Unique training opportunity for MX officers

Second Lieutenant Larissa Ablutz, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and Major Andrew Zanrucha, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, brief Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano, Air Force Test Center commander, Aug. 14, 2020, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The general toured the 412th AMXS to check in on the well-being of test center maintenance Airmen and operations during the coronavirus pandemic. (Air Force photograph by 2nd Lt. Christine Saunders)

The Air Force Test Center’s 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron services aircraft from almost every Mission Design Series in the Air Force’s aircraft inventory.

This MDS diversity provides new maintenance officers the unique opportunity to experience working with multiple airframes in just one assignment at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The training involves the standard career field education and training plan for maintenance officers accompanied with on the job training and mentoring.

“Edwards is unique because we aren’t just working one series of aircraft,” said 2nd Lt. Jason Steadman, 412th AMXS assistant officer in charge. “The training experience here is awesome because we are learning the process it takes to put new technology into the Air Force fleet.”

The demands of the flight test mission at Edwards, to include the Air Force Test Pilot School, exposes officers to a more diverse set of airframes and high operations tempo. 

“Every single day is different,” said Capt. Alexander Lovejoy, 412th AMXS officer in charge.

The training experience at Edwards enables junior officers to have a better understanding of each type of maintenance for the different airframes.

“I used to be focused on one aircraft at a time that I had to fix, but now I get a broad scope of everything that has to go into the mission as a whole,” said Steadman, a former Marine Corps maintenance officer.

The 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Patch. (Air Force photograph by 2nd Lt. Christine Saunders)

The 412th Test Wing maintains and flies an average of 90 aircraft with upwards of 30 different aircraft designs.

“It is hard to gather all that experience in three or four assignments for most maintenance officers,” said Maj. Andrew Zanrucha, the 412th AMXS commander.

Sending a young officer to the maintenance discipline they enjoy after upgrade training is seen as a retention factor.

“If the officer likes airlift maintenance but not bomber or fighter, we can work with the assignment team to try to track them to an operational airlift base,” said Zanrucha.

While the upgrade training for maintenance officers to include technical school is accomplished within upwards of a year, OJT and mentoring take a considerable amount of more time. 

“The benefits from training the way we do here at Edwards is breadth of experience, officer satisfaction, and a little better understanding of what platforms you want to work in the future,” added Zanrucha.

The 412th TW performs over 7,400 missions to include over 1,900 test missions on an annual basis.

“The challenges faced here are like none other in the Air Force. Understanding the unique perspectives, and the ability to find the common goal amongst very diverse objectives is the critical component to success here,” said Zanrucha.

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