By John Ingle
In a world that is constantly changing, the need for modernization, flexibility and autonomy can play significant roles in determining an organization’s relevance, especially in an Air Force that continues to see increased demands around the globe.
Detachment 1 of Sheppard Air Force Base’s 364th Training Squadron is no stranger to increased responsibility, as it has been the largest training detachment in Air Education and Training Command for some time now — large enough to be considered a squadron based on the number of personnel assigned to the unit and the roughly 1,400 Airmen it trains annually. The detachment, based at Fort Leonard Wood, removed all consideration Oct. 17 when it was deactivated and officially reactivated as the 368th Training Squadron during a ceremony at the installation’s Main Post Chapel.
Lt. Col. Josh Aldred, who has served as detachment commander since June, also assumed command of the 368th during the ceremony. He told those in attendance that the transition from a detachment to a squadron was historic for the unit as well as its personnel and the Airmen they train.
“We are standing up new courses, modernizing our training, bringing additional resources online and preparing our Airmen to be ready to fight tonight,” he said. “The road to success has many hurdles, but you have my solemn vow that I will continue to be aggressive and fight for you every day.”
Aldred said his goal is to make the squadron better and, in the long term, successful. The way to do that, he said, is through the continued partnership with the Army at its Maneuver Support Center of Excellence.
He said he has three priorities for the new squadron moving forward: Invest in its people; modernize its facilities, equipment and training areas; and provide Airmen with world-class and relevant civil engineering training.
“America’s families have entrusted us with their sons and daughters, and our Air Force has entrusted us to ensure they’re ready when our nation needs them,” he said. “Every day, you have an impact on the future of our nation, and I thank you for your willingness to serve.”
Squadron Superintendent Chief Master Sgt. David Cheney, who has served as detachment superintendent for 1 1/2 years, said the idea of converting to a squadron had been talked about for some time, but discussions heated up in December and January. Despite great support from the 364th TRS, 782nd Training Group and 82nd Training Wing, the geographically separated unit still faced some challenges inherent to not being at Sheppard or on another Air Force base.
The ability to make timely changes to training curriculum was also challenging, he said, because while the subject matter experts were located at Fort Leonard Wood, where the training was taking place, the training managers were at Sheppard. By becoming a squadron, the 368th will have all specialties in one place to make operations run even smoother. It also means more staff to support the squadron’s training efforts.
Another benefit to the autonomous nature the transition brings to the training unit comes with leadership having eyes on instructors and staff performing the duties of the squadron daily. While 364th TRS leadership provided long-distance support as best as possible, having local approval authority for reviews and awards will provide a swifter process.
Cheney said depending on the lens from which a person is viewing the transition, there might not be much of a change. He said the curriculum, instructors and structure of the training will be the same as before the transition.
“We’re trying to make a lot of change here, and that’s definitely a heavy workload, not on just the leadership team, but on the staff as well,” he said. “I think we’re finally breaking through to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s very motivating. It’s very motivating to know that our Air Force is willing to make changes to modernize and stay relevant and keep our training relevant.”
Sheppard’s presence at Fort Leonard Wood began in the 1970s when an Interservice Training Review Organization decision collocated some civil engineering courses within the Defense Department at the Missouri post. That included Sheppard’s pavement and equipment apprentice course, which was the only Air Force technical training program at the installation before 1992.
In subsequent years, the Air Force moved emergency management, engineer assistant and ground transportation programs to Fort Leonard Wood.
The 368th TRS’s lineage dates back to World War II and the 368th Bombardment Squadron, which served in the European Theater as part of the 306th Bombardment Group. During the war, 177 aircraft from the 306th were lost in combat along with 738 crewmen killed and another 885 taken prisoner. Forty-four men evaded capture.
As a result of the unit’s valiant service during engagements, one Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded as well as two Distinguished Unit Commendations; five Soldier’s Medals; seven Distinguished Service Crosses; 39 Silver Stars; 447 Purple Hearts and 1,511 Distinguished Flying Crosses.
The 368th Bombardment Squadron was deactivated in 1963 and remained that way until the ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood.