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337th ACS graduates the next generation of Weapons Directors

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Abigail Duell
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

The 337th Air Control Squadron graduated its first Undergraduate Weapons Director Course in over 22 years at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 6, 2023.

The 337th ‘Doghouse’ is a geographically separated unit of the 33rd Fighter Wing. The Doghouse graduates an average of 160 Air Battle Managers each year, but they have now taken on the responsibility of graduating around four classes of Undergraduate Weapons Directors each year as well.

“UWD is for enlisted weapons directors and ABM is for officer battle managers," said Tech Sgt. Sergio Abarca, a formal training instructor with the 337th ACS. “The biggest difference between a UWD and an ABM is that ABMs are aviators who actually receive wings and are able to fly, whereas WDs are ground based controllers specifically tasked to do the same job, however, on a ground level.”

UWDs and ABMs work alongside one another to execute the mission at hand.

“There are usually more WDs on a crew as opposed to the senior director so you're able to give more perspective as to what you see on scope as opposed to what they see,” said Tech Sgt. Jerimah Jensen, 337th ACS UWD graduate. “As time and experience come, you can voice different game plans on how to attack things and how to work more fluidly together. Instead of ABMs leading WDs, it becomes more of ABMs and WDs working together.”

With the two working side-by-side, the enlisted corps is given more of a say in air defense and air intercepts.

“There’s a saying in our career field, once we step into the tactical operation center rank does not matter, your position is what matters,” said Abarca. “Whether you are a Lieutenant Colonel or a Senior Airman, if you're seeing that position or that scope, you are that position or that scope. It doesn’t matter what rank you are when it comes to executing the mission.”

UWD training was moved to the 607th Air Control Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, years ago. However, due to manning and changing threats, it will now be a shared effort between both bases.

“The 607th ACS was more for enlisted, while ABMs were trained here at Tyndall Air Force Base,” said Tech Sgt. Matthew Clark, a formal training instructor with the 337th ACS. “We made minor tweaks to the syllabus so we can teach WDs here as well.”

With this being the first WD class to graduate from Tyndall in over 22 years, there were some obstacles students faced.

“The most challenging part of the course is how condensed it was,” said Jensen. “You’d get over one task and be trying to figure out what you did wrong and how you can improve, but the next day you’d wake up and you're already onto the next task, trying to figure out how to do that one to perfection as well.”

The instructors are prepared to help students adjust to the length of the course and overcome any other obstacles they may face during training.

“It’s a lot of lessons learned,” said Abarca. “Every time a student goes through a specific block or course of instruction, there is an end-of-course review which allows students to share their input regarding the academics that were taught. We take that feedback and we try to create a better syllabus for future WDs and ABMs.”

The instructors of class 24-1 are especially proud of their students' persistence and motivation throughout the course.

“When they first got to Tyndall they didn’t look motivated,” said Abarca. “Our job as the class commanders is to motivate them and show them that this can be done. Now that they're graduating, they're bright eyed, happy and proud of themselves that they made it this far. There may be a time where we move onto the next unit and wind up controlling alongside them, and that’s what’s exciting for me.”

With the reestablishment of the UWD course, the 337th ACS is prepared to meet the evolving challenges of modern air combat. This achievement signifies the squadron’s commitment to its vital role in ensuring air dominance and security of the nation.