AAFB, SWTC: A partnership to last

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Commanders from across Altus Air Force Base joined leadership from Southwest Technology Center in Altus, Oklahoma for a luncheon and tour of the school on Jan. 11, 2023. The relationship between SWTC and AAFB is one that spans over two decades and has only grown in depth and scale since the doors of the school opened to students in 1988.

Today, programs like “Grow Your Own Mechanic,” EMT training and the aviation maintenance courses directly benefit AAFB in many ways. From educating and training more than 170 “Grow Your Own Mechanic” students who now work in the 97th Maintenance Group to training AAFB’s fire department in life saving skills for emergency response, SWTC continues to have an impact in developing Airmen and civilian employees at Altus Air Force Base.

“In 2017, Southwest Technology Center started training Altus Air Force Base’s firefighters as emergency medical technicians,” said Jill Lazenby, marketing and communications director for SWTC. “Then, in 2021 we upgraded that skillset and started training those firefighters for emergency medical response.”

Superintendent of SWTC, Dale Latham expressed that his goals for the future include expanding and increasing training and support throughout the 97th Air Mobility Wing in maintenance, operations and the medical group.

The partnership between SWTC and AAFB developed throughout the tour as senior leaders from AAFB were able to experience the auto mechanic shop, woodworking shop, the graphic design studio, cosmetology school, and the health science and medical department.

The last stop was Hangar 33, located within the Altus/Quartz Regional Airport. The space was purchased from the airport by SWTC in 2008 for the expansion of the aviation program. Hangar 33 is now primarily where “Grow Your Own Mechanic” students are trained. That program offers certifications in Federal Aviation Administration airframe and powerplant, as well as career majors in general aviation, airframe mechanic and power plant.

“Grow Your Own Mechanic” was designed as an idea on a napkin at a very similar luncheon held for AAFB senior leaders in 1999, with the plan to train mechanics from the local Altus area. Graduates from the program currently make up 24% of the workforce in the 97th Maintenance Group.

“The return on investment that Southwest Technology Center provides to not just our base, but also to the broader community is really remarkable,” said Col. Blaine Baker, 97 AMW commander. “That passion to grow our future, invest in our members and invest in our goals to ultimately make a better society is very important and appreciated.”