155th ARW BOSS helps with boom operators readiness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexander Schriner

LINCOLN AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – Located in the old engine shop building behind a pair of double doors sits a giant gray machine replicating the back of a KC-135R Stratotanker. There’s a desk full of several computer screens staring at the instructor as they set up and prepare a simulation. Meanwhile on the inside is a boom operator marking off tasks and getting ready for whatever the instructor has to throw at them. Welcome to the Boom Operating Simulator System (BOSS).

Since 2014, the BOSS has helped with the 155th Air Refueling Wing’s training and readiness by providing boom operators real-world scenarios they haven’t encountered and to qualify in areas that may not be available to an Airman until a deployment.

“They can train on malfunctions, emergency procedures and abnormal situations that you can’t duplicate while you’re flying,” said Gene Ernst, a simulator technician with Delaware Resource Group. “Units didn’t always have these simulators around, so sometimes all you could do was talk through the steps to take in those situations.”

The BOSS helps benefit Airmen like Staff Sgt. Audrey Levey, 155th Air Refueling Wing boom operator.

“There’s no way to effectively emulate some of the emergency scenarios on an actual flight without it getting dangerous, so that has helped me with my training,” Levey said. “It can prepare us for certain kinds of receivers we may not see very often and help us run through the checklists of procedures.”

A versatile system, the BOSS has an array of possibilities to put boom operators through and what that looks like is up to the instructor.

“I can replicate any time of day, type of weather or how a jet is flying,” Ernst said. “Additionally we have the ability to refuel anything in the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and select NATO aircraft on the system.”

Being able to simulate many different conditions has prepared and played a factor for Levey in a few real life flights.

“The biggest thing it has prepared me for is breakaways, which is if something goes wrong such as turbulence and there needs to be immediate separation,” Levey said. “You don’t have time to think, you just do, so that has saved me.”

The BOSS system will be receiving a new upgrade that will provide the operators more realistic scenarios and better training.

“It’s going to make the simulator more reliable, realistic and Airmen will receive better training from it,” Ernst said. “The software we have now is around 10 years old, so this will be a nice update.”

The BOSS is just one part of the piece when it comes to making the whole picture at the 155th ARW, said Ernst.

“I’ve been a boom instructor since 2011 and the differences from then to now are like night and day when it comes to the training and readiness,” Ernst said. “Having the BOSS better prepares the 155th ARW for key missions and day to day operations they carry out.”