MRAP class extends beyond basic mechanics

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Clay Murray
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In the 21st century, the face of war is constantly changing. The instructors of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, European Transportation Training Center here have decided to approach this change the best way they know how - adapt and overcome.

The ETTC is one of two overseas schoolhouses in the Air Force that offer several classes for maintainers to improve their on-the-job skills.- The other ETTC is located in Pacific Air Forces.

The classes taught build upon some of the concepts maintainers develop early in their careers and present them with new ideas, said Master Sgt. Kevin Mead, ETTC instructor.

"In the beginning [the classes] had been advanced training classes, diesel and gas engines, brakes, steering and suspension," Sergeant Mead said. "We've moved in to a type of expeditionary mindset. For example, with welding because when [Airmen are] downrange they're required to have 40 hours of welding proficiency, and now we're teaching that. A lot of these things are moving toward a joint environment, and we have to evolve with the tempo."

One of the courses the school offers is the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle class. Totaling 80 hours, he class covers all facets of the unique vehicle, starting with characteristics and familiarization, then moving to under armor removal and installation, and finishing with diagnostics, troubleshooting and maintenance.

"We start out with operator training in order for them to understand the MRAP," said Master Sgt. Alejandro Correa, ETTC instructor. "It is a different vehicle from any other. They have to know the warnings, characteristics, weight and what all is involved in the truck itself.

"For example, the [designers] basically took an international chassis and added a pod. This is a completely welded piece that students need to know," he said. "They get to play around with all of that. We go through the truck and its entirety, and we teach them how to diagnose engine malfunctions. The class is about not only the engine, but everything in there."

Material from the class is not solely theoretical for deployed Airmen. Students who have spent time in a deployed location commend the value of what they learned in the classroom.

"I was deployed last year to [Joint Base Balad], and I was actually in the MRAP shop, so what I worked on was armored Humvees and MRAPS," said Airman 1st Class Ian Shay, vehicle maintenance journeyman. "Coming here taught me more than I already knew. It taught me a different side of the MRAP, and I thought that was cool. I came here and thought, 'Great, I'm going to MRAP class,' but I was amazed by what they did. It taught you that much more."

Senior Airman Charlesa Spann, another student with the ETTC class, deployed with Airman Shay to Joint Base Balad, and she found the material taught during the MRAP class beneficial as well.

What they teach at the school is just helpful beyond measure, she said.

"Some benefits include the [technical] side; they have a program that helps you can work on so much. It's amazing - with just a laptop, you can turn on lights, control the horn or anything. That's what needs to be in the deployed locations more if they can support it. Normally, when you're deployed and the MRAP breaks down, you have to call a field representative if you can't fix it. It's great if you can pinpoint what the problem is instead of asking a field representative to search for it."

Not only is the class beneficial for the Airmen deployed in the line of duty, it can also prove invaluable to the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines or Coast Guardsmen they might work alongside during their deployment.

"We don't have many deployments anymore that are Air Force only," Sergeant Mead said. "About 90 percent of our deployments are now in a joint environment. We have guys deployed who are doing nothing but convoys directly for the Army or embedded with [explosive ordnance disposal] Marines, and this is the vehicle of choice downrange, thankfully. It doesn't happen anymore where they're not with a joint environment."

"The joint environment is going to be there for a very long time, and our mechanics expect that," Sergeant Correa said. "This is actually going to be their mobile truck if they're attached to a convoy - basically their living quarters for a convoy."

The ETTC has offered the MRAP class for slightly longer than one year. Before the Air Force offered the class to automotive technicians, working with these specialized vehicles was tricky, Sergeant Mead said.

"Before, it was more of a guessing game, a trial by fire," he said. "You learned as you went. As a mechanic, they expected you to know a vehicle - a truck is a truck to some people. But it's really not; you need training on each piece of equipment. Especially one like this that is so different than what we're used to before this came along."

Other new classes that offer an advantage to the deploying mechanic include a virtual welding course and a new introduction course on hybrid vehicles.