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Team McChord hosts, instructs Australian Airmen: 24 Aussies learn C-17 avionics before taking aircraft Down Under

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Training 24 members of the Royal Australian Air Force on the avionics of the C-17 Globemaster III before the delivery of the country's newly-purchased aircraft in December was a chance for McChord to shine on an international scale.

And for McChord's 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 12 instructors, it was a challenge they tackled head-on.

"We had to develop a course from scratch to mold to their specialties," said Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Levesque, a 373rd TRS, Det. 12 chief.

In the Air Force, Airmen in six different specialties are required to maintain the C-17. However, the Australians only have two. That meant five different instructors needed to be included in writing and teaching the course, with each focusing on a different expertise, said Sergeant Levesque.

The compressed timetable for teaching and scheduling the course also presented a challenge for the training crew.

"To write a new course, it usually takes six to eight months," said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Elmore, 373rd TRS. "We did it in two. It was quite an accomplishment -- these guys worked really hard."

The courses, which started July 31 and run until mid October, are currently being taught in four different shifts, two during the day and two on swing shift. The class size has also been increased to accommodate the circumstances, said Sergeant Levesque. The normal ratio of students to instructor is four to one, but the courses teaching the Australians are six to one.

"Scheduling that was quite a challenge," Sergeant Levesque said. "We usually schedule classes three months in advance. My guys did a great job developing the course."

The students concurred with Sergeant Levesque.

"There's been a lot of information," said Royal Australian Air Force Flight Sergeant Scott Biddell. "But the instructional process has made it easy."

While the Australians are receiving their avionics instruction at McChord, they will get their mechanical instruction at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Sergeant Levesque said.

"[McChord] is the most impressive training facility we've ever been to," Sergeant Biddell said.

In addition to the training aspect of the operation, there has also been a sharing of cultures -- further strengthening the bond between the two countries, said Sergeant
Levesque. Aussie phrases such as "G'Day Mate" and the accent itself has grown on the McChord crew, he said.

The Australians have also taken a liking to the training team and McChord itself.

"It's a whole new experience as far as the size and scale of the operations," Sergeant Biddle said, comparing McChord to RAAF Base Amberly, 600 miles north of Sydney.

Based on the success of the training program so far, there is a possibility that a McChord training crew could fly to Australia in the future to assist in training on the flightline, another step in strengthening the bond between the two countries, said Sergeant Levesque.

"We felt the importance of making this a success," Sergeant Levesque said. "This has been great for us."