VM unit innovates efficiency

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

Nestled in the corner of Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, is a shop that gears up every morning to train vehicle maintainers within the walls of the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron. For years, initial training for this position has taken up to 15 months to complete, but thanks to Thomas Kessler, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron environmental education and training leader, a new version of training has brought that timeline down to 90 days or less.

Kessler retired as an Air Force Master Sgt. in 2022 as a vehicle fleet manager, and previously held an instructor position at the 344th Training Squadron for vehicle equipment maintenance. He had the experience and knowledge of what students needed to grasp before pushing them from apprentice to journeyman.

“I noticed throughout the career field that a lot of members failed the first and second training modules, which, to me, means the modules weren't set up correctly.” Kessler said. “So I went through the entire course and I started writing down some questions for Airmen to follow along with while they take the course, that way they are less likely to just click through the modules and they are actually learning.”

The new training approach will reduce the timeline by incorporating the career development courses into a program with eight modules which will be completed during duty hours. This structured method combines classroom learning with hands-on training, ensuring mechanics are proficient before being assigned to their work centers. Senior Airman Heidi Delgado, 507th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance mechanic, saw radical changes in her own experience when she began her upgrade training and started utilizing Kessler’s model.

“When I took the first module I totally failed it because I didn’t know how to study,” said Delgado. “Then I got with Mr. Kessler and with his reviews, study guides, and the way he teaches the curriculum here, I made 100 percent when I retook the test and got a 93 on the second module. His method has caught me up and even got me ahead in the program.”

Delgado explained that without this new curriculum, she would not complete her upgrade training until September 2024, but she is now on track to finish by mid-June.

Now, Kessler, despite only being in his current position since July 2023, has had his curriculum adopted by 27 other vehicle maintenance units around the world for it’s potential to enhance readiness and optimize resources. Kessler also hopes to utilize new technology in the next few months to improve on-the-job training for students.

“Hopefully around March and April our career field will have a virtual garage where mechanics can go and actually look into components,” said Kessler. “They can fix and repair vehicles in the virtual garage and see how things work right in front of them. I think it's going to help them to grasp the material a little bit better.”