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Ground Test University bridging the knowledge gap for AEDC personnel

Test Operations Engineer and Ground Test University instructor Bernie Williamson discusses Synergen system hot keys during a recent GTU class. Also pictured is fellow GTU instructor Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bradley Hicks) (This image was manipulated by obscuring badges for security purposes)

Test Operations Engineer and Ground Test University instructor Bernie Williamson discusses Synergen system hot keys during a recent GTU class. Also pictured is fellow GTU instructor Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bradley Hicks) (This image was manipulated by obscuring badges for security purposes)

Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility, left, answers a question from engineer Aaron Smith during a recent Ground Test University class. Also pictured is engineer Hakita Khampakasy. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bradley Hicks)

Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility, left, answers a question from engineer Aaron Smith during a recent Ground Test University class. Also pictured is engineer Hakita Khampakasy. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bradley Hicks)

Ground Test University instructors and AEDC engineers Julius Lockett, left, and Bernie Williamson lead a GTU class. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bradley Hicks) (This image was manipulated by obscuring badges for security purposes)

Ground Test University instructors and AEDC engineers Julius Lockett, left, and Bernie Williamson lead a GTU class. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bradley Hicks) (This image was manipulated by obscuring badges for security purposes)

Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility, leads a recent Ground Test University class. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bradley Hicks) (This image was manipulated by obscuring badges for security purposes)

Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility, leads a recent Ground Test University class. The purpose of GTU is to provide younger members of the AEDC workforce and their more-tenured counterparts in new positions with knowledge and information to help them more effectively complete job tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bradley Hicks) (This image was manipulated by obscuring badges for security purposes)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- AEDC Ground Test University has been back in session at Arnold Air Force Base for the better part of a year, and the hopes are that newer members of the workforce and their more experienced colleagues who have taken on new roles will reap the benefits of the coursework.

Julius Lockett, a systems engineer in the Engine Test Facility who has been a GTU instructor since the inception of its current configuration, said, “GTU is all about the sharing of knowledge.”

“More and more, people are leaving the workforce, often taking the knowledge they have gained through their experience with them,” Lockett said. “GTU is seen as a way to ensure this knowledge is not lost, but rather imparted upon younger, less experienced employees. Ground Test University was set up to basically be a knowledge swap. As you know, you have an aging workforce here at Arnold Air Force Base. Through GTU, we’re basically transferring a lot of the information that the younger engineers are going to require.”

GTU was started several years ago to provide accelerated training to new hires and technical staff. The program was resurrected in an effort to ensure the continued sharing of information and know-how.

The program is not just open to engineers. Systems and Plant Operations personnel, planners and schedulers and craft supervisors are among those who also take part in the courses.

There are some non-engineering new hires currently participating in GTU, but the classes are typically made up of a combination of employees who have been at Arnold AFB for fewer than two years and more-tenured employees who may have changed mission areas and have worked in their current posts for only a short time.

GTU participants are brought up to speed on how to utilize systems and software with which they regularly interact, such as the Computerized Maintenance Management System, and are provided more detailed information on how to execute the processes they are expected to complete.

“I think the end goal is to eventually have the program in such a way that anybody can teach it and take it as they see fit,” Lockett said.

“If somebody needs a refresher in how to access or operate the drawing system or look at Matrix or look at Synergen or look at basic plant equipment or test cell equipment, they will be able to pull up the presentation at their desk and view it at their own pace,” said Bernie

Williamson, a test operations engineer who leads GTU courses alongside Lockett.

Williamson added, “GTU is not designed to serve as in-depth training, job-specific training or to replace Quals.”

“Basically we’re formalizing the on-the-job training that we were already doing,” he said. “We’re just formalizing it to fit it into a standardized format.”

Both Williamson and Lockett said GTU acts to “bridge the gap” between job-specific training and the knowledge of processes and systems obtained through experience.

“A guy walks in off the street, he’s not familiar with our processes. This is to help that guy get caught up on our processes,” Lockett said.
Williamson added it is easy for employees to become “compartmentalized” after long stints in one position or in one area. He and Lockett also agreed that GTU helps prevent “tunnel vision” among employees by learning other ways of carrying out their duties.

“We want to just basically have a place for those people to come so they’ll not just be meandering out there trying to learn on their own and pick up stuff,” Lockett said.

The approximately one-hour GTU classes are held each Monday afternoon.

“It sounds slow, but with the work schedule everybody has, getting together on one day is a pretty big achievement,” Williamson said.

Lockett said GTU curriculum is broken up into several categories, including Aeropropulsion, Flight, Space and Missiles. Lockett and Williamson work with management in different areas to identify those who may benefit from the training.

“Once those people are identified, we just basically invite those people to our session,” Lockett said.

Class sizes are small, usually averaging 10 to 12 participants. GTU is held in the computer training rooms on the first floor of the Administration & Engineering Building.

GTU participant Eric Sullivan, a mechanical engineer who has been with AEDC for less than a year, said the information he has thus far gleaned from the classes has been valuable.

“I do think this is very helpful to get you familiar with the software and systems we interact with on a daily basis,” he said. “I wish they would do this as part of new hire training.”

Providing participants with knowledge that they can then pass on to others is the ultimate objective of GTU, Lockett said.

“We want people to take away something from the process and actually learn it and, hopefully, it’s useful to the people who are going to take part in it,” Lockett said.