Coast Guardsmen, Airmen Join Forces for Training

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. - Team Selfridge is helping some Coast Guard aircraft maintenance technicians get ready for their next promotion test.

About 20 enlisted maintenance specialists from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit spent most of a recent duty day being trained on aircraft cockpit pressurization systems by several airmen of the Michigan Air National Guard. Air Station Detroit and the ANG’s 127th Wing are both located at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in suburban Detroit.

“This is a type of system that the maintenance technicians here don’t have an opportunity to work on, but it is knowledge that is required for their rating,” explained Chief Petty Officer Robert Holden, an aircraft maintenance technician at Air Station Detroit. “But it is something that the Air Force works on every day at Selfridge and my technicians can benefit from that.”

The Coast Guard operates a fleet of HH-65 Dolphin helicopters at Air Station Detroit, providing search and rescue capability to roughly the eastern half of the Great Lakes system. 

The helicopters do not include a cabin pressurization system. 

Since Coast Guard aircraft maintenance personnel can also be assigned to duty stations that operate fixed-wing aircraft with pressurized systems, they are required to have knowledge of such systems and can be tested on that knowledge during promotion examinations. While Holden said that Coast Guard maintainers can receive a waiver if they’ve never been assigned to a location where a pressurized cockpit system is in use, it makes sense to gain the knowledge when available.

The leaders of the 127th Wing, which is the host unit at Selfridge, and the commanders of the base’s approximately 40 tenant units, meet on a regular basis as Team Selfridge, to share issues and seek out opportunities to work together to the mutual benefit of all. Holden said a benefit for the two organizations of working together in this training scenario is that there were no additional costs involved to either group.

“We literally just had to drive to the other side of the base,” he said. 

Master Sgt. Charles Snyder, a member of the 127th Maintenance Squadron which maintains the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Selfridge, worked with Holden to put the training session together. 

He said, while in the case of this class, the Air Force was serving as the instructor, the airmen were also learning.

“The Coast Guard has a different culture than we do,” Snyder said. “I think it helps both sides when the two cultures can get together and exchange ideas.” 

Snyder tapped Staff Sgt. Nicole Moss to develop and lead the training, which included a half day of briefing and classroom time, followed by an afternoon walk-around familiarization discussion around an A-10. 

“This gives us a chance to further utilize her skill set and gives her an opportunity to excel,” Snyder said.

Moss said the cockpit pressurization system in the A-10 is critical for the safety of the pilot. 

“If the system is not working properly, hypoxia can begin to affect the pilot – potentially without the pilot even realizing it, creating a dangerous situation,” she said. 

The Air National Guard arranged to conduct the Coast Guard training on a day when A-10 operations on the base were scheduled for night training operations, allowing the class group an uninterrupted day to spend in one of the A-10 hangars.

Snyder said he enjoyed working with his Coast Guard counterparts.

“Their maintenance people are more generalists than we are,” he said. “It’s a different approach to maintaining an aircraft. I think each group pushed each other a little bit today and both groups are going to be the better for it.”

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marked its 96th year of continuous military air operations in 2013.

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