JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A group of 12 air transportation specialists from Air Mobility Command bases across the country will be the first class of Airmen to complete the three-week aerial port expediter C-17 training program here.
"The best Airmen are hand-picked for this training program," said Tech. Sgt. John Haynes, course director of the Aerial Port Expediter C-17 Training Program at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's Mobility Operations School at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. , who is currently leading the training course here.
The three-week course, which began Aug. 2, 2010, includes two weeks of classroom instruction and week of hands-on training. During the course APEX students learn important skills such as safety requirements, weight and size limitations, operation of hydraulic systems and loading procedures.
"This specific training program equips these Airmen with the skills needed to advance in their career field and become leaders when they head back to their base," said Sergeant Haynes.
Students carry a checklist of safety procedures at all times, and are required to study their training manual very thoroughly.
"During the classroom portion of the program, students learn the technical order C-17 A-9 and use it to apply all of their knowledge to their work," said Sergeant Haynes. "We have students here from airmen first class all the way up to technical sergeants, and they're all thankful for this manual."
Tech. Sgt. David Merchlewitz, an air transportation craftsman from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, said he feels privileged to acquire the training and apply it to his career.
"We are learning how to troubleshoot, how to be leaders and how to be flexible," said Sergeant Merchlewitz. "This training is giving us the tools to make our jobs, and more importantly the Air Force mission, run more smoothly."
The APEX class, conducted at least six times throughout the year, is usually held at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. This is the first time Joint Base Lewis-McChord has had the opportunity to serve as the training site for this exclusive program.
"The program has been outsourced to McChord Field to allow availability for Airmen near the west coast," said Master Sgt. Jim McClung, Air Mobility Command APEX program manager. "It also serves as an alternate location in the event of unsuitable weather conditions or something else preventing the training at Charleston."
According to Sergeant McClung, APEX training will continue to be held at both AMC bases for the foreseeable future. Additionally, although this is the first time training is being held here, it was important for instructors to keep consistency between Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Joint Base Charleston APEX classes.
"We want to ensure Airmen at both locations get the same quality training, so that when they are deployed, the mission is completed without any hiccups," said Sergeant McClung.
Training like this have a direct link to how operations are executed downrange. According to AMC officials, mobility Airmen have a proven track record of providing direct support to ground forces in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Last year alone, AMC dropped a record 24 million pounds of cargo. In terms of air drops, the Air Force has fulfilled requests 100 percent of the time.
"We are able to get the most out of our time and energy by further training our Airmen," said Sergeant McClung. "They will be able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time, which means the Air Force is able to provide more support to our forces downrange."
The class graduates from APEX training Aug. 20, fully equipped to return to their AMC bases and apply their new knowledge to the aerial port mission.