49th OG trains sensor operators, produces instructors

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholas Paczkowski
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
In 2009, Holloman set up its MQ-9 Reaper aircrew training program and since then it has become the U.S. Air Forces hub for MQ-9 training, graduating hundreds of students every year. 
The MQ-9 has two key personnel that operate it, the pilot and the sensor operator, both of whom play a vital role in keeping the aircraft flying. 
“We’re a team; the whole mission is a collective effort,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gunney Davidson, 9th Attack Squadron MQ-9 sensor operator instructor. “The pilots are the ones flying the aircraft, while the sensor operators are the eyes, so it’s absolutely imperative to the mission that they work together.”
Working together allows pilots and sensor operators to better understand the importance of their respective roles in flying the aircraft. During their training, sensor operators and pilots work hand-in-hand but undergo different training.
Sensor operator training begins once a student arrives and is in-processed at the 16th Training Squadron and from the beginning they are taught the ins and outs of the MQ-9.  
“First we teach them the basics, such as the Holloman air space and the working parameters of an MQ-9, like emergency procedures, how to use the multi-targeting system and then we put them into the simulators,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rosaline Marin, 6th ATKS MQ-9 instructor sensor operator.
While training in the simulators, students are challenged as the instructors can change the weather patterns, terrain, attacking personnel, vehicles and other obstacles that might arise during real-world operations. This helps to enhance training as MQ-9s are operated in different regions across the globe. 
After completing their training in the simulator, sensor operators and pilots move on to training in a ground control station, the centralized control system for the MQ-9. It’s here in the GCSs that they put the skills learned into operating the aircraft.
As the Air Force’s hub for MQ-9 aircrew training, Holloman also doubles as the key training location for future MQ-9 aircrew instructors. 
“It’s essential that we produce quality over quantity,” said Davidson. “Not everyone that undergoes instructor upgrade training is cut out for the course because you need to be very knowledgeable, tactful and professional simultaneously.”
Holloman continually upholds the highest standards for MQ-9 sensor operators who have played pivotal roles in missions around the world for the past decade and will continue to produce highly trained sensor operators for Great Power Competition. 
“It’s exciting to be a part of an organization that is helping to propel the military forward,” said Davidson. “I think a lot of us get lost in the job and forget about the impact we make, but when I bump into a former student and they tell me the training here helped them, it makes me realize I am making an impact.”