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Sheppard instructors train Chilean air force maintainers

by Airman 1st Class Valerie Hosea
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

2/23/2010 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Thirty-eight Chilean air force enlisted members visited Sheppard Air Force Base, to learn the finer points of maintenance on four specific aircraft systems at the 982nd Training Group January and February here.

Instructors taught members of the Chilean air force various maintenance courses for the KC-135 Stratotanker, the Chilean air force's newest aircraft.

Chilean air force Senior Airman Oscar Molina said while the cultures between the two nations differ, the two militaries are similar, with a few minor differences.

"Although we advance in rank slower, we have the same ranks as you; we just say them in Spanish," said the eight-year Chilean air force veteran. "We also work on aircraft like F-16s (Fighting Falcons), C-130s (Hercules), F-5s and KC-135Es -- the newest one."

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Warren, an instructor from the 373rd Training Squadron, Det. 8, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., said the Chilean's have a tougher task at hand because they have to focus on more than one core duty instead of how the U.S. Air Force has Airmen focus on a single Air Force specialty code.

"While we get trained in one AFSC, the Chilean air force gets trained in several," he said. "For example, these students are getting training in four different AFSCs such as hydraulics, fueling, environmental and air refueling."

After months of planning and implementing the specialized course for the Chilean air force, the first class began Jan. 4 and graduated Jan. 20. In all, 38 Chileans went through the course, with the last class graduating Feb. 16.

Eight instructors will travel to Chile to provide follow-on training to ensure techniques learned in the classroom environment were implemented at their home base.

Master Sgt. Kevin Clark, a 373rd TRS aircraft training manager, said coordination for this class was a shared success among several agencies.

"This is a joint effort with (the Air Force Security Assistance Training), the Air National Guard, 982nd Training Group, 982nd Maintenance Squadron, 362nd Training Squadron and 365th Training Squadron," he said.

Several of the members of the 982nd MXS team said they were excited to be part of this opportunity because it gave them a chance to help improve another country's air force.

"The training these students receive is more detailed and aircraft specific," Sergeant Warren said. "It goes more in-depth on the specifics internally. This training, combined with the hands-on training they'll get in Chile, will definitely help improve their aircraft maintenance."

Classroom instruction wasn't the only lesson being taught during the Chilean's time at Sheppard AFB. They were provided an opportunity for cross-cultural training.

"The students are actually teaching the instructors about their culture as they learn," Sergeant Warren said. "This benefits us because not only are we learning their culture, but also our instructors are gaining important knowledge about Chile before they go to continue teaching."

An concern for the instructors was the ability to communicate with their Chilean counterparts. That concern was quickly quelled when the foreign air force members arrived at Sheppard AFB.

"We wondered if there would be a language barrier, but (that was) relieved quickly," Sergeant Clark said. "The students all attended the Defense Language Institute English Language Center before they arrived."

Sergeant Warren said the students were eager to learn, but they also were anxious to return home and share stories about the United States and, perhaps, bring home a few souvenirs.

Lt. Col. Henry Myers, the 373rd TRS commander, said the past couple months are typical of the Airmen in his squadron who are willing to go anywhere, anytime to help train those in the U.S. Air Force or those of another country.

"It's an honor, not only because we are involved, but because we have some great instructors who are well trained at their jobs that are willing to help," he said. "I'm very proud of these guys for their service."

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