The moment when everything clicks


It was a hot Afghanistan deployment and the flightline power generators were all experiencing the same problem, too much rotation speed.


The generators were pulled off the flightline like pancakes off a griddle.


Good news was an Aerospace Ground Equipment technician had recently trained before his deployment and he knew just how to fix the issue.


Senior Airman David Castillo-Collazo, 31st Maintenance Squadron AGE journeyman, learned why the problem happened when he attended an advanced maintenance course at Aviano Air Base. 


The 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 24 instructors teach courses to Airmen on advanced techniques to increase their maintenance skills after technical training.


“An Airman may know how to fix a generator,” said Master Sgt. Richard Jones, 372nd TRS detachment chief, “but the instructors want them to know why the issue occurs and how best to troubleshoot the problem.”


This field training detachment teaches approximately 40 students a month, each student averages six months to two years of maintenance experience.


“The majority of our students are new Airmen, but I have taught a 10-year maintainer before, it all depends on how they fall on the list,” said Jones.


The list is a set of mandatory courses that Airmen in certain maintenance career fields must take at field training detachments. Field training detachments started during WWII and required maintainers to gain more knowledge on aircraft maintenance systems.


Jones and his 12 instructors continue that tradition teaching 33 courses across six different career fields. The courses can last anywhere from two to 24 days long, and for the most part are hands-on classes.


“We pull Airmen away from their busy work schedules, where they constantly grind out aircraft repairs to keep jets in the air, and set them in a quiet classroom to learn distraction free,” said Jones.


Some instructions are simple: This is how this part works, this is how to troubleshoot the problem, and this is how to repair this part. But when Airmen are working on a fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons worth hundreds of millions of dollars, simple instructions can quickly change to complex maintenance theories and processes.


“Once a student takes one of our courses, they fully understand all the ins and outs of the job and why it’s important,” said Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Aviles, 372nd TRS production superintendent and AGE instructor. “Learning these theories are important because Airmen are going to experience issues on the flightline, and they need to know how to identify the causes before there’s a larger problem.”


The classes simulate real-life malfunctions that the students must find and fix. Sometimes during simulations, real scenarios occur.


During a routine systems check on some AGE equipment, a part that regulates the temperature was not working correctly and Aviles’ students needed to figure out how to fix the problem.


Although he wasn’t in Afghanistan this time, this was still a real life application he needed to solve.


Castillo-Collazo grabbed his laptop for technical orders which provide detailed steps to take. He followed proper troubleshooting steps and fixed the regulator.


“I took a generator training course before my last deployment,” said Castillo-Collazo. “Soon I’ll deploy again, and if anything goes wrong with this equipment, I’ll be good to go.”


Real life trouble shooting scenarios are key to measuring an Airman’s improvement. The instructors want each student to improve his or her own skills and become experts in their career field.


“We want to understand what their knowledge is coming into the course. Whether they are an Airman fresh out of technical training or 10 years of experience and recently switched from heavy aircraft frames to F-16s,” said Jones. “Once we know their experience level and how they learn, we help them find that ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.”