97 AMW leaders connect with future Altus Airmen

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

Leaders from the 97th Operations Group at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, visited with the Career Enlisted Aviators Center of Excellence team at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, April 4-6, 2023, to discuss the upcoming changes to the career enlisted aviator courses.

Altus AFB senior enlisted leaders joined the rest of the team on April 6 to participate in a Basic Loadmaster Course graduation from the Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence where the leaders were able to connect with future Altus Airmen.

JBSA-Lackland houses the CEA Center of Excellence where Airmen who will soon be loading, refueling, operating, or maintaining aircrafts begin their journey. For years, new recruits have been taking their initial entry courses there before heading off to their more extensive training in their respective jobs as boom operators, loadmasters, and more.

However, starting in the fall of 2023, major changes are coming to the CEA courses and career fields.

There are several enlisted jobs that fall under the “career enlisted aviator” banner. To consolidate training, those jobs will soon be combined into only three jobs with several “shred outs” or specialty training.

Currently, an Airman who comes into the Air Force as a boom operator will learn the basics of flying in tankers for one month at JBSA-Lackland, before going on to survival training for three weeks. They will then come to Altus for their initial courses before continuing their training at various bases around the United States.

With the new changes, Airmen will receive training at the CEA Center of Excellence in a more diverse and comprehensive list of topics related to aviation service before going on to their more specialized training.

These changes could affect the way instructors at Altus Air Force Base train their students, therefore Altus AFB leaders including Chief Master Sgt. Jason Schelke, 97th Operations Group senior enlisted leader, Master Sgt. Joseph Vondohlen 56th Air Refueling Squadron senior enlisted leader, and Master Sgt. Pete Jensen, 97th Training Squadron formal training unit evaluator, met with the Air Force Personnel Center and 19th Air Force leaders to learn everything they can about the changes.

“The courses are changing as of October 1, 2023,” said Schelke. “We wanted to come down here to prepare for the course changes that are happening at this level so when those Airmen come to Altus for the rest of their training, the Center of Excellence and the flight training units are on the same page.”

On the very last day, 97th Air Mobility Wing senior enlisted leaders participated in a Basic Loadmaster Course graduation that was held on a C-17 Globemaster III from Altus AFB.

The graduating students were given a keynote speech by Schelke and congratulated by several leaders who made the trip to Lackland to welcome the graduates onto the aircraft in which many of them will be working with in the future.

After the graduation, students from across the CEA Center of Excellence were invited on to the C-17 and the KC-135 Stratotanker to tour the aircraft and learn from pilots, boom operators, and loadmasters from Altus.

“We opened up our jets to show these young Airmen what their future could be,” said Capt. Devan Klein, 58th Airlift Squadron pilot instructor. “We wanted to show them how their studies can pay off and to inspire them to keep moving forward.”