128th Aviation Brigade / By CW3 Thomas Parker: March 23, 2016 marked a pivotal date in the history of the 151A Aviation Maintenance Technician training.
The 12 members of the first modernized 151A Warrant Officer Basic Course graduates pause for the Kodak moment March 23, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA. First row (l to r): WO1 Joseph F. Keyes, WO1 Derek A. Wilkinson, WO1 Nicholas L. Self, and WO1 Thomas E. Robbins; 2nd Row: WO1 Chad H. Patterson, WO1 Derrick Costine, WO1 Stephen C. Daniels, and WO1 Timothy W. Livingston; Back Row: WO1 Loren M. Ruslander, WO1 Jason R. Voigt, WO1 Paul R. Furgal, and WO1 Christopher R. Krause./128th AVN BDE COURTESY PHOTO
Three years earlier, warrant officer leaders in the 128th Aviation Brigade began the process of reviewing, revising and redesigning the initial military training for the newly minted 151A Aviation Maintenance Technical Warrant Officer. There were well known redundancies in the training programs that claimed 151A training as their core mission at that time. Obsolete and non-mission-specific subjects were being taught in the Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC). NCOs selected for Warrant Officer Candidate School to matriculate into the 151A field attended WOCS, then the basic course and the Aviation Maintenance Officer Course. Often these courses were not aligned and there would be months of waiting between courses. Another issue was a requirement for the armament officers to earn the special qualification identifier Echo (SQI-E). It was taught to both pilots and aviation maintenance technical warrants, but was deemed to be no longer relevant to the career track for aviators. Show rates at the school became so low that many classes were cancelled as units could not support either because of deployments or lack of interest. As a result, units in the field frequently went without an SQI-E trained officer. The impact of the divestiture of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior further exacerbated an already difficult situation.
Modernizing the Curriculum
On May 26, 2015 the changes to the 151A Aviation Maintenance Technician Course were approved that impacted both 151As and aviators with a revised individual training plan (ITP). This ITP eliminated the SQI-E armament training as a stand-alone functional course and rolled the skills and knowledge into the WOBC course. Now commanders will know that every graduate of the 151A course is also armament trained. The “modernized” course rolled up all redundant training being conducted in other courses at Ft. Rucker like Aviator WOBC and Aviation Maintenance Officer Course (AMOC) and expanded on it with broadening education opportunities with Defense Logistics Agency and others. 151As now have access to real world Standard Army Management Information System (STAMIS) to conduct research and prepare decision and phase flow briefings to real world battalion and brigade commanders.
Upon graduating Warrant Officer Candidate School, 151As now attend a 19 week course of instruction in the 128th Aviation Brigade at Fort Eustis which includes the WOBC and AMOC requirements taught at Fort Rucker as well as ensuring that all 151As are armament trained. Although WOBC has been extended from 9 to 19 weeks, the deletion of redundant training reduced the total time that students have to be in training by 4 weeks. This resulted in a projected savings of $6.8 million in the first three years of implementation.
The First Graduates
On October 19th, 2015 the first class of twelve Active, National Guard and Reserve component warrant officers began WOBC with the new program of instruction. Six cadre officers from the Warrant Officer Training Division of the 128th Aviation Brigade combined lessons from the legacy course, armament course, and new material for common core subjects to fulfill the 19 weeks of training. The class successfully graduated on March 23, 2016 proving the viability of ITP redesign. Currently there are two more WOBC classes in progress.
As with any initiative, there is no time to stop and refit. The instructors face the challenge of producing training products while conducting training as full time instructors. The 19 week course created another challenge, the increase in the length of the course created overlap in classes requiring the instructors teach multiple classes at the same time at different points in the 19 week course. For the first time in the history of the 151, the Warrant Officer Training Division had three classes in session with 32 students attending. This initiative will pay off in terms of resources saved, students properly trained and better aviation maintenance technicians going out to the combat aviation brigades.
CW3 Thomas Parker is an instructor/writer for the 151A Course assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.