks from the tesla coil like lightning remorselessly striking the earth.  Laboratory apparatuses of all sorts line the shelves, hinting at the hidden mysteries of science.

Curiosity glows in the students’ eyes like embers exposed to kindling as they watch the Special Instruments Training course demonstration.

The 312th Training Squadron instructors delicately prod into their students’ innovation and creativity, training them to think outside the box and into the realm of science. 

“One of the things our schoolhouse teaches is the necessary skills to innovate, operate, and maintain the U.S.’s primary nuclear weapons detonation and proliferation detection systems,” said Tech. Sgt. David Hunt, 312th TRS course instructor. “...Which is a fancy way of saying that we are highly trained technicians who specialize in detecting radioactive events around the world.”

Many of these classroom skills include: abilities to locate the enemy, report to the appropriate people, and neutralize the threat.

“Furthermore, through our seismic detection system, the students learn to be constantly prepared, making decisions regarding our enemies’ capabilities,” said Tech. Sgt. Dillon Gibbs, 312th TRS SPINSTRA course instructor supervisor. “This allows senior leadership to make decisions in real-time.”

Instructors are trained to harvest their students’ untouched ingenuity, like a spile tapping a maple tree for syrup.

“We don’t only teach the students the things they need to know in order to do their job as 9S100s, we teach them lifelong learning skills,” said Gibbs. “Through our NOVA Lab, we strive to get the students interested in learning new and innovative ways to solve problems, which the students can apply in their lives both on and off duty.”

Following Air Education and Training Command priorities, SPINSTRA constructs a ready, resilient and rapidly innovative Air Force, just like their students assemble a hovercraft from spare parts tucked away in the NOVA lab.

“We are some of the primary innovators in AETC. If there is a technology or method out there that can help students learn, we have probably tried it, collected data, and innovated a solution,” said Hunt. “In the entire course, we have zero PowerPoint slides, instead we discuss and engage. This attitude has allowed us to be lead innovators in the education sector for the Air Force.”

In addition to supporting AETC’s mission, the core mission of “SPINSTRuctors” is to develop Airmen for the operational Air Force in competencies such as, electronic principles, applied sciences, computer and network fundamentals, phenomenology, and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance fundamentals.

Col. Angelina Maguinness, 17th Training Group commander, is constantly impressed by the Airmen in the 9S100 reporting identifier. 

“I was lucky enough to lead a large group of these superstars as a squadron commander, I saw their outside-the-box problem solving approach day in and out. It’s no different here in the training environment,” said Maguinness. “Our SPINSTRuctors nurture their students’ innate curiosity and channel it towards the skills they’ll need to solve the Air Force and, for that matter, Joint Force problems. These are truly amazing Airmen!”

Additional specialized training may also include: geophysical, radiochemical, radio frequency, fixed airborne collection platforms and nuclear deterrence techniques.

“With near-peer adversaries destabilizing due to their pursuit of nuclear weapons, the students learn deterrent techniques,” said Gibbs. “We also train our students how to utilize tools, which can track intercontinental ballistic missiles and other large missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, through multiple satellite platforms.”

Leading by example, SPINSTRA instructors cultivate an environment of excellence.

“The goal of every instructor is to be a role model for the students to strive to be,” said Gibbs.   “We SPINSTRuctors show the students that making mistakes during training is okay, so long as they strive for excellence in any task, that is excellence in all we do.”