By Airman 1st Class Heather Holcomb, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 23, 2010
NAVAL CONSTRUCTION BATALLION CENTER, Miss. -- Construction is often mistaken for mindless grunt work, but upon closer inspection, it'is really a delicate intertwining of mathematics, art and physical finesse. At the 366th Training Squadron, Detachment 6, its mission is not only to teach Airmen technical proficiency in the structures career field, but also to integrate the Air Force core values into every facet of their lives.
Detachment 6 falls under the command of the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and is located at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, more commonly known as the Seabee Base, in Gulfport.
Upon arrival from basic training, new Airmen are givena three-hour newcomers briefing from the detachment commander, Lt. Col. David Hargy, and the first sergeant, Master Sgt. Gerald Huffman.
At this briefing the students are given a mission -- to graduate.
To fulfill their mission, students must be both technically proficient and good Airmen. "Their mission sounds so simple and seems obvious, and it is, but it's an integral part of developing future structures Airmen," said Sergeant Huffman.
Becoming technically proficient is achieved through completing a rigorous and fast-paced four-month or 90 academic day structural apprentice course. The course, known by the Navy hosts as the Builder A-school, is broken down into three segments. The first two segments are integrated with Army and Navy students in an inter-service training review organization system and the third segment is Air Force unique.
The first ITRO segment is known as A/B phase, is 34 academic days and includes math, masonry, basic carpentry, framing and roofs. Army students graduate after this segment.
The second ITRO segment is known as C phase. Its 14 academic days include interior finish, drywall, ceilings, tile and paint. Navy students graduate after this segment.
Finally, the Air Force students are halfway done with their technical training and move on to the Air Force unique segment where they spend 42 academic days learning sheet metal, welding and structural contingency.
Detachment 6 also teaches four supplemental courses including roof installation, maintenance, inspection and repair; metals layout, fabrication and welding; bare base structures erection mobile training team and structural contingency, which is taught at Holloman AFB, N.M.
Detachment 6 received an "outstanding" rating in technical training and an overall "excellent" rating on their October 2010 unit compliance inspection, the highest rating ever received in its 15-year history.Shane Clark, instructor supervisor for the ITRO portion of the course, said, "Our current core group of 24 instructors represents the best group of educators the detachment has ever seen and the "outstanding" rating in technical training is a testament to their professionalism and dedication to developing the very best structures Airmen."
Master Sgt. Wendell Snider, instructor supervisor for the Air Force unique segment of the course, said the best part of the structures career field is, "that you can start with nothing, and by the time you finish, you're enamored that you've turned nothing into something."
After a day of sawdust, cinderblocks, molten metal, sketchpads and calculators, students form up and march back to the dormitories. The duty day may be over, but students continue their mission and uphold the core values even after they shed their uniforms.
Colonel Hargy said, "We stress to the students that as they make personal decisions in their free time, they need to ask themselves how each decision affects their mission to graduate."
Volunteering is one opportunity available to students and permanent party alike to uphold service before self. The detachment's students, led by military training leaders and instructors, have performed more than 2,700 hours of community service this year.
Tech. Sgt. Shannon Danko, assistant MTL flight chief and community service coordinator for the students, plays a major role in organizing volunteer events.
"It's very important to instill a sense of pride and community service in our Airmen early in their careers," Sergeant Danko said. "Volunteerism is a key component of developing well rounded leaders."
Military training is extremely important to Detachment 6. "Military training is a 'contact sport' and you have to be fully engaged with the Airmen to ensure standards are taught and enforced," Sergeant Huffman said. "Military training flows seamlessly from the dorm to the classroom -- whatever the MTLs teach the Airmen, the instructors reinforce."
Everyone walks into a building at some point in their day, but most people are completely unaware of everything it took to put a roof over their heads.
At Detachment 6, Airmen not only learn what it takes to construct a building -- the entire detachment's pride in themselves, their career field and the Air Force shines through in everything from the way they crisply snap to attention and march in harmony to their ability to create aesthetically-pleasing and precise structures.