Air Force Electronic Signals Training Goes Virtual In Pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teleworking has become a much more common practice among many military organizations.

In compliance with federal social distancing guidance, the 17th Training Wing shifted two-thirds of its Apprentice Electronic Signals Intelligence Analyst Course, or 1N2A, material to online classwork basis while safely maintaining the critical hands-on training component at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, according to US Dept of Defense website.

“Our course was uniquely positioned and able to move to an integrated distance learning model when the need for social distancing became apparent,” Air Force Tech. Sgt. Patrick Sordyl, the 316th Training Squadron course supervisor, said. “This allows us to get our students out of cramped classrooms and move to more open areas on base. Now, instead of having 14 students sitting next to each other, the students may be in rooms with only one or two other students.”

The 1N2A course is an entry-level course that teaches data analysis for the pilot’s benefit during mission planning.

A student-centric model of instruction was in the works for almost a year, but COVID-19 expedited the process by forcing the course to go digital sooner than expected.

“The Air Force and Marine instructors have transitioned our course to a more student-centric model of instruction,” Sordyl said. “This allowed us to give our students their materials and learning objectives so that the students can be in the driver’s seat for their training.”

“This course is the first-level training for electronic intelligence,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Preiser, a 316th Training Squadron instructor, said. “We teach electromagnetic spectrum theory, radar theory and how it’s applied for the Air Force.”

The materials transitioning to virtual learning required proper security reviews.

“We’ve reviewed course materials and ensured the transitioned material was unclassified or for official use only,” Air Force Tech Sgt. Jacob Trentmann, the deputy course director with the 316th Training Squadron, said. “We’ve been utilizing a tool called ‘Milsuite,’ which can only be accessed with a common access card.”

The in-classroom portion of the course had to adapt to meet the emerging health code standards.

“While in the classroom, we have split the classes in half,” Preiser said. “It actually gives us more time to focus the training on fewer students, and it’s been beneficial.”

These course concepts and intelligence skills can also be applied throughout the whole military domain.

“The greatest advantage of integrating courses with our sister services is the unique perspectives and experiences that come from working in a joint environment,” Sordyl said. “By having other viewpoints in the training we conduct, we can provide much more robust and realistic training to our students while preparing them for joint service environments.”

As a joint base, Goodfellow strives to advance not just the Air Force, but the entire military force as a whole.

“Our students are shown how intelligence is used not just with a focus on the airborne domain, but the shipborne and land-based domains as well,” Sordyl said. “On top of that, the students are exposed to other services’ unique cultures, which leads to much stronger teams and better communication skills when they reach their capstone exercises and go on to their operational units.”

Learning different cultures can also help develop new perspectives.

“Everywhere our students go after graduation, it’s a completely different mission, with different customers, and working with different military services,” Preiser said. “This is a good initial opportunity for — in our case both the airmen and Marines — to see the military and see the career field from different perspectives.”

The ability of our military to overcome and adapt to any situation, to include the recent pandemic, in an effort to ensure overall mission-readiness is second to none.

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