JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
After 30 years of being part of an Army-driven HH-60 helicopter repair curriculum, the Air Force has stepped out on their own.
"Since 1994, the U.S. Air Force and Army have worked together at Fort Eustis to train new maintainers on the HH-60 helicopter,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Daniel Willey, 362d Training Squadron Detachment 1, commander. “This consolidated relationship has been a great benefit to both services over the years; massing personnel and resources in one location to assist both services in their training, but as the weapon system changed over time so must the training.”
With the arrival of the new Sikorsky HH-60W Jolly Green II Combat Rescue Helicopter, referred to as a “Whiskey,” the Air Force is focusing on the new search and rescue capabilities it brings and their mission’s specific requirements.
“Our platform started to diverge from the Army's platform, and the decision was made to create a separate, Air Force-only, course to focus our training specifically on the new HH-60W,” Willey said. “The Air Force and Army will continue to share some resources as we enter a new co-located relationship, but this Air Force-specific course will allow us to focus our training on our specific requirements, and fill the need for highly trained and agile HH-60W crew chiefs."
According to Tech. Sgt. Sean O’Neill, 362d Training Squadron, Detachment 1, HH-60W repair instructor, noncommissioned officer in charge, the course is geared to be student-led. When the students are “behind the wheel,” they relay the information, and the instructors can then guide them from the right or wrong premise. Instructors can also delegate to other students who have the correct answers so students can help and learn from each other; preparing them to lean on one another as they undoubtedly will out in the field.
“We are seeing the students get more involved,” O’Neill said. “Them almost guiding the class [helps] them better understand the material.”
The new Whiskey brings new main and tail rotor, transmission and drive, fuel, electrical, and hydraulics systems. It also has a new electronic hoist, new refueling probe, and a litter system unique to the HH-60W that allows for more personnel to be transported.
“There are a lot of moving parts on this aircraft that are really critical,” said Senior Airman Juan Perez, 362d TRS Det 1, HH-60W helicopter repair student. “If they are bypassed or missed, lives will be lost there for sure.”
The new course started Jan. 16, and will prepare about 90 students with the 2A5X2 Air Force Specialty Code per year. With a class size of 10 – 12 students, instructors are able to better understand individual learning styles among their class. This allows the instructors to dedicate and concentrate efforts where needed to deliver the highest quality crew chief they can to the Air Forces’ rescue community.
“Our instructors are 100 percent invested in the course,” Perez said. “They take their time to make sure no questions are left unanswered, even staying extra time to benefit the Airmen.”
According to Alvin Benedict, IV, 362d TRS Det 1, instructor supervisor, the new Whiskey simulator they have available to the students allows them to train in ways past courses could not. The instructors can have the students power-on the different systems, and perform real checks and diagnostics. Along with the ability to change out parts, the students can run actual operational checks they would’ve simulated in the past.
“With the rescue community, we’re out there to save lives,” O’Neill said. “Without maintainers, those aircraft aren’t flying, the pilots aren’t flying, and the pararescue men aren’t able to provide that support. Without aircraft maintenance, rescue missions won’t happen, and lives can’t be saved.”
Every Friday the instructors impart the importance and heritage of the rescue mission with video documentaries and the instructors’ personal experiences; giving students not just a skillset, but a mindset.
“We give the students the tools to think on their own, and try to work out different scenarios and situations,” Benedict said. “We are sending them so far forward than the students we were able to put out in the past, and I’m really hoping our rescue units out there can see a change in the type of Airman they’re receiving.”