Standing on Their Own

The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Maintenance Group at March ARB, Calif., now oversees a fully functioning training operation to prepare mechanics for Predator unmanned aerial vehicles. The group’s Det. 26 initially trained under the tutelage of UAV trainers at Nellis AFB, Nev. Now the March MQ-1 Predator maintenance schoolhouse, which operates under agreement with Air Education and Training Command, serves as a formal training detachment to provide UAV maintenance training for active, Air Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command personnel. The maintenance group has its own equipment, separate from its parent 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, which began operating Predators in late 2006, which enabled the UAV training to continue despite the wing’s heavy operational duties, according to MSgt. Michael Adams, communications instructor. But, the wing plans to open a flying training activity to train Predator operators at the former George Air Force Base, near Victorville, which Adams said would open even more doors, explaining, “We’ll be able to provide hands-on training and let the students interact with flying aircraft so they can learn and practice what they will be doing in a realistic environment.” (March report by Capt. Al Bosco)