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AFE Instructor with a Passion for Educating

  • Published
  • By Airman Colleen Coulthard
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

“I tell my kids this, and I tell the people I work with, you learn more from mistakes you make than me telling you how great you are every day of your life,” said Tech. Sgt. Mack West, 2020 outstanding instructor award recipient.

As the aircrew flight equipment superintendent, West shares his years of experience, and personal lessons with the military community, his family and friends. 

West earned Air Force recognition for furthering the capabilities of the training mission and being an outstanding asset to the AFE community and the 33rd Fighter Wing.

His enthusiasm for education is the bedrock of his professional success, but at its start wasn't intended for the military. West planned to complete his six  year commitment, get out,  then teach high school, but as he put it, life happened. Soon, he found himself behind the podium developing and instructing future generations of parachute riggers across the Army, Marines and Air Force. 

West taught at the schoolhouse in Fort Lee, Virginia, where he learned to adjust his teaching style to the different dynamics of a joint force classroom.

“It was really cool to experience the different branches and to be able to teach them,” said West with a broad smile. “To see the different aspects of how people learn and what motivates people to learn.” 

That lesson carried over into his personal life, as he and his wife homeschool their children. West adjusts his teaching style for each of his children based on their personalities and learning styles.

West said he would never try the same techniques with his daughter as he would with his son, or one branch of service the same as another. 

In West’s opinion, each service branch, and member, has a different way of learning, and for West, finding out how to motivate each person gets him excited to go to work every day.

West taught parachute rigging for four years before he joined the 33rd FW a little over seven months ago. Here, he’s tasked with supervising our AFE shop and preparing Airmen to brief the pilots on the equipment their lives depend on.

“You’re the first line of what these pilots see; they need to know you’re confident in what you’re doing,” said West. “We want the men and women wearing our equipment to know they’re going to be safe.” 

He recalls what was drilled into him as a new instructor; everything starts with training.

“If these guys aren’t being trained right from the very beginning, they’re going to bring that to the next person,” said West. 

Even as the 33rd Operations Squadron AFE superintendent, he continues to help the survival equipment community. He readily seeks out training opportunities and receives requests for assistance with AFE training.

For example, at the beginning of March he assisted, packed and prepared new parachutes to help establish a new unit of free-fall parachute jumpers in lieu of the backlogged pandemic numbers.

West said, if he could impart one thing to other instructors and students, it would be being able to take constructive criticism. 

“Be honest, and don’t be afraid,” said West. “If there are mistakes being made out there, let's point them out, let’s fix it. That’s the only way we're going to get better at it.”