Squadron enhances Air Force recruiting, training, education

  • Published
  • By Studies and Analysis Squadron
  • Air Education and Training Command

When it comes to improving recruiting, training and education, many Airmen should consider this Team Randolph squadron to be their best friend.

Since its formation 12 years ago, the Air Education and Training Command Studies and Analysis Squadron provided the research, testing and assessment of training and education technologies and aircraft to ensure they meet the needs of the Air Force.

When considering any technological or software improvement to aircraft or the education and training systems, Lt. Col. David Denhard, SAS commander, said his squadron always looks out for the interests of the operators who will use them and the maintainers who will fix them.

"We couple the operator's perspective, a maintainer's field experience and a one-of-a-kind PhD-level study capability to improve AETC recruiting, training and education programs," Colonel Denhard said.

What makes SAS successful in its mission is the unique blend of personnel that it can bring to a project.

"The squadron has two experienced test pilots, three former crew chiefs, eight avionics, engine, and munitions specialists, and three personnel who have doctorates in mathematics - that's a formable capability that can be brought to bear to a project," Colonel Denhard said.

The squadron is composed of four flights - the Test and Evaluation Flight, Command Studies Flight, Technology Innovation Flight and Training Analysis Flight. Each flight has a specific function.

Test and Evaluation Flight

The Test and Evaluation Flight conducts tests and evaluations for new and modified aircraft training systems, computer systems, programs and techniques and at times, supports the work of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M.

SAS is the primary squadron for testing the T-6A, T-1A and T-38C.

"Following Air Force instructions, SAS is the agency that allows AETC to meet its mandatory operational testing requirements," Colonel Denhard said. "We are the eyes and ears for testing Air Force assets and protect AETC against accepting deficient modifications to aircraft. This preserves aircraft integrity and promotes efficiency and safety that is needed at the training wings under AETC."

Working on the T-6A upgrades is Maj. Kent Currie, SAS T-6A test pilot also serving as SAS director of operations. Major Currie has been flying the T-6A for more than eight years.

While contractors are developing new modifications for the T-6A, he works with an integrated test team who reviews and consults with the contractors.

"When I test a new modification in the aircraft or simulator, I put myself in the scenario of a student pilot going out there and flying with it," Major Currie said. "Can he or she operate it and does it operate like it is supposed to under that environment?"

Besides being suitable for student and instructor pilots, any new modification must be cleared by AETC officials, the major said.

"It has to meet Air Force requirements," he said.

The major added the testing he performs in the T-6A will be valuable to pilots in the field.

Command Studies Flight

The Command Studies Flight applies mathematical research techniques and statistics to AETC studies, training plans, programs and operations. The data that is gathered by the flight is passed on to AETC leadership so they will make informed decisions about training programs and systems.

Recent work has included optimizing undergraduate pilot training scheduling, recoding of the enlisted job spin algorithm, future of pilot training analysis, technical training continuum upgrades and AETC balanced scorecard analysis.

Working on pilot scheduling is Capt. Ryan Caulk, scientist and Command Studies Flight commander.

"The work we did on pilot scheduling enabled the command to process pilots through the training pipeline 35 percent faster than the previous scheduling program," Captain Caulk said. "This saved AETC and the Air Force $16 million annually in training man-days."

Technology Innovation Flight

The Technology Innovation Flight leads teams to identify, assess, evaluate and communicate innovative training and education technology solutions and also provides test and evaluation support for the new Advanced Learning Technology Demonstration program that identifies technologies for training and applications.

Working with the command's Future Learning Division, SAS is testing new technologies to be used by the next generation of Airmen.

SAS is actively involved in a project converting two Keesler AFB cyber classes from a PowerPoint slide delivery method to virtual world delivery method.

"Instructors will collaborate with students through avatars which will be virtual representations of themselves," said Marlon Gardley, SAS Test director. "The avatars will reflect basic, but accurate characteristics of each person attending the course."

In the virtual world, instructors can conduct PowerPoint presentations, show videos and assess student knowledge, he said. Students can to meet one-on-one or in groups as needed to complete the course. This distance learning test should be completeSeptember 2010.

"The main benefit to be gained from the virtual classroom is a substantial savings in Temporary Duty cost," Mr. Gardley said. "More Airmen will be able to attend and return to duty sooner."

Training Analysis Flight

The Training Analysis Flight focuses on new and developing Air Force weapons systems being deployed. The flight assesses new weapons systems to determine technical skills aircraft maintenance personnel will need to maintain them.

A project of international scope for SAS has been the training system development for the F-35 Lightning II fighter, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as Great Britain will be using the combat aircraft once it is put into service.

Master Sgt. Jason Higgins, project training analyst, said SAS helped the Air Force and the contractors of the project, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, by pointing out unneeded training tasks  for the F-35.

"The main purpose of our oversight for the F-35 Instructional System Development is to ensure accurate and complete requirements are developed which are responsive to the needs of the Air Force in training future F-35 aircraft maintainers," Sergeant Higgins said. "Our meticulous review of the contractor's products to include training requirements development, courseware products and the development of training devices ensures the training meets the needs of the Air Force."

The squadron continuously plays an important role in helping the Air Force and AETC make informed decisions regarding improvements in recruiting, training and education programs, Colonel Denhard said.

(Ashley M. Wright, AETC Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)