Behind the Podium at the 334th TRS

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Devyn Waits
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

At the 81st Training Group, instructors train Airmen to serve as experts in their profession.

Staff Sgt. Michael Russell, 334th Training Squadron air traffic control instructor, appreciates the experiences he gained from working as an ATC specialist at his first duty station. He uses his prior knowledge to effectively teach his students.

“Every time I’m teaching a lesson or any situation that’s going on in a simulated environment, there's always a situation that I experienced at my first assignment,” said Russell. “Having that vast experience helped me understand the nuts and bolts of the job. Now that I'm back here teaching the basics, I better understand where I was five years ago and I am a better instructor for it.”

Russell expanded upon his appreciation of working as an ATC instructor as well as the passion he has watching his students grow in confidence.

Q: What inspired you to become an instructor?

A: “I was ready to try something new. I talked to two tech school instructors at my last assignment to see how they liked the job and get their perspective. Once I saw the job posting, I thought, ‘you know, let's try something new.’ The idea of molding our future air traffic controllers was something that really interested me and it seemed like a really great opportunity because I’d have a much larger impact.”

Q: What is the most rewarding part of being an instructor?

A: “It’s seeing the change from the day one ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look, to our last day seeing our students rocking the job with confidence. They know all the rules and they get in there and work it out. Looking back and seeing that change is the most rewarding experience so far.”

Q: What is the most challenging part of being an instructor?

A: “Figuring out each student individually and applying their learning types, how they take in information and how we can apply it to what we're expecting from them in a simulated environment. Getting to know 12 people in a short amount of time is tough for anything. It’s even tougher for air traffic controllers.”

Q: How do you feel about working with the next generation of military professionals?

A: “It's interesting to see their reaction to what we're trying to teach them, and how the knowledge that I'm trying to pass down to them is changing their perspective going into the future. It's exciting knowing that one of them could be the future Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and that hopefully, they’ll remember something I gave them, whether air traffic knowledge, Air Force knowledge or even life knowledge. We're not just instructors, we’re also a little bit of life instructors too, preparing them for the next step.”