AAFB, SWTC: A partnership to last
- Published Jan. 17, 2023
- By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
- 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Commanders from across Altus Air Force Base joined leadership from Southwest Technology Center in Altus, Oklahoma for a luncheon and tour of the school on Jan. 11, 2023. The relationship between SWTC and AAFB is one that spans over two decades and has only grown in depth and scale since the doors of the school opened to students in 1988.
Today, programs like “Grow Your Own Mechanic,” EMT training and the aviation maintenance courses directly benefit AAFB in many ways. From educating and training more than 170 “Grow Your Own Mechanic” students who now work in the 97th Maintenance Group to training AAFB’s fire department in life saving skills for emergency response, SWTC continues to have an impact in developing Airmen and civilian employees at Altus Air Force Base.
“In 2017, Southwest Technology Center started training Altus Air Force Base’s firefighters as emergency medical technicians,” said Jill Lazenby, marketing and communications director for SWTC. “Then, in 2021 we upgraded that skillset and started training those firefighters for emergency medical response.”
Superintendent of SWTC, Dale Latham expressed that his goals for the future include expanding and increasing training and support throughout the 97th Air Mobility Wing in maintenance, operations and the medical group.
The partnership between SWTC and AAFB developed throughout the tour as senior leaders from AAFB were able to experience the auto mechanic shop, woodworking shop, the graphic design studio, cosmetology school, and the health science and medical department.
The last stop was Hangar 33, located within the Altus/Quartz Regional Airport. The space was purchased from the airport by SWTC in 2008 for the expansion of the aviation program. Hangar 33 is now primarily where “Grow Your Own Mechanic” students are trained. That program offers certifications in Federal Aviation Administration airframe and powerplant, as well as career majors in general aviation, airframe mechanic and power plant.
“Grow Your Own Mechanic” was designed as an idea on a napkin at a very similar luncheon held for AAFB senior leaders in 1999, with the plan to train mechanics from the local Altus area. Graduates from the program currently make up 24% of the workforce in the 97th Maintenance Group.
“The return on investment that Southwest Technology Center provides to not just our base, but also to the broader community is really remarkable,” said Col. Blaine Baker, 97 AMW commander. “That passion to grow our future, invest in our members and invest in our goals to ultimately make a better society is very important and appreciated.”
Dale Latham, superintendent of Southwest Technology Center, outlines SWTC’s
accomplishments to senior leaders from across Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Jan. 11, 2023.
The partnership between SWTC and AAFB has been going strong since the “Grow Your Own
Mechanic” program was created in 1999. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kari
Chief Master Sgt. Cesar Flores, 97th Air Mobility Wing command chief, snaps a picture of the
“Grow Your Own Mechanic” logo displayed on a plane in Hangar 33 in Altus, Oklahoma, Jan.
11, 2023. The plane was designed and built by students from the Southwest Technology Center
within the GYOM program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed)
The “Grow Your Own Mechanic” (GYOM) logo, inspired by the 1940’s “Rosie the Riveter”
advertisements, displayed on a plane inside Hangar 33 in Altus, Oklahoma on Jan. 11, 2023.
GYOM is a Federal Aviation Part 147-certified program which has given employment
opportunities to more than 170 employees in the 97th Maintenance Group at Altus Air Force
Base. (U.S. Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed)
Jill Lazenby, marketing and communications director at Southwest Technology Center (SWTC),
gives a tour to commanders and leadership from across Altus Air Force Base (AAFB),
Oklahoma, Jan. 11, 2023. The partnership between AAFB and SWTC does not extend only to
Airmen and civilian employees; family members and spouses are also encouraged to continue
their education and further their career through SWTC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st
Class Kari Degraffenreed)
Jill Lazenby, marketing and communications director at Southwest Technology Center, gathers
senior leaders from across Altus Air Force Base in Hangar 33, a learning center attached to
SWTC in Altus, Oklahoma, Jan. 11, 2023. Hangar 33 houses the “Grow Your Own Mechanic”
program, which offers certifications to both high school students and adults looking to further
their education in aviation mechanics. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kari
Col. Blaine Baker, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander coins Jill Lazenby, Southwest Technology
Center, at Hangar 33 in Altus, Oklahoma on Jan. 11, 2023. Baker coined several members of
SWTC leadership who put together the luncheon and tour for AAFB service members. (U.S. Air
Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed)