Leaders know when to follow

  • Published
  • By A1C Kristof Rixmann
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gerald Walker, 728th Air Mobility Squadron hydraulic journeyman, was one of 150 students from the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing and 512th Airlift Wing completing an unprecedented training opportunity on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft from Nov. 26 – Dec. 6, 2018 on Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Ryder, 521st AMOW deputy commander for operations, said maintaining current and uniform training for all Airmen within the 521st AMOW is a difficult endeavor, particularly for Airmen belonging to geographically separated units of the wing, such as Walker who is stationed in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

“The mission is very important to me,” said Walker. “If we don’t get a job done and a plane doesn’t take off on time, someone may not get the equipment they need; or worse, someone coming home from deployment might not get home on time.”

Throughout the two week exercise Walker stood out as an exemplary learner.

At his last base, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Walker said he took the initiative to be a leader and a problem solver. During this two week training course, however, Walker acknowledged the idea that in order to continue being a great leader, one must know when to follow.

Walker encountered several new topics throughout the training but he said the unfamiliar material did not discourage him. He said his instructors showed extreme patience to ensure his understanding on any given topic.

“I’m coming from a base where we don’t usually see the C-5, so this was my first experience with it,” said Walker. “My job this week was to learn as much as possible so I could take all this knowledge back. Before coming here, I had next to no knowledge on this jet. Now the things I got signed off on I can confidently do when I get home.”

Over the course of the exercise, 521st AMOW regional training center instructors understood the significance of the training opportunity by providing the initial instruction and follow-up answers to the variety of questions students had throughout the learning process.

“It took me a little while to catch on, but the instructors were very nice and did not mind backtracking with us as a group or with me personally after the group moved on,” said Walker. “The first time seeing things was hard but the second time it all kind of clicked for me.”

Col Bradley Spears, 521 AMOW commander, said this training enables maintainers to work on an air frame they don’t get to see often as the Air Force has reduced the number of missions for the aircraft.

Within the C-5M Super Galaxy, Walker and the other Airmen worked on multiple systems, their experiences spanning five career fields. Airmen learned how to service struts, auxiliary power units, and hydraulics. Learning information from complimentary career fields allowed Airmen to increase the breadth of their knowledge at an early stage within their career.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Paull, 521st AMOW Regional Training Center superintendent, is one of the people responsible for coordinating the training.

“One of the biggest things we’ve heard from training feedback is guys don’t feel comfortable because they haven’t trained on the aircraft in a while,” said Paull. “So, with this ground trainer it was a good opportunity to get that touch time, run through systems multiple times until they feel comfortable with it. We want to send our Airmen back to their units knowing that they’re confident to get the job done.”

Due to strong leadership, he said he was molded into a studious individual who continues to work towards perfecting his craft.

“When it comes to my personal drive, many of my family members have served before me and instilled the belief this is more than a job,” said Walker. “When I’m working on a plane, I remind myself that this is bigger than just adding fuel. I’m adding this fuel to a plane, so it can do something bigger. I’m the small gear that has to turn so the big gears can.”

The determination seen in 521st AMOW Airmen, like Walker, and the innovation realized by the wing’s regional training center has allowed the wing to accomplish a successful training management despite the overall reduction of C-5 missions in the en route system.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Brad Seehawer, 521st AMOW executive officer, said he was impressed by the innovation and the amount of training accomplished by the wing’s Airmen.

“From the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, to Air Mobility Command, to the U.S. Expeditionary Center, we’ve been charged to foster a culture of innovation within our units,” said Seehawer. “This C-5 trainer is an example of this kind of innovation, where two wings came together to find a mutually-beneficial solution towards increasing readiness of the Total Force without the help of higher headquarters. As we develop a more lethal and resilient force postured to achieve the goals outlined by the National Defense Strategy, we have a responsibility to be agile, adaptive and creative. The men and women of the 521st AMOW will continue to provide timely movement, positioning, and sustainment of joint forces wherever they’re needed in this rapidly-changing global security environment.”