August 10, 2015 – JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (AFNS) — More than 60 Air Mobility Command Test and Evaluation Squadron Airmen and civilians — many of whom are former pilots and maintainers — use their aircrew backgrounds to update and advance aircraft components in safe and innovative ways.
“Our job is to test and evaluate new equipment or a procedure to ensure the warfighter receives operationally effective and suitable capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Travis Sjostedt, the TES commander. “Our folks come here as 7-levels (craftsmen in their fields) or instructor pilots as their background.”
Airmen looking to join the TES must have at least one special experience identifier, stated Senior Master Sgt. Jason Hale, the TES superintendent. Some members in the unit hold as many as five SEIs.
While their backgrounds offer important insight while executing their current mission, squadron members have had to learn to also look at the bigger picture. In addition to having a maintainer or pilot mindset, they must also adjust their thinking to make equipment or processes not only more efficient, but also safer for users.
The operations flight members focus on the aircrew viewpoint and the systems and equipment they work with regularly, while the TES Logistics Flight concentrates on ground maintenance, the aircraft as a whole, and support and aerospace ground equipment.
“The tests that we do are on every aircraft in the AMC inventory,” said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Spotts, the TES Logistics Flight assistant commander. “We have tests that will go on over five years, because we have a strong focus here of testing the reliability of equipment and systems. To measure reliability you have to let something operate to see how long it lasts until it breaks.”
Personnel in the TES Logistics Flight have arrived at the squadron after a test has begun and left before its completion, Spotts stated. There is a strong focus on working together, having a good turnover and having multiple experienced people on any given test.
“On many tests, we work with the (Air National) Guard and (Air Force) Reserve components,” he said. “The aircraft are all AMC assets, but a lot of them are operated by the Air Reserve Command or the Air National Guard.”
AMCTES has partnered with Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, as well as all other Defense Department testing agencies and units that operate the same aircraft as AMC.
While the tests are designed to update AMC aircraft, different environments are needed for specific tests to take place.
“For example, we’re working on a KC-135 Stratotanker landing gear corrosion test, so we needed a very corrosive environment. We chose (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam),” Spotts said. “It’s on an island surrounded by saltwater. Historically there’s a lot of corrosion on the landing gear on the aircraft assigned to Hawaii. So there’s no set unit we reach out to, as long as they have the requirements to perform the test.”
The final piece to AMCTES is the support flight.
The support personnel perform the behind-the-scenes work, said Capt. Craig Geiser, the TES Support Flight commander. They have a personnelist, communications support section, a technical writer, a visual arts representative and an analyst, all so the test directors in the other flights are able to focus on the jobs they are tasked with.
“Overall we have a whole bunch of people coming in from a bunch of different backgrounds and the majority of them have no experience in testing,” said Lt. Col. Sandra Wilson, the TES director of operations. “We train them up and ask them to branch out and broaden their horizons. They’re willing to learn what they need in order to fulfill other tests. It’s a cool thing to see.”