JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
With more than 23 different career fields in four separate training locations, the 37th Training Group trains and provides mission-ready service members and military working dogs for the Department of the Air Force and the Department of Defense.
On any given day, the 37th TRG is home to nearly 4,000 Airmen, along with Guardians, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, who are learning the skills needed to perform their duties. Modernized platforms and modalities are the foundation of this training which enables students to transform into multi-capable service members.
“We are focused on transforming our learning environments by implementing innovative and technological methodologies that enhance learning, and save time and money,” said Col. Joyce Storm, 37th TRG commander. “From virtual simulators and computer-based instruction to online learning and augmented reality, these technologies enrich the learning environment.”
The 37th TRG’s Technical Training Transformation approach includes implementing hybrid, online and distance learning modalities, as well as moving away from traditional classrooms to those that are designed to facilitate and promote active learning.
“The future state of our classrooms will be an environment that supports today’s generation,” Storm said. “We will be moving toward modular furniture that is more conducive to small group collaboration. Think bean bag and pod chairs versus old school tables, desks and chairs. These new classrooms will be more innovative and interactive with flat screens to display students’ work, streaming options to view content and more.”
While classrooms will become more student-centered, instructors will also evolve in how they instruct.
Dr. Elizabeth Rich, 37th Training Support Squadron Faculty Development Fight chief, continuously reassesses learning models for instructors.
Rather than have instructors lecture to students all day, instructors are moving from passive to active learning experiences in the classroom. This is referred to as the “student-centered active learning experience” where instructors learn to be facilitators rather than instructors, Rich described.
Instructors and students alike are benefitting from these changes.
“It’s most beneficial for our students when the classroom and technology innovations are multipurpose and fit an adaptive learning environment so that our teaching remains relevant,” said Derek Read, 344th Training Squadron’s chief of Training Resources and Requirements. “A student-centered vision is at the heart of what we do at the 344th.”
One of the training group’s five squadrons is the 344th TRS, which provides technical training in more than 10 different career fields. Many courses offer lab simulation and field scenario-based training to give students a kinesthetic learning experience and real-world applications to develop their knowledge of course materials.
At the 344th TRS’s Detachment 1, Vehicle Management School, students have access to welding simulators.
According to Brian Burgess, the school’s training manager, the simulators increase a student’s psychomotor retention of welding positions and the amount of time they practice; and decrease risk and the cost of materials.
In addition to simulators, small group learning and role-playing also allows for diverse instructional platforms that address various learning styles.
“We work to make it [training] as realistic and relevant as possible, doing training effectively and efficiently,” stated Timothy Ori, 37th TRG Training Administrator.
The 37th TRG has more than 15 ongoing initiatives geared to meeting Air Education and Training Command’s priority to “Transform the Way We Learn.” Furthermore, the group is aggressively accelerating change to meet the demands of the current strategic competition environment and to meet critical mission needs by enhancing student learning, saving time, minimizing expenses, and meeting overall training objectives.
Some of the training group’s initiatives include using augmented and virtual reality within the enlisted aviation courses; gamification to master contracting course lessons; online and in-class hybrid teaching; implementing a digital credentialing process to track professional development, and virtual reality shoot/don’t shoot trainers.
Modernizing training also means being able to quickly accommodate changes to content, or introduce new training materials. For example, in alignment with the Air Force Chief of Staff’s “Action Order C,” the group recently produced a new training video on Strategic Competition that introduces technical training students to the concept.
The video covers the history of world competitors such as China and Russia and the current status of diplomatic and economic relationships; it is designed to ensure Airmen understand their role in Strategic Competition and the Air Force’s role in maintaining its competitive edge.
The 37th TRG approach to Technical Training Transformation is to ensure the approach to learning meets the needs of the National Defense Strategy as well as aligns with the evolving needs of a new generation of Airmen.
“Whether it’s through in-person instruction or virtual platforms, we continue to assess the training provided to both our students and instructors,” Storm said. “As each generation of students evolves, so do we. Actively engaging our Airmen through training is a priority to ensure they are prepared not only for their career field but develop a strategic mindset that sets them up for success.”
Editor’s Note: More information on the modernized training platforms and modalities will be highlighted in the upcoming technical training transformation news series, “Building the Force.”