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AETC highlights education and training vision to industry leaders

This patch from a graduating class of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, is one indicator of the type of Airmen joining the service today, according to Maj. Gen. Erv Lessel, AETC director of plans, requirements, programs and analysis.  The Air Force must adapt education and training to effectively reach Airmen of today and tomorrow. (Air Force Art)

This patch from a graduating class of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, is one indicator of the type of Airmen joining the service today, according to Maj. Gen. Erv Lessel, AETC director of plans, requirements, programs and analysis. The Air Force must adapt education and training to effectively reach Airmen of today and tomorrow. (Air Force Art)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- More than 70 representatives from 44 corporations met here March 6 to consider ways industry might partner with Air Education and Training Command to make the vision of the future of education and training a reality.

Attendees at the AETC Industry Forum came from all parts of the country and represented diverse slices of the corporate world -- including the defense industry, information technology and communications sectors.

Maj. Gen. Erv Lessel, AETC Director of Plans, Programs, Requirements and Analysis, hosted the event, sharing the command's vision of the future of education and training in the Air Force. The command recently published the AETC White Paper, "On Learning: The Future of Air Force Education and Training," a vision for Air Force learning transformation.

General Lessel spoke of new Airmen today as 'digital natives' -- people who have grown up in the digital age, accustomed to the technology available today. To illustrate that point, the general told those in attendance of a recent trip he made to Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, for a pilot training graduation.

"The first graduate I saw had a patch -- each class has a patch they design -- and it looked like an iPod. At the top was a pilot with a helmet and mask on, and with earbuds on the side," the general said. "This is the kind of Airmen we have coming into the Air Force today. They are thinking mobile technologies, podcasts and video. We have to adapt to the way they learn."

The general stressed the potential impact of industry on the command's efforts to transform learning, noting that solutions must be flexible and adaptive. "We need to be able to make quick changes when necessary -- not long, drawn-out processes that result in the technology we select being obsolete by the time we implement the programs."

For their part, many attendees were interested in how far along the vision was in securing commitment at higher levels of the Air Force. AETC has begun to show the briefing to senior leaders. Some industry representatives suggested working closely with other services to develop a joint effort. Others suggested creating a collaborative consortium from industry, academia and government. Much discussion focused on getting the commitment needed to make headway on the various objectives they saw outlined.

General Lessel highlighted several promising examples of the potential impact of live, virtual and constructive training. One recent success involved a test at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. By harnessing technology, four actual F-16s were joined by four additional virtual F-16s -- two flown by pilots from a simulator on the ground and two that were computer generated targets. Using the same images and displays, the effect was to have eight planes in an air-to-air engagement while only using four live aircraft.

"You can imagine where this goes in terms of savings and direct support sorties that could be flown in a simulator or computer-generated," General Lessel said. "We've successfully demonstrated this and are looking at implementing it at Luke and other fighter training bases as an Air Force Smart Operations 21 initiative."

Addressing some of the suggestions and questions from the members of industry in attendance, General Lessel said the White Paper was a result of more than nine months of very hard work, but that those nine months were the easy part.

"The real challenge is implementation. How do we transform from where we are now to an Air Force v2.0 Learning Organization? In the White Paper, we've outlined the important concepts for the future of education and training. The technology is here today and will continue to advance -- it just needs to be applied using these concepts."
The general said the advantages are well worth pursuing.

"The focus of this vision is to harness the power of new technology and leverage the new skill sets Airmen bring to the Air Force to build knowledge-enabled Airmen."
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