FORT LEE, Va. – At less than 100 personnel Army-wide, test measurement and diagnostic equipment maintenance support specialists – those belonging to military occupational specialty 94H – are rarities.
The average Soldier could go an entire career without meeting someone from that MOS; however, without them, individuals could not, for example, safely operate tactical vehicles or correctly perform maintenance on weapons, generators or a deep list of other equipment.
In other words, 94Hs are uncommon, but they are far from inconsequential, as emphasized by Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Hyche, a senior course instructor who used a broad stroke to describe the MOS’ impact on the Army.
“A 94H is basically a calibrator,” he said of the Army Sustainment MOS. “They calibrate everything the Army uses to maintain equipment.”
“Everything” includes wrenches, micrometers, calipers, wet bulb indicators and oscilloscopes, pressure gauges, radiation detectors, thermometers and a bunch more.
Calibration is the practice of comparing standards using test and diagnostic devices to certify the operability of tools and equipment based on a known standard, according to Staff Sgt. Jesse Revis, also a 94H instructor.
“Once you have that comparison, you can determine if an item needs repairs, servicing or maintenance, or if it is too broken to be used any longer, especially if it is causing a safety issue,” he said.
Collectively, the operability of these tools form the basis for how and to what level the Army functions.
“We exist as a safety function to make sure everything that tests, measures or diagnoses a problem is reading correctly,” Revis said.
Serving as the Army’s “safety function” requires 33 weeks of training. The 94H course is the longest at Fort Lee, consisting of a 10-week basic electronics portion and eight modules that include administrative requirements and working with specific tools.
“Right now, we work with a small baseline of tools the students will actually see (once assigned to their units),” said Hyche, noting the tools can be used to “calibrate thousands of different types of equipment.”
Tim Coyne, the 94H course manager, said the course is heavily tilted toward hands-on training.
“It’s about 70-percent hands-on and 30 percent lecture,” he said. “It is very often they’ll receive a lecture and turn around and walk over to a bench and do the work they were just lectured on.”
Because the course is technical and bursting at the seams with content, the instructional environment is fashioned to make military personnel feel comfortable, according to Revis.
“When students first arrive, they’re a little skittish,” he said. “They’re not sure what the environment is going to be like. We have a lot of information we have to teach them – for most people 33 weeks is a long time – but for what we do, that’s a very short time to teach them all they need to know. So, we really try and create an environment in which they can effectively learn.”
To that end, students are encouraged to engage with instructors, Hyche emphasized.
“Instructors will go out of their way to ensure students are knowledgeable on the subject matter,” he said. “They’ll question and question them. If they don’t get the right answers, they’ll take them back to the bench for a do-over.”
The instructors are “very thorough” in making sure students fulfill the instructional requirements, added Hyche, “because they know, once they leave here, they’re going to have to work with the same students they trained.”
In order to produce the best graduates, a low 1-6 instructor-to-student ratio is standard for the course, and it is a strong factor in countering lesser ability levels and overcoming the course’s heavy technical focus, Coyne noted.
“Students pretty much get one-on-one instruction throughout the POI,” he said. “It’s very near on-the-job training because instructors are showing students how things are done out in the field.”
Because of the high qualification requirements and extensive high-tech training 94H students receive, they are the targets of outside interests.
“The attrition rate is high because these Soldiers can get out of the Army and do well in the civilian job market,” observed Damon B. Dean, director of the Armament and Electronics Training Department at the Ordnance School. “The technical skill is high and there is a high demand for it. On the other hand, Soldiers can benefit by staying in. For one, they get to thoroughly develop their skill levels.”
Revis is one Soldier who opted to continue service in the face of a civilian job offer. The six-year-Soldier said he was offered a high-paying position at another federal agency, but the school environment and Fort Lee community offered a measure of stability he could not ignore.
“I made the decision to stay, and I’m pretty happy with it overall,” said Revis, noting he is passionate about teaching and attracted to the MOS’ technical features.
Revis’ sentiment is shared by students. Pfc. Manuel Umana, 36, was enrolled in another MOS school when an injury disqualified him. He chose 94H without knowing much about it. After more than 30 weeks of school, however, his mind is made up.
“I love it,” said the Hollywood, Calif., native. “It’s a blessing in disguise. I’ve come to appreciate so many new things. I had no idea I loved this kind of stuff.”
Nineteen-year-old Pvt. Noah Engel said he stumbled upon the 94H MOS while in his recruiter’s office and was sold on it after watching a video. Since then, the Ridgecrest, Calif., native has come to love the “technical aspects, being able to see results and having a job that’s guaranteed every day.”
Umana and Engel are both active duty Soldiers who are destined for Fort Bragg, N.C., and South Korea, respectively. They are likely to be assigned to a maintenance company in a combat sustainment support battalion.
The 94H course holds about nine classes and averages 54 student graduates per year.