More than 300 Airmen from five different Air National Guard units completed a week of intensive aircraft maintenance training here Aug. 13-19, honing proficiencies in a joint field environment while avoiding the distractions of home station.
The annual event, called Maintenance University, has become a mainstay in the C-130 community, but this year’s version marked a new era. For the first time, every Air Guard unit that flies the new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft was present — the 123rd Airlift Wing from Kentucky, 130th AW from West Virginia, 136th AW from Texas, the 143rd AW from Rhode Island and the 146th AW from California.
Held at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Maintenance University featured more than 96 classes on everything from engine and propeller removal to aircraft towing, said Lt. Col. James Campbell, commander of the Louisville, Kentucky-based 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
The training allowed citizen-Airmen with over 16 different Air Force Specialty Codes, ranging from crew chiefs to sheet metal to fuel shop specialists, to enhance their C-130J maintenance skills and work with counterparts from other units.
“The networking was probably the biggest takeaway and biggest key,” Campbell said. “I made it a point every night to talk to a different group, to get their takeaways and their insight of what we’re doing well, what we need to do better, just to get to know everyone.”
Master Sgt. Brandon Harris, training manager for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Maintenance Group, said it was nice to take a break from the home station’s flight schedule and focus on training. He agreed with Campbell that networking and meeting people from other units is a massive help.
“Just being able to get that connection with the other units — now you have a face to a phone number — is essential,” Harris said. “You can build that relationship going forward.”
This year’s MXU curriculum was designed by talking to training managers from the five different units on what they wanted focus on here.
“We’ve been working on this for eight months, before we ever hit the ground, on what events would you’d like to see, and what stuff you have going on at home on an airplane that you can’t get done on a drill weekend,” Harris said.
Many of the younger Airmen enjoyed the slower pace of training in Gulfport.
Airman 1st Class Ethan Hall, a crew-chief with the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, talked about how he could absorb more information while training off-station, rather than learning while supporting a high-tempo operational mission.
“Normally debriefs are really fast to save time, but here, they go over the process slowly and it helps a lot,” Hall said. “I’ve really enjoyed it all. I’ve learned something out of every class.”
Airman 1st Class Greg Clark, a crew chief with the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, just came back to the KyANG from technical training in January 2022. He said he has learned a lot by working with Airmen from other bases.
“Working with people that I’ve never seen before — learning from them — is great because they have different experiences than I do. Even though they’re the same age as me, they all have different supervisors from different bases. They’ve taught me some things, and I’ve taught them some things,” Clark said.