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C-21 schoolhouse gets a ‘flood’ of change

Man standing

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ken Kaczmarek, C-21 instructor pilot, stands in the former classroom of the C-21 Formal Training Unit at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Jan. 26, 2021. Six months ago, a flash flood wreaked havoc across Scott AFB, forcing the C-21 schoolhouse to relocate to a new facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Sam Eckholm)

Man standing

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jacob Buckman, C-21 Formal Training Unit chief pilot, teaches a lecture during the Initial Pilot Qualification course at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Jan. 26, 2021. This 7-week course is responsible for training new C-21 pilots so that they arrive at their units qualified to perform the C-21's mission of transporting general officers and other distinguished visitors to locations around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Sam Eckholm)

Man sitting in classroom

U.S. Air Force Capt. Johnny Frye, C-21 student pilot, listens in during an Initial Pilot Qualification course lecture at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Jan. 26, 2021. This 7-week course is responsible for training new C-21 pilots so that they arrive at their units qualified to perform the C-21's mission of transporting general officers and other distinguished visitors to locations around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Sam Eckholm)

Man standing

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ken Kaczmarek, C-21 instructor pilot, finishes his preflight walk-around at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Jan. 26, 2021. The C-21 Cougar is an instrument of diplomacy, used to transport general officers and other distinguished individuals to locations around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Sam Eckholm)

Scott AFB; 2020 flood

C-21 Learjet aircraft, assigned to the 458th Airlift Squadron, sit in flood waters, Aug. 12, 2020, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. A large storm cell centered right over the base, dumping large amounts of rain in a short time, causing flash flooding in portions of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Solomon Cook)

Scott AFB; 2020 flood

A towing truck prepares to move a C-21 Lear Jet from the hangar, Aug. 12, 2020, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. A large storm cell centered right over the base causing flash flooding in portions of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miranda Simpson)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — Six months ago a flash flood wreaked havoc across Scott Air Force Base, accumulating as much as four feet of water in various buildings and hangars, which also affected the C-21 Formal Training Unit.

The unit had to quickly find a new home to continue its mission of training the next generation of C-21 pilots.

As the Air Force’s sole C-21 schoolhouse, the FTU is responsible for training approximately 50 pilots per year, so that they arrive at their units qualified to perform the C-21’s mission of transporting general officers and other distinguished visitors to locations around the world.

“After the destructive flood brought extensive damage to our classroom, we knew the mission had to continue,” said Maj. David Ferrara, C-21 FTU deputy.  But it couldn’t just be anywhere.

Maj. Ken Kaczmarek, C-21 FTU instructor pilot said, “To have effective training, we need to provide the appropriate environment and equipment to facilitate our students’ learning.”

After looking at multiple facilities across Scott AFB to use as the new FTU, a decision was made to transform the existing 375th Operations Group conference room into a classroom. Although the facility was selected, the room’s infrastructure was not prepared to support the requirements needed of a formal training environment.

As a solution, the FTU instructors repurposed old equipment and worked alongside the 375th Communications Squadron to turn the one-time conference room into a proper aviation training facility.

“The efforts of the 375th Mission Support Group and C-21 FTU cadre synergistically helped to keep the mission going and allowed us to build a professional training environment for all our future students,” said Kaczmarek.

Last year, the Air Force chief of staff brought an emphasis to discipline and safety due to an increase in mishaps.

“Building a strong foundation of discipline and safety begins with the training of our flying force, and for the C-21, that starts right here at the FTU at Scott Air Force Base,” Kaczmarek said.

While plans are underway to rebuild the original FTU facility, construction will likely not be completed until the spring of 2022. In the meantime, for the C-21 FTU instructors, the mission remains clear: train pilots to provide safe, on time, comfortable airlift.

Ferrara added, “The Air Force still needs to produce pilots, and no matter what is thrown at us, our mission doesn’t stop.”