Sorties for Keesler

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Paul Griffin
  • 336th Training Squadron commander
I used to love setting up a camera at the end of the runway to film sorties, or jet take offs and landings, when I worked for combat camera. Especially at night, shooting into the brilliant blue, red, or amber runway lights, watching a jet screaming straight for you was exhilarating.

Now that I'm a training squadron commander, I view launching students with similar excitement. That may sound corny, but molding an eighteen to thirty-something year old student Airman into a cyber warrior is something to see. Instructors and military training leaders get to watch from a front row seat as their Airman take off and start a career in the Air Force, and most will tell you it's very challenging but one of the best jobs in the Air Force.

Just like launching a jet, it takes a lot of care to get that Airman smoothly into flight for his first assignment, and we're good at it. The satisfaction rate stated by supervisors in the field with our recent graduates lands in the high ninetieth percentile, but that's not the only area where our success is graded. Our measurements don't just track whether or not a student receives a graduate certificate. Of course that's a primary task, but our goal is also graduating students in the most efficient way and ensuring they are receiving Airmanship development. Just like Air Combat Command grades the number of sorties accomplished within a month, the training group grades the number of students awaiting training and students not in training status. And yes, Air Education and Training Command call them SATS and SNITS!

Monthly, we scrutinize our SATS and SNITS numbers as commanders review student progress to ensure they stay on track by avoiding or tackling problems as they arise. A worst case scenario is when we don't have enough instructors to meet the number of students. Sometimes our student Airmen arrive from basic military training before we planned and we end up cutting an instructor's leave or drastically changing schedules to ensure the Airman's time and taxpayer dollars aren't wasted. Some interesting challenges we face are: when an Airman with an overseas assignment told us he just got married and now needs orders for a spouse, the spouse's passport hasn't arrived yet and we've got to find out why, or we need to get an Airman to the shooting range to qualify since her orders changed abruptly and is now going to Korea.

However large or difficult the challenge, the Training Group has increased the student Airman sortie rate all the while bolstering Airmanship development. Our student Airmen are not only technically capable, but they thoroughly understand the Air Force's core values. Keesler is leading this endeavor by partnering with all agencies on base to produce the finest Airmen.

Cyber students take a commercial certification cyber test that the industry recommends three to five years of working knowledge and experience before testing. After they've completed their core courses, we teach these students in 10 ten days with a pass rate of 98 percent. Sometimes the students don't pass on the first test, and some courses have seen wash back rates as high as 88 percent, but our instructors and MTLs work brilliantly together to teach and develop students while cutting SNITS and SATS, saving dollars and focusing on achieving that high sortie rate.

So when you see the students, think of them as jets heading down the taxiway. They are preparing to launch and most take off skillfully as this generation is some of the smartest Airmen the Air Force has ever seen.