Pilots, Crew Chiefs Enhance Team Cohesion, Clarify Roles

By Erik Moshe, Ready and ResilienceMarch 1, 2023

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Pilots and crew chiefs must build a shared understanding and mutual respect to ensure a successful flight. Master Resilience Trainer - Performance Experts (MRT-PEs) Kourtney Sappenfield, Chris McCalmont and Colin Klaber from the Fort Bliss Ready and Resilient (R2) Performance Center hosted a team-building performance PT for 1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion to emphasize how pilots and crew chiefs can better learn, understand and appreciate one another’s roles within their teams. Both pilots and crew chiefs are necessary for flight mission success, yet often these roles are not mutually understood, which can affect stress levels and unit cohesion.

“We emphasized team building and role appreciation by separating the unit into smaller teams that included both crew chiefs and pilots,” Sappenfield says. “Each team had 55 minutes to complete eight stations, alternating roles as leaders. Only one team could compete at one station at a time, so it was necessary for teams to strategize and communicate their plan and roles at each station. There were two stations where crew chiefs and pilots could start a dialogue by identifying successful qualities, daily tasks and variables that affect successful flights for both roles. Sappenfield explains, “The debrief emphasized the importance communication and role clarity played in the success throughout the stations, as well as how infrequent communication occurs between their roles at work.”

To develop the training, Sappenfield used information from Soldiers about their roles.

“Pilots can’t fly without maintenance on the aircraft, and crew chiefs maintain the aircraft for it to fly. Both roles’ work impacts the aircraft, but they often aren’t involved with one another in daily work, and crew chiefs don’t fly with the pilots,” says Sappenfield. "Understanding roles can broaden perspective of the bigger picture as well as the confidence and safety pilots have in the aircraft. One way to increase mutual understanding and role clarity is by providing opportunities for communication."

"Opportunities to learn what someone does day to day can increase awareness of each other and appreciation of the expertise and time of the other role. Greater appreciation could lead to fewer assumptions or misconceptions and less frustration, especially if things don’t go right. If I know the big picture for why a flight was canceled or know about the tedious process with maintenance, then it’s harder to jump to blame or be frustrated by the other role, since there is more clarity on what’s going on.”

The teams engaged most with the two stations dealing with role clarity. “Participants acknowledged in the debrief that the stations weren’t necessarily challenging. However, they realized it wasn’t common to have the conversations needed to complete those two stations successfully,” Sappenfield says. “One station required crew chiefs and pilots to identify three successful qualities of the opposite role. At the other station, the team played categories with four topics: daily tasks for pilots, daily tasks for crew chiefs, variables that impact the ability to fly and variables that impact successful maintenance.”

1st Sgt. Rodriguez, who requested the training, provided positive feedback about the training and the end discussion.

To schedule training to increase your team's performance and cohesion, contact your nearest R2 Performance Center. Visit https://www. armyresilience.army.mil/ard/ R2/I-Want-to-Schedule-Training.html.