Home>Features>Feature - Technology: It’s literally in the driver’s seat at Dobbins
Training Certification Center instructors perform simulator testing using an excavator and dump truck simulator. Tech. Sgt. Ryan Cleary (standing) provides additional instruction to Master Sgt. Anthony Bourdeau and Tech. Sgt. Sean Collins of the TCC. The TCC is using simulators to train heavy equipment operators before they take their seats in the real thing.
by Gene Van Deventer
Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command
5/25/2012 - Citizen Airman/June 2012 -- For years, Air Force Reserve Command has taken advantage of simulators to provide its aviators with a realistic, cost-effective and safe training environment. Now, the command's civil engineer community is getting in on the act and using state-of-the-art simulator technology to train its cadre of heavy equipment operators.
Once referred to as the regional equipment operators site, the Training Certification Center at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., contributes significantly to the combat readiness of civil engineers across the command. Celebrating its 10th year of training excellence, the center recently acquired state-of-the-art heavy equipment simulators that improve the instructors' teaching ability by allowing them to oversee multiple students' hands-on-performance simultaneously rather than on an individual basis. In addition, the simulators allow students to receive their initial field indoctrination on heavy-duty equipment such as bulldozers, front-end loaders, dump trucks and road graders in the classroom instead of in the field.
More than 750 civil engineers from a wide spectrum of specialties receive annual training certifications at the TCC. In addition to preparing civil engineers for all types of ground situations faced at home station and during deployments around the globe, the training is a prerequisite for attending CE's Silver Flag exercise.
For maximum benefit, the heavy equipment simulators use the same controls found in the actual equipment. During each training session, the simulators record the students' actions, allowing instructors to play everything back and go over the scenario in great detail.
"The simulators provide a safe environment using heads-up computer displays and actual maneuvering devices, such as shifters, levers and foot pedals," said Master Sgt. Christopher De Void, noncommissioned officer in charge of the TCC's Pavements and Equipment Section. "Training exercises are native to each machine and include varied applications from trenching with the hydraulic excavator to moving objects with a clamshell on the front-end loader."
Using the simulators instead of actual equipment for training is easier on the wallet and the environment. Because the simulators operate on electricity instead of fuel, they save money and eliminate harmful emissions. Additionally, simulator training eliminates the risks to personal safety inherent in operating heavy equipment and can be conducted without having to worry about the weather.
"Our new simulator additions include the dozer, front-end loader, off-highway truck, motor grader and hydraulic excavator," said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Cleary, a TCC instructor.
"These five simulators will be used primarily for 3E2s (pavement and equipment operators), but they will also be used for contingency training for other CE career fields. We're excited in taking this giant technological leap forward; it is an initiative that will help significantly to reduce fuels consumption and greenhouse gas emissions."
Instructor Tech. Sgt. Alexes Abrams said after students have mastered the required equipment skills, they will continue their training on the real equipment. Successful accomplishment will allow students to obtain a certification of training and/or certificate of contingency training. Contingency training is familiarization training that the Air Force requires either once a year or every three years.
The TCC also conducts mission-essential equipment training, a program that affords civil engineer units access to low-density basic expeditionary airfield resources assets not readily available at their home stations. Instructors teach 40-hour expeditionary and contingency training courses for 11 civil engineer career fields in the training center's main campus classroom and at two field training cantonment sites.
At the main campus, classroom instruction provides the students with in-house techniques pertaining to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detection equipment and access to learning resources via computer media.
At one of the field training sites, students receive expeditionary bare base environment training. Blocks of instruction focus on active CBRN response, global positioning system surveying, electrical distribution, mobile essential power generators, reverse osmosis water purification, environmental control units, refrigeration units, revetments and shelter systems.
At the other field training site, instructors focus on airfield operations and recovery training tactics. Students are trained to install and troubleshoot emergency airfield lighting and mobile aircraft arresting systems. Additional instruction involves airfield marking, aircraft minimum operating strip selection, live-fire burn exercises and special-purpose vehicle training. The course curriculum varies with the needs of the specialty, providing civil engineers with a broad, yet concise, training regimen.
Also at the TCC, crane certification is available, existing as a biennial (every two years) certification venue for initial and refresher training. The mission-essential specialized training program offers numerous courses in order to maintain proficiency for both the in-garrison and expeditionary environments. Instruction in areas such as unit control center/command and control, joint tactical radio operations, and explosive ordnance disposal (and reconnaissance) rounds out the certification courses provided by the TCC.
The civil engineer community is essential to base operational support, both at home and in-theater. The acquisition of heavy equipment simulators is a cost-saving venture as well as a leap into future technologies placing AFRC, once again, at the forefront in training excellence.
(A regular contributor to Citizen Airman magazine, Van Deventer is assigned to the Expeditionary Combat Support Division of the Installations and Mission Support Directorate at HQ AFRC.)