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Born Under Fire: Soldiers, Airmen learn to maintain air assault weapons

By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois | 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | March 1, 2017


Along a half-mile radius at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, large warehouses filled with 300 different training simulators and approximately 3,000 computer stations provide a real-life training experience for U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force helicopter maintenance students.


In those warehouses, instructors and course developers assigned to the 128th Aviation Brigade transform approximately 6,000 aviation maintenance, logistics and leadership students into technically qualified aviation maintainers and logisticians as tactically proficient aviation maintenance leaders every year.


The 128th Avn. Bde. earned its name, ‘Born Under Fire,’ when it was temporarily formed during Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989. The brigade served there until its deactivation in 1995, and was then reactivated in 2012.



Today, the 128th Avn. Bde. is made up of three battalions that trains roughly 1,750 students a day, where initial entry Soldiers learn how to repair and maintain avionics, electrical systems and armaments for the AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk.



According to Mark Jones, 128th Avn. Bde. deputy to the commander, each battalion ensures training is realistic, relevant and rigorous to establish a well-rounded aviation specialist for each battalion’s aerial platforms.



“We try to make the atmosphere here as professional and realistic as possible for the students,” said Jones. “We teach our students with tangible equipment and full-scale helicopters to provide realistic training opportunities and prepare them for real-world scenarios in aviation repairs.”



As technology continues to advance, the training equipment throughout the program is upgraded to reach the demands of the aircraft and students.



“Our Logistics Training Department is constantly looking at better ways to train our Soldiers and Airmen,” said Jones. “We have to be cognizant of how each generation learns, and with this generation we can cut down the amount of time it takes to train through technology and web-based models.”



According to Jones, the U.S. Air Force has plans to build new UH-60 Pave Hawk virtual trainers, which will help prepare Airmen in the Brigade’s courses on how to repair the advanced aircraft.



The technology upgrades benefit more than initial entry Soldiers. The 128th Avn. Bde. offers advanced NCO technical-level classes, warrant and armament officer technician courses and international student studies, shaping Soldiers of all ranks and backgrounds into proficient aviation mechanics and leaders.



“There’s a lot of support from our instructors here to completely understand what we are doing,” said U.S. Army Spc. Benjamin Conover, 128th Avn. Bde., 1st Battalion, 222nd Avn. Regiment student. “They are constantly pushing students to ask questions, so we have everything we need when we go out into the real-world.”


According to Conover, the program emphasizes discipline and quality work within the Soldiers during the 12 to 24-week courses. Instructors teach maintenance procedures ‘by the book’ and stress repetition as the key to safety in the workplace.



“It never ceases to amaze me as the different generations flow through here, they are as motivated and as patriotic as the previous generation,” said Jones. “They may do things a little differently but their motivation is just the same. The pride that the folks who work here have in seeing these young Soldiers graduate and move on to do great things is what makes working here really neat.”



Through demanding courses and realistic training opportunities, the 128th Avn. Bde. Trains the new generations of Soldiers and Airmen with advanced technology to repair and maintain the military’s air assault weapons.

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