JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
In an effort to expand learning opportunities for Airmen and enable training and education from any device, Air Education and Training Command has begun a project to install commercial wireless Internet across the command called the AETC Learning Wi-Fi Service.
Implementation of the initial phase is in progress with the first activation of commercial Wi-Fi service delivered here and at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, in January 2019.
“This MAJCOM-wide, commercial wireless Internet service was identified as an emerging requirement to support and improve delivery of training and education within AETC,” said Col. Jeffrey Sorrell, Headquarters AETC deputy director for communications and the command's chief information officer. “We want to put control of learning in the hands of students, trainees, and instructors when and where they train.”
In line with the current AETC Strategic Plan, the primary goal of LWS is to offer Airmen in learning environments flexible access to education and training resources such as electronic flight bags, mobile training devices, augmented/virtual reality systems, and the emerging Air Force Learning Services Ecosystem. LWS offers nearly unrestricted access to Internet resources and allows schoolhouses to more effectively use tools and devices they already own.
“The LWS will also lay the foundation to move from limited, existing resources to education and training services in cloud computing environments,” Sorrell said. “In this way, the service will posture the command to innovate, transition to interactive electronic products, and move toward virtual learning environments.”
In addition to spurring innovation of the training landscape, the LWS allows Airmen to bring personally owned devices such as laptops, tablets, and smart phones and connect wirelessly to training environments. Initial deployment to learning environments include classrooms, indoor/outdoor training areas, and student community centers.
“Commercial Internet allows learning organizations to use readily available commercial resources to innovate how we train. Force Development needs innovation to enhance the capabilities of the Continuum of Learning,” said Maj. Donald Sims, AETC LWS program manager. “LWS benefits the flying training community that is currently transitioning to and utilizing EFBs to perform flight management tasks during pilot training.”
The LWS does have its limitations, Sims said. Intended to provide learner access to education and training materials, it’s not approved to provide services for Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, or non-learner or other trainee focused mission requirements, such as hospital waiting rooms or security alarm support activities.
LWS is a readily accessible service similar to that found in hotels and airports, and will allow transmission of non-sensitive information, Sims said. “It’s not designed to protect sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, protected health information or info designated as For Official Use Only or Controlled Unclassified Information, but it does support the transmission of sensitive data when it’s encrypted.”
Users will continue to see the service installed throughout FY 2020.
“Expanding access to learning resources will enhance learning capabilities and day-to-day activities,” Sorrell said. “As the value of LWS is realized, organizations will have the opportunity to acquire a centrally managed and accredited solution.”