JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
One day, Tech. Sgt. Luis Gomez Duque sat in the back of a classroom doing an instructor observation and heard the instructor say “if you could see this, it would make more sense.” So Gomez opened his computer and created a virtual scenario for the instructor to show his students. From there, his desire to provide students realistic training scenarios that blend the classroom portion of training with the field portion of training resulted in the 423rd Mobility Training Squadron’s first virtual reality tools for the Expeditionary Center’s mobile Aerial Port Expediter course.
The APEX course trains air transportation Airmen to load an aircraft for flight without the presence of loadmaster, which reduces aircrew hours spent preparing and loading aircraft and increases operational efficiency. The course provides instructor-led training in the following areas: risk management, safety principles, loading procedures, calculating cargo center of balance, shoring and restraints, aircraft roller limitations, aircraft floor limitations, computing aircraft center of balance and aircraft winching.
The course consists of a two-week classroom portion followed by a one-week hands-on field portion. Gomez found that some of the complicated scenarios presented during the classroom portion were requiring a lot of review during the field portion, so he developed scenarios using virtual reality technology to supplement the classroom instruction with virtual field experience in real time.
“We’re in new territory here,” said Staff Sgt. Jace Fore, 423rd Mobility Training Squadron mobile training team instructor. “And we’re already finding the students and the instructors are benefitting from the virtual reality scenario training.”
Gomez said the extra few minutes spent reviewing the more complicated scenarios on the goggles while still in the classroom has accelerated the learning in the field by closing the gap between the classroom and hands-on training.
Both students and instructors agree. Feedback following the courses using the virtual reality tool is overwhelmingly positive.
One student wrote “I really enjoyed the use of the virtual reality headset throughout the class. Its portability and ease of use helped to make learning objectives immediately clear as I could use the headset to see parts of the aircraft or small dangers I might need to be aware of. It was a fantastic learning tool.”
Instructors are reporting back the hands-on portion of the class is more streamlined, as they don’t lose the first day in the field that has traditionally been for review. Students are now able to go right into the scenarios.
“The last week is now all application,” Gomez said.
To date, about 50 students have completed the course using virtual reality material. Gomez said he’s now working with AMC to formalize the use of virtual reality training material for that course, as well as looking at other applications within the Expeditionary Center’s academic department.
“We are looking at using it in another Aerial Port course, as well as using the technology for instructor evaluation,” said Gomez.
“There are so many efficiencies with training that allows you real-time immersion,” Jace said. “There’s a lot of artificiality with video and power point, and this streamlines the training process and is better for the students.”
Gomez said innovating in the classroom is developing mission-ready expediters and creating force multipliers for Air Mobility Command.
“I’m proud to be making an impact,” Gomez said. “Being in an organization that values innovation gives us all the ability to experiment and create the best training tools for our students.”