JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
Ammo troops with the 3rd Munitions Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, will notice their required training is new and improved this year, thanks in large part to the training section chief.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Kern, the 3rd MUNS training section chief, was selected by his leadership in March 2020, to lead and revamp the section.
“One of the reasons we wanted to spotlight him is because of how successful the CMT [combat munitions training] program is now compared to what it was a year ago,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah Smartt, the 3rd MUNS systems flight chief.
Airmen assigned to a munitions squadron are required to complete CMT every 18 months for the bombs and missiles used at their base. Here at JBER, those are guided bomb units designed for F-22 Raptor aircraft, the GBU-32 and GBU-39. However, JBER’s 3rd MUNS goes above and beyond what’s required by expanding its program to introduce its ammo troops to a variety of munitions.
“Part of what we’ve added is training on different bombs the F-22 doesn’t fly, so when we deploy we have people familiar with them,” said Kern, who redeployed to JBER from Osan Air Base, South Korea, in Dec. 2019. “It jumpstarts our Airmen to be more valuable downrange.
“Along with the bombs and missiles, we go over the equipment used to test each one,” Kern continued. “The program is designed to give everyone some familiarization training and some hands-on and eyes-on with different munitions; it’s not designed to fully qualify personnel. If they look at something or hear an acronym a couple years down the road, they’ll be able to remember, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that. That’s that test set used to test this missile.’”
Before Kern was running the training section, the CMT program held a traditional classroom portion in one location, then Airmen moved over to the different 3rd MUNS sections around the base to get hands-on training.
“What’s different now is it’s all consolidated here at the training section,” Kern said. “We have our own building and we have everything we need within that building, so we don’t have to coordinate with other sections and bring a bunch of people over there. It’s a lot less coordination than it used to be.”
The revamped, one-stop-shop training section is in a building that was previously used for storage. Kern and his team cleaned out the building, repainted some of the interior walls, ordered classroom furniture and a TV, and acquired various munitions and test kits for ammo troops to train on.
“From a decentralized program, we now have overall governance of the CMT lesson plan and a centralized focus,” Smartt said. “I’ve tasked the training section with a lot in the past six or seven months, and around every corner Kern succeeds. With all the revamping and revitalizing of that section and trying to get the new process set up, there have been a lot of shortfalls he had to work through – and he overcame them. The CMT process itself has been turned around.”
“He’s a fire-and-forget kind of guy – he can develop processes and he can implement processes,” Smartt continued. “Those are great qualities in a section chief. He has fresh ideas and a diverse way of doing things. He’s not just trying to maintain the status quo – he’s trying to always better the squadron, always better our readiness and training capabilities, to broaden our skills to be compliant, lethal and ready.”
When ammo troops attend training in the new facility, they’ll go through the program Kern has implemented. CMT still commences with a traditional classroom portion, but now it’s taught with the enhanced curriculum. A laptop on each desk allows students to home in on the training slides and videos also displayed on the TV in front of the class.
When it’s time for the hands-on portion, students travel a trajectory of a mere five steps to the left from their desks where inert bombs, missiles, tail kits, umbilical covers, other munitions and bomb-building materials are meticulously organized.
“As a new Airman, seeing those different kinds of bombs lets you know that not every tail kit is the same,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Smith, the 3rd MUNS training supervisor. “Sometimes you might need to install an umbilical cover or maybe you’re going to use a proximity detector and you need to know how to install that correctly.”
“Technical Sergeant Kern did a lot to get the curriculum trimmed to exactly what we want to teach,” Smith continued. “He tailored it to providing as much hands-on experience as possible.”
Kern, a native of Vandalia, Ohio, arrived at JBER with an armory of munitions experience which reinforced the purpose behind the CMT program. He has been assigned to munitions squadrons in Germany, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, twice to South Korea, twice at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, and currently JBER.
“The bombs we’re teaching now were some of the bombs we built downrange with Seymour Johnson,” Kern said. “If I were to deploy and have to support a different aircraft, this program would be great familiarization and a refresher.”
Kern said revamping the CMT program and creating the new training facility with COVID-19 always on the radar didn’t make things easy, but the program has been a success.
“COVID-19 created a lot of challenges, but the guys who worked for me in the training section and my leadership really helped out,” Kern said. “It didn’t stop us from establishing this new program and getting our personnel trained.”
Kern and the 3rd MUNS training section don’t plan on slowing down – they have their sights on CPR, tactical combat casualty care and other training items that can be accomplished in the remodeled training facility.
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