DOD civilians, contractors design, develop variety of training devices

  • Published
  • By Robert Goetz
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs
More than 40 Department of Defense civilians and contractors who work in four facilities on the north side of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph are engaged in a vital mission that impacts thousands of Air Force members throughout Air Education and Training Command and at other DOD organizations.

They're assigned to the 902nd Mission Support Group Trainer Development Division, which ensures Airmen and civilians have the right devices to train for their missions.

"Trainer development provides necessary trainers serving a vast array of career fields within the Air Force," Kevin Haley, 902nd MSG TDD director, said. "I often remind our people that whenever they see a news story about a successful mission performed by an Air Force member or team, it is very likely that those people have spent time honing their skills on a device we built."

The numerous Air Force members who rely on the Trainer Development Division's devices for their training include pilots, emergency responders, maintainers, weapons and cargo loaders, radio operators and flight engineers, he said.

The TDD - which comprises a workforce of engineers, machinists, welders, painters, sheet metal mechanics, warehouse workers and other specialists - is currently working on 15 assignments, Haley said, but has handled as many as 40 projects at one time.

Just a few of the division's noteworthy projects over the years include the B-1B Armament Systems Trainer, the C-17 Cargo Load Trainer, four aeromedical evacuation trainers at JBSA-Camp Bullis and "side-by-side" trainers previously used to train navigator students at JBSA-Randolph in preparation for their actual T-43 flight training, Paul Ramsay, 902nd MSG TDD design and development supervisor, said.

"The B-1B Armament Systems Trainer has been in service for many years at three bases, with an initial savings to the government of more than $120 million," he said. "The C-17 Cargo Load Trainer, which was first developed for use at JBSA-Lackland but is now located at Fort Lee, Va., replicates major portions of the C-17 cargo compartment to support initial training for Air Force and Army air cargo specialists."

The TDD also designed and built its own version of the Bárány chair, a device that replicates flight environment phenomena, helping students prepare for aircrew qualification, Ramsay said.

"This design has become very popular," he said. "More than 20 have been produced and delivered, including some for foreign countries through the DOD and the State Department."

One of the division's latest projects is the Advanced Air National Guard Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System, which "provides a high-fidelity artificial environment, where a student JTAC can learn and gain proficiency in managing an operational scenario," Ramsay said.

The system features a 5-meter dome screen with numerous projectors to provide a realistic environment, a huge database of high-fidelity locations, and complex and sophisticated software.

"The project is ongoing and being managed so that each of several prototypes will become a delivered operational unit to fulfill a requirement in the field," Ramsay said. "Currently, 10 systems are funded for production and delivery with numerous more orders being prepared and processed for potential funding."

He also said all TDD employees will likely have a role in the development and delivery of the AAJTS trainers.

Ramsay said the AAJTS project "represents AETC's commitment to total force support, initiated by and in partnership with the ANG and involving Headquarters Air Force, Air Force Special Operations Command, the Army, NATO entities and other interested parties."

The TDD is also building a changed prototype version of the multi-mission crew trainer in support of ANG training, which Ramsay said "provides a comparatively low-cost platform with high-fidelity simulations of C-130 aircraft performance and out-of-the-windscreen geographical presentations.

"This platform is proving very useful as an economical stair step into high-dollar simulators and aircraft sorties with touch-screen technology for controls and instruments, and actual aircraft wheels and throttles to add to the realism," he said.

Other current projects are several trainers for the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, including computerized adaptations of its C-130 maintenance trainer to operate without the use of actual fuels that is no longer acceptable at its new location at JBSA-Lackland, and a B-52 landing gear trainer for Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., Ramsay said. The C-17 aeromedical evacuation trainer now being developed will join the other 767 and two C-130 aeromedical trainers at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

"We're in almost constant contact with AETC and other customers regarding trainer requirements they are working to submit via work order, once funding and other circumstances permit," he said.

Ramsay said the effects of sequestration and budget reductions underscore the importance of using devices rather than aircraft for training purposes, which saves the Air Force money. TDD workers also contribute to cost savings by fabricating parts with the assistance of an extensive machine shop and reusing parts.

Haley said JBSA-Randolph houses one of four trainer development organizations in AETC; the others are at Sheppard AFB, Texas, Keesler AFB, Miss., and Kirtland AFB, N.M.

"These trainer development organizations are primarily dedicated to serving the tech training missions on the bases where they are located," he said. "The trainer development division here at JBSA-Randolph is somewhat different in that our primary customer base is spread throughout the country at a number of AETC bases."