Capt. Tom Massa, Air Force Night Vision Goggle Academic Instructor Course director, adjusts the lighting on the terrain board (a scale model of desert mountain urban environments) in the "nite lab" to demonstrate the effects of shadows, illumination and contrast on NVG visual performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Alex Ramos)
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
Randolph sets a new training milestone Monday as it begins its first Air Force Night Vision Goggle Academic Instructor course.
The course, which has been conducted under the Air Force Research Laboratory in Mesa, Ariz., since the early 1990's, was officially transferred to the Air Education and Training Command and subsequently Randolph last year.
Since its transfer, a specialized team of physiologists and instructors pilots, including some already stationed at Randolph and others reassigned to the base just for the program's implementation, have been working around the clock to prepare the course curriculum, obtain supplies, setup the specialized classrooms, and other administrative duties.
"The transition of this course to Randolph was actually several years in the making," said Maj. Scott "Doc" Holliday, 12th Aeromedical Dental Squadron Aerospace Physiology flight commander. "It was all a matter of getting the right people in the right place at the right time to make sure this course is exceptional for the first class to undergo instruction."
The course cadre, which consists of three experienced aerospace physiologists and five rated instructors, provides significant operational NVG flying experience dating back to the early 1980s, when flying with NVGs was a novelty.
"We have an amazing group of instructors who share a wealth of knowledge and experience," said Capt. Tom "Vito" Massa, Air Force NVG Academic Instructor Course director. "Everyone is very excited about this opportunity."
The course, which is one and a half days, is aimed at teaching Airmen already familiar with NVGs (such as pilots, navigators, load masters, engineers, flight surgeons, life support personnel and so on) more advanced instruction that they can take with them to their respective units and train others.
In other words, warfighters who utilize NVGs are trained by graduates of the course, said Captain Massa.
The course consists of both academic and performance-based skills training, and includes topics such as vision, technology, focus and adjustment, night environment misperceptions and other operational issues.
The course concludes with a performance skills portion where students use NVGs in an NVG friendly environment referred to as the "nite lab" to apply those lessons and skills learned.
"We use a terrain board (a scale model of a desert mountain urban environments) and specialized lighting to demonstrate the effects of illumination, contrast and shadows on NVG performance and individual visual acuity," said Captain Massa.
Students also experience training on proper NVG adjustment and focus procedures using an eye lane and Hoffman box. The eye lane is set up similar to a vision chart found in an optometry office, where students must focus their NVGs to see the chart clearly from 20 feet away. The Hoffman box also resembles something found at an eye clinic, in that students must look into the device with their NVGs and make adjustments to the goggles until they can see the charts clearly.
"The main difference between the eye lane and the Hoffman box is that the eye lane is restricted to a 20 foot room in a building whereas the Hoffman is portable (deployable) and is used by NVG operators," said Captain Massa.
"You'd be amazed how many people have been given a pair of NVGs and were never properly trained on how to use them," said Capt. Mike Boyer, rated Air Force Night Vision Goggle Academic Instructor course instructor. "NVGs are dangerous if you don't know how to properly adjust and focus them to obtain maximum visual performance. For this reason, we want to be certain that everyone who comes through this course is fully confident and can share their knowledge with others."
Major Holliday said the NVG cadre is planning to offer two courses a month with 10 students in each class.
"At this point we have eight people scheduled to attend Monday and more on the list for the next one," he said. "But demand is really going to pick up once word gets around the Air Force that this training is now at Randolph. This is such a valuable course for the operational NVG community; night vision devices allow our warfighters to illuminate and exploit the night."
Those Airmen with NVG experience who are interested in signing up for the class can call the Aerospace Physiology Training Flight or Captain Massa at 652-4931 for more information.