JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Instructors assigned to 1st Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, play a critical role in keeping the U.S. Army’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters operational, involving training and educating the next generation of avionic mechanics, the 15N military occupational specialty.
Approximately 200 Soldiers pass through the course each year to help maintain nearly 5,000 junior enlisted Soldiers in the 15N community. These soldiers perform unit and intermediate maintenance on tactical communications security, communication, navigation, identification friend or foe, and flight control equipment for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
“Our mission here at the schoolhouse is very important to ensure that when these Soldiers get to their new units, they know how to go through their training manuals, their publications, and then conduct all the hands-on maintenance on the aircraft,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Ellis, Charlie Company, 1-210th Aviation Regiment, 15N Avionics Instructor.
The primary mission of the Black Hawk helicopter is being a troop carrier and logistical support aircraft, but the helicopter can also be configured to carry out medical evacuations, command-and-control, search-and-rescue, armed escort, electronic warfare, and executive transport missions.
“For the pilots and copilots who are flying the UH-60-class helicopters, our role is very important as we work on all their navigation systems, their flight systems, communications systems, and everything that entails the aircraft can actually fly,” said Ellis.
Army aviation units with these helicopters typically have 10-12 avionics mechanics assigned to them. This usually equates to small teams of two mechanics per helicopter, where Soldiers in this career field perform these important duties.
“It definitely adds stress knowing that if I make a mistake or skip steps, that could result in someone who doesn’t come home to their family,” said Pvt. Jeremiah Stirn, 128th Aviation Brigade, 15N Avionics Mechanics, student. “So I am very motivated to make sure I learn how to do everything.”
To qualify as 15N instructors, Soldiers must hold the rank of sergeant or above. Those selected for an assignment at Joint Base Langley-Eustis will be required to go through two classes prior to instructing their first course. The first is the Cadre Training Course, providing the soon-to-be instructors training on professional behavior and conduct when interacting with students. The second is the Common Faculty Development-Instructor Course, which teaches how to guide and educate adult learners.
“I really like instructing, and being able to share my knowledge,” said Ellis. “Plus, I may run into them out in the field in the future, but it’s really passing along knowledge that I’ve gained and the expertise I’ve picked up to turn around and train them the correct way and complete the mission.”
The students pass through different blocks of instruction starting with general subjects, improved basic electronics training, data networking, communications, navigation systems, automatic flight control systems, and aircraft survivability equipment.
“The curriculum here at the schoolhouse is challenging, because they have to have good core mathematics first, further that into the technical manuals and publications, then be able to troubleshoot and fix the faults,” said Ellis.
“The instructors have been phenomenal because they use all their knowledge and hands-on experience, and you can really tell they know what they’re doing,” said Stirn. “They have a really good way of remembering what it’s like in our shoes, and that they too had to start from the beginning by building us up from the basics. They’re always willing to answer questions and engage with us. It feels like they’re really doing a good job of keeping the class on the same level to move forward together.”
Because technologies continue to change and update, instructors also frequently refresh themselves on the materials and equipment they educate students with, resulting in ongoing education for Soldiers in the 15N community.
“When the students graduate, I hope they walk away with the knowledge they’ll need to go to their units where they’ll get more hands-on training and grow even more as avionic mechanics,” added Ellis. “So they’re able to teach their future Soldiers future them.”