TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 14, at Travis Air Force Base, California, provides maintenance training for all major commands, sister services and allied nations in airlift, special operations, tanker support and aerospace ground equipment.
Based out of Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, the unit trains newly minted crew chiefs, electricians, jet engine mechanics, avionics and hydraulics troops on aircraft maintenance and repair procedures, as well as veteran maintainers upgrading skill levels and learning new technology. These instructors are maintainers teaching maintainers.
The squadron is one of two training squadrons within the 982nd Training Group with multiple detachments that deliver their training mission to all airlift, tanker and special operations maintenance personnel.
Senior Master Sgt. Eduardo Lombera Jr., is currently serving as the detachment chief for 31 instructors. He hails from a small town in southern California and joined the Air Force in 1998.
Lombera is an instruments and flight control mechanic by trade. He has worked on KC-135s at Royal Air Force base, Mildenhall, United Kingdom, and AC-130H Spectre and U-model Spooky Gunships at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He was also an enlisted and officer recruiter in Pensacola, Florida. He was the lead production superintendent at the 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prior to becoming the detachment chief at Det. 14.
“Making a difference in a young maintainer’s career is very rewarding,” he said. “I knew that if I ever had the opportunity to become a detachment chief, I would jump on it. It has been the most rewarding experience. From training seasoned maintainers with over a decade of experience to having KC-10 crew chief technical school students, we get to make an impact in people’s careers at every level.”
“Our courses vary in length. Some are less than a week and some courses are several months long. It depends on the course material. Our teaching days are eight hours long with plenty of hands-on tasks. Some of the tasks are performed on our multimillion dollar trainers and some are performed on the actual aircraft.”
Lombera says the detachment trains between 1,500 to 1,600 students per year. But more than how many students the detachment trains, it’s what it trains that sets it apart from other training squadrons.
“What makes the 373rd Det. 14 unique is what also makes Travis AFB unique,” said Lombera. “We are one of the few detachments that train on three different weapon systems. There are over 50 unique courses that we can teach on the three separate airframes as well as aerospace ground equipment and faculty development courses.”
Each of the instructors must undergo intensive training to gain the fundamentals of teaching, policy and procedures, the counseling process and how to prepare and deliver academic lessons.
“All instructors must attend the Air Force’s Basic Instructor Course,” said Lombera. “They must also attain their Community College of the Air Force credentials since all our courses are CCAF accredited and all students receive CCAF credits based on the length of the course.”
Every instructor’s experience is different. Some have been stationed here at Travis and have gained experience on the flightline. Others come from different airframes, some have worked in quality assurance as a flying crew chief, as a backshop technician or in a special duty career.
Staff Sgt. David Fagan is a C-5M airframe power plant general instructor teaching Airmen that have little or no experience with the C-5M Super Galaxy.
“I have two different classes that I teach: C-5M familiarization class and C-5M en route Class,” said Fagan. “The familiarization class is primarily for master sergeants and above and officers that are new to the C-5M. This class is designed to give the student a basic idea of the C-5M’s capabilities. The C-5M en route class is taught to maintainers that are transferring to the C-5M from another airframe.”
All curriculum is determined by the owning agency, said Fagan.
“For instance, Air Mobility Command determines what they want us to teach their maintainers about C-5s,” he said. “If they are heading to an en route base, they want their maintainers to know how to apply power to the aircraft, refuel, service engines, operate the cargo doors, operate the kneeling system, tow, perform inspections, etc. Every two years, this material is reviewed to ensure that the material taught is still relevant and is producing quality maintainers.”
The 373rd TRS has far-reaching global impact, providing training to all branches of service and United States allied commands.
“Most recently, one of our instructors traveled to Hawaii to train some Marine aviators on advanced wire maintenance,” said Lombera. “While I’ve been the detachment chief, we also had an instructor travel to India. He was one of the first to train the Indian air force on C-17 Globemaster III ground equipment. We also had an instructor travel to Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord, Washington, to train some Royal Australian Air Force Maintainers. She spent over a month there going over the C-17 avionics systems. We also train the Reserve members from the 349th Air Mobility Wing and maintainers throughout AMC and Air Force Reserve Command.”
After 20 years, Lombera’s career in the Air Force is coming to a close.
“I absolutely love being stationed here,” said Lombera. “This is the closest I’ve ever been to home and it’s great. Some might think that being part of a unit that is not part of the 60th AMW would make things difficult for us, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When they say Team Travis, they mean it. We are taken care of very well here and we are very appreciative of that. We definitely feel like we are part of the team.”
Looking back on his career, Lombera is content with ending it at Det. 14.
“This was a great experience for me,” said Lombera. “One of the main reasons I decided to retire was because I could not imagine doing anything else after being the detachment chief for Det. 14 and the great group of non- commissioned officers and senior NCOs assigned here. I’m in awe of what they do every single day.”