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Upgrade training on Kadena critical

Airman 1st Class Jackie Elton, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion systems apprentice, disassembles an F-15 engine as part of five-week upgrade training at Detachment 15, 372nd Training Squadron. Det 15 has hands-on training devices to better teach what maintainers will see on the flightline in their jobs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Hallford)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan-- Airman 1st Class Jackie Elton, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion systems apprentice, disassembles an F-15 engine as part of five-week upgrade training at Detachment 15, 372nd Training Squadron. Det 15 has hands-on training devices to better teach what maintainers will see on the flightline in their jobs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Hallford)

KADENA AB, Japan -- Living on an island in the Pacific, it is difficult for Airmen to travel from Kadena Air Base back to the United States to receive needed upgrade training for mission support and career advancement. 

Field Training Detachment 15, 372nd Training Squadron is a maintenance training unit instructing a gamut of aviation maintenance-related courses for Airmen who keep Kadena and other Pacific Air Forces flying. 

"We teach various classes covering 14 different specialty codes," said 1st Lt. Daniel Kline, Det. 15 commander. "Our courses are similar to what you would find at technical school, although our typical customers have already been through tech school and are working on upgrade training." 

The 14 instructors assigned to the detachment teach courses such as F-15 and KC-135 crew chief qualification, aerospace ground equipment, communications and navigation, jet engines, electrical and environmental systems, F-15 avionics, munitions, weapons, fuels and egress. 

"One of the unique aspects of our det is tied to the 18th Wing," said Lieutenant Kline. "We have a good mix of heavy and fighter instructors due to our host wing having both types of aircraft. Typically, a detachment such as ours is geared toward one airframe, the one associated with the host wing. Kadena has four airframes (F-15, KC-135, E-3 and HH-60) in the host wing with another one (MC-130) at the 353rd Special Operations Group." 

To provide more "bang for the buck," Lieutenant Kline said some of their instructors are proficient in two or more of the Kadena-based airframes. 

"We are called upon to support other bases throughout PACAF," he said. "We routinely send instructors to Korea, mainland Japan and even Alaska to teach. There are other dets in PACAF, but ours has the most diverse group of instructors with the widest base of knowledge and courses we teach." 

Det. 15 also offers the only fuels and egress instructors in PACAF, an essential requirement in the region, who also receive extensive requests for instruction at other bases and for allied forces. 

"One other aspect of what we do is when our instructors are not teaching, they are normally in the maintenance areas helping out," said Lieutenant Kline. "Having to be experts in their fields, our instructors regularly get calls to assist with troubleshooting or offer opinions on a problem. We have to maintain a close relationship with our host, and that is one of the best ways we do that." 

Col. John Harris, 18th Maintenance Group commander, said training is the foundation of any successful maintenance organization and having Det. 15 at Kadena is vitally important. 

"They're solid team players and often go the extra mile by helping us troubleshoot aircraft problems that are beyond our ability," said Colonel Harris. "They are significant contributors to the successes we've experienced." 

The detachment boasts maintenance trainers valued at $8.2 million. The trainers include F-15 weapons systems, jet fuel starting systems, flight controls and F-15 engines. 

"We are fortunate to have several trainers, like the F-15 engine, F-15 armament trainer and the F-15 control trainer," said Master Sgt. Chad Yerger, Det. 15 chief. "The trainers are used by instructors to give hands-on training on various systems. Instructors can input faults into the systems, allowing the students to troubleshoot actual problems they may see on the flightline. It challenges the student to apply their system knowledge and ultimately builds their confidence in repairing broken aircraft." 

The equipment provides training from basic system knowledge to advance troubleshooting without tying up real aircraft. 

"Without the trainers, we would have to use operational aircraft, which most times would render the aircraft non-mission capable," said Lieutenant Kline. 

Det. 15 has graduated more than 830 students thus far this fiscal year and completed more than 13,000 instructional hours.