By Rick Gregory, PEO STRI Strategic Communications Support Staff
There’s a saying in the aircraft maintenance world that “You can teach a monkey to fly an aircraft, but not to fix it!”
When it comes to maintenance on the Army’s latest light utility helicopter, the $8.56 million UH-72A Lakota, the Army isn’t monkeying around in ensuring that anyone putting the wrenches to the high-tech engine knows exactly what they are doing.
The Army National Guard (ANG) was the recipient of the majority of the more than 300 delivered UH72A helicopters, and initially relied on experienced aircraft maintenance contractors to maintain the fleet. Subsequently, the Army decided to shift the maintenance responsibility to Soldiers who serve in the military occupational specialty of 15T, helicopter repairer.
To fulfill the new training need, the Program Executive Office, Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), located in
Orlando, received the requirement of procuring and fielding a computer-based institutional training suite consisting of 12 interactive student workstations and one instructor/operator station for those Soldiers.
PEO STRI’s Product Manager, Maneuver Collective Training Systems assigned a UH72A team, led by project director, Ms. Cindi Slepow, to undertake the task of delivering the final product to the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (WAATS) located in Marana, Arizona.
“The requirement we put out to industry in 2014 was for a virtual maintenance trainer (VMT) that would provide practical exercises for training the 15T Soldiers to their task standards,” Slepow explained. “The tasks include removing and replacing parts, doing periodic inspections of the aircraft and troubleshooting any malfunctions.”
In April the next year, a $4.4 million small-business contract was awarded for the training suite that also includes a “reach-back” capability to supplement a Soldier’s training by having the virtual training content on a hand-held mobile device.
Slepow said the milestones of fielding of the new UH-72A VMT is moving along nicely, including the recent Government Acceptance Testing (GAT) to ensure all contractual specifications were met.
“We conducted the GAT this past April with aircraft maintenance instructor subject matter experts participating,” she said. “We ran more than 140 test procedures containing more than 17,000 action steps. We then fixed any discrepancies noted and rechecked them to ensure all procedures were running as they are supposed to.”
She added that the contract award includes a two-year interim contractor support period that runs through June 2018 to further ensure the fidelity of the system.
In an article written by Sgt. 1st Class Monette Wesolek for the Arizona National Guard, the battalion commander of the WAATS Total Army School System (TASS) was pleased when the VMT was received on June 6.
“The repair course provides instruction of 66 essential maintenance tasks,” said Lt. Col. John Morelos. “By leveraging technology and learner-centric teaching strategies, the VMT provides a familiar digital platform that connects with the new generation of Soldiers.”
The TASS first sergeant also was also excited about having the VMT as a major training aid for Soldiers passing through the school.
“The VMT will enhance training for the newer Soldiers who have grown up in this technology-laden environment while adhering to the Soldier competencies,” said 1st Sgt. James Morrison.
The article pointed out that more than 100 Soldiers per year are expected to attend the new course using the VMT and it will serve as a reference for more than 150 student pilots and other aircraft maintainers.