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A new breed: Sheppard begins training fifth-generation crew chiefs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jacob Corbin
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
The first class of F-22 Raptor crew chiefs began training Jan. 29 at the $21 million Raptor Maintenance Training Facility at Sheppard.

Seven Airmen new to the Air Force and one cross-trainee from the Virginia Air National Guard are the first to undergo initial skills training on the F-22.

"Thank God for an American people that understand when you field a fifth-generation fighter, you need fifth-generation training," said 82nd Training Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux when the facility officially opened in October 2007.

The journey for one Airman in training began months ago when he learned his future was with the Raptor.

"It's almost a dream to work on this aircraft," said Airman 1st Class Aaron Tate. "It was a surprise when I got my orders (and) it said 'F-22 crew chief.' I just jumped up and down." 

The base's journey to the dream began in February 2005 when crews broke ground on the facility here. The vision didn't end with the construction of the facility.  It expanded with a unique way of looking at training maintainers.

The new concept is to have various maintainer career fields -- crew chiefs, avionics, munitions and fuels to name a few - located in one facility that is airframe-specific. Courses from the 361st, 362nd, 363rd and 365th Training squadrons will be housed in the new facility, consolidating every specialty related to the F-22.

"We have really changed how we view training," said Col. Steven Morani, commander of the 82nd Training Group. "This building is the model for the future of training in the Air Force."

The course will feature a heavy dose of computer-based training, including F-22 mockups for hands-on training. The full-scale devices will allow instructors to provide input and stumbling blocks for the crew chief-in-training to troubleshoot and repair the problems on their own.

G. Jay Brown, a program manager with DME Corporation, the Florida-based company that produced the cockpit trainer and seat and canopy trainer, said most of the mockups are made from actual aircraft parts. That means by the time the crew chiefs graduate and move on the work on actual F-22s, they are already familiar with the aircraft.

"It's what they'll actually see and feel on the real aircraft," he said. "If they go anywhere in the world, (they'll) know exactly what (they) are doing."

The mockups cost about three percent of the cost of an actual Raptor, and free up F-22s that would otherwise have been set aside for training.

Staff Sgt. Abiasaph Maldonado Jr., a member of the 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va., said that while he hasn't worked on a Raptor, his Guard unit has been servicing the aircraft since its arrival at the Air Combat Command base. The sergeant was part of a first when Langley began receiving the airframe; now he's part of a first again.

"I'm very excited to be in this course," he said. "I've seen what (the Raptor) can do. To be part of something as great as the F-22 is just awesome. It's just unbelievable."

Not only is the facility causing change, but knowing that being part of a new breed of maintainers is something that will be with this first group of students for a long time to come.

"They will go through their entire career knowing they were in the first F-22 crew chief course," said Tech. Sgt. John Jefferson, an instructor supervisor with the 362nd TRS and a veteran Raptor crew chief.

The crew chiefs will have little time to occupy the building alone. Armament and avionics courses are scheduled to begin within the next week and six more crew chief classes are scheduled to begin before the first class graduates in April.
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