Program Expands From Initial Training At Nellis
As the unmanned aerial system mission continues to grow in the
Air National Guard, the 163rd Maintenance Group is stepping up its
training program to ensure the availability of enough highly
skilled people to support these systems.
Initially operating under the 372nd Training Squadron's
Detachment 13 assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, NV, the unit spent
its infancy getting its staff trained and completing its
state-of-the-art facilities, while also providing limited training
at California's March Air Force Base and augmenting the active-duty
Now, the unit no longer operates under Nellis' training
umbrella, but as a stand-alone training facility, Detachment 26,
assigned under Air Education and Training Command at March. The
training operation has grown and has transformed into a one-stop
shop for active-duty and Guard units seeking Predator maintenance
What began in April with an introductory course has since
expanded to include specialized courses such as ground control
station and communications maintenance, Rotax engine maintenance,
tactical aircraft maintenance and avionics.
The unit also has provided training to more than 150 maintainers
from active-duty units, as well as airmen from Guard units across
the United States also involved in the Predator mission.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ron Egan, chief of Detachment 26,
said the unit's growth has been a boon, not only for the
maintenance group, but also for the Predator mission and the Air
Force as a whole.
"By providing instruction across the spectrum of Predator
maintenance, and continuing to expand to meet the mission's
training needs, we are bridging the gap providing the kinds of
capabilities that were once only available at active-duty training
locations," Egan said. "That has made us an important part of the
UAS mission, and has certainly made this an exciting time to be
involved with the Predator."
In fact, Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Adams, a Predator
communications instructor who spent two years teaching at Nellis
before the detachment stood up here, said the unit has nearly a
dozen instructors and owns all of its own equipment, detached and
separated from the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing's operational Predator
mission, allowing training to be provided regardless of operational
"Having instructors and equipment available to teach the courses
here is great for us and for the students," Adams said. "We can
provide the training students need when they need it, and we can
tailor our instruction to meet their needs. The impact is huge,
because it allows the students to see and understand how processes
work a step at a time and prepares them to apply the skills they'll
need in an operational environment as soon as they get there."
The unit soon will be able to take its training to a new level,
as the 163rd opens a flying training unit and begins flying the
Predator locally at Southern California Logistics Airport, formerly
George Air Force Base, near Victorville, about 40 miles from
"When the wing starts its flying training mission, that will
open up a lot of doors for us," Adams said. "We'll be able to
provide hands-on training and let the students interact with flying
aircraft so they can learn and practice what they will be doing in
a realistic environment."
On the horizon, Egan said, plans are in the works to expand the
unit's training capabilities. In fact, plans include offering a
KU-band satellite communications class, as well as adding
maintenance courses for the Predator's big brother, the MQ-9
Reaper. The unit may even provide training for Department of
Homeland Security personnel.
"It's really a shot in the arm for the Predator program," Egan
said. "Everyone is happy that we're up and running, and we've
received a lot of positive feedback on our operations."
(Aero-News salutes Air Force Capt. Al Bosco, who serves with
the California National Guard.)