402nd MXW recognizes aircraft, sheet metal graduates

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
By investing in its workforce, Robins Air Force Base is looking ahead to the future.

Facing a challenge in manpower shortages within the 402nd Maintenance Wing in late 2009, a team of senior leaders, human resources training specialists and subject matter experts developed a formal training program that included hiring external candidates with industrial, production and other metal-related experience.

The goal - to hire, train and groom future aircraft and sheet metal mechanics dedicated to sustaining the Air Force aircraft platform of C-5s, C-130s, C-17s and F-15s at Robins.

Their hard work throughout the comprehensive two-year program, which combined valuable classroom instruction with on-the-job training, resulted in 167 graduates receiving certificates during a pregraduation ceremony May 16 at the Heritage Club.

While requirements were being finalized for the 402nd MXW Wage Grade Helper Formal Training Program in early 2010, there were additional challenges of developing course instruction, job announcements, and the review of more than 4,000 applications. That pool of applicants was narrowed to 204 potential trainees, hired through the spring and summer of 2010. The first group began work at Robins in May 2010.

Men and women were hired from a range of career fields, from electricians, roofers and carpenters to teachers, farmers and first through third-generation employees.

Col. Evan Miller, 402nd MXW commander, extended congratulations, emphasizing the group's initiative in applying and laying the foundation for future success.

"You have progressed through a program that has made you a more skilled and valuable member of the Robins and Air Force team," Miller said to the audience of several hundred. "The foundation here at Robins is about the aircraft we produce. With our mission here in the 402nd MXW, we cannot do it without what you do."

"I applaud you for your initiative," he continued. "With the performance I have seen over the last year - from 48 percent on-time performance to 98 percent today - and with the quality of workmanship, the things we do continue to get better."

He also challenged the group to remember that crew members across the world depend on their skills and knowledge, and to help sustain the next generation of air power.

Trainees began at the WG-5 level. Once each became proficient in his or her respective aircraft work areas, and completed required classes and final evaluations, they were promoted to WG-8. Following a second year of formal classroom and job-site training, they were promoted to WG-10, becoming journeyman mechanics.

Graduate success was also attributed to a team of highly-skilled work leaders or supervisors who worked closely with student trainees the past two years. Classroom instruction was enhanced by a partnership with Middle Georgia Technical College in Warner Robins, and courses through Air Education and Training Command's 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 6 (Robins Maintenance University).