USMC sets up first F-35 maintenance FTD
The USMC is standing up their first-ever field training detachment (FTD) with the 372nd Training Squadron (TRS) Detachment 19 at Eglin, part of the 982nd Training Group at Sheppard AFB, Texas.
Utilising the FTD will allow the marines to train the initial core group of F-35 maintenance cadre to staff the creation of new F-35 maintenance squadrons throughout the corps.
It will combine USAF and the navy’s F-35 maintenance training operations and the detachment is part of Air Education and Training Command's 82nd Training Wing, headquartered at Sheppard.
‘We decided that the air force model for maintenance training was the right way to do business,’ Marine Capt John Park, the 372nd TRS commander said in a USAF statement. ‘The marine corps, when we go to a platform, stay there for our whole careers ... so this is new to us. Having marines move to the F-35 from the F-18 Hornet or AV-8B Harrier is unheard of, so it's a big change in our training process.’
The 372nd TRS will ensure that air force and marine corps trainees are fully qualified to work on the DoD's newest weapons system, and will include crew chief, egress and environmental, avionics and airframes training.
‘We have 10 Marines as instructors,’ Park continued. ‘Right now, we are focused on training and transitioning experienced airmen and marines to the F-35 from other airframes, getting the maintenance foundation set so they leave us to head to the field fully task-qualified.’
All the marine instructors went to Eglin from the F-35 testing unit at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, US, where they gained three years’ experience on the aircraft. The navy is currently scheduled to start its own maintenance programme over the next few months, with ten instructors set to join the detachment.
Classes at the FTD last between 45 and 90 days depending on the specialty. Although trainees are transitioning to the F-35 from other airframes, the long-term plan is to send marines through the initial training pipeline to build up the overall military specialty manning numbers.
Being able to train in-residence at Eglin AFB, as opposed to out in the fleet in an on-the-job training environment, speeds up the marines' overall learning curve, USAF said.
‘We are trying to take a learning process that usually takes three to five years of on-the-job training in the marines corps and turn it into a 90-day or less class,’ Marine Staff Sgt Chris Johnson, a power line (crew chief) instructor added. ‘It's incredible what we can do with the best people and training in the world.’
The 372nd TRS, part of the 982nd Training Group at Sheppard AFB has 28 detachments around the globe. The 982nd TRG conducts hands-on aircraft, munitions and communications-electronics training at 46 locations worldwide, including Europe, Alaska and the Pacific theatre.
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