Gunfighters use VR to create multi-capable Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak
  • 366th Fighter Wing

It's your first day on the new job and you are headed to the flightline to begin your training. It’s unbearably loud; roaring jets taking flight, tools clanking together, Airmen shouting over the sound of engines.

For new Airmen, this much noise could be a distraction and lead to potentially dangerous situations. To help bridge the transition from a classroom setting to a hectic flightline, the 366th Operations Support Squadron has integrated virtual reality into their every day operations to help train newer Airmen.

“We first received word about virtual reality being used in a maintenance training environment during the 2019 UTM Conference in San Antonio, when our Superintendent at the time was networking with a member from Kadena,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Kephart III, 366th OSS maintenance training superintendent. “Our flight was awarded $16,000 from the Spark Cell and I was able to go to Kadena myself to see what it was they were doing.”

Kephart explained that they modeled their program off of what was established in Kadena but they were able to capitalize on some of the “lessons learned”.

“With these capabilities, we can now immerse the students into a flightline environment and show them what the job will look like first-hand without leaving the classroom,” said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Goodrick, 366th OSS maintenance training flight instructor element NCO in charge.

This provides an opportunity for Airmen to train and brush up on their skills without the distractions that come with being on the flightline.

“We use 360 degree cameras to film tasks that we would normally teach here in the maintenance training flight,” Kephart said. “We are then able to take that footage, add ‘warnings, cautions, notes, technical references, ect.’, and then render it into a video that can be viewed in the VR headset.”

This program is focused on developing training videos for new Airmen who need to learn the basics of launching, recovering and refueling an aircraft.

“We’ve already had several success stories with students who were not performing well in the classroom and used our VR technology to help them progress and eventually successfully complete training,” Kephart said. “Additionally, we are able to limit the amount of resources, such as aircraft, needed to train on more in-depth maintenance tasks, thus freeing those resources for real-world use.”

With virtual reality being an evolving piece of technology, Mountain Home AFB has accepted the challenge and is soaring to new heights to keep Gunfighters confident in their abilities.

“Although our VR program is not unique to the Air Force, we have the unique opportunity of using it to train multi-capable Airmen as the 366th Fighter Wing prepares to be the lead wing in advance of the Dynamic Force Employment exercise PACIFIC IRON,” Kephart said.