New facility offers state-of-the-art paint training

By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 2, 2012

New facility offers state-of-the-art paint training
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 2, 2012) -- Fort Rucker is known for its state-of-the-art simulators and training facilities, and the Spray, Technique, Research and Analysis for Defense paint training program is the newest addition to the installation's commitment to training excellence.

A ribbon cutting ceremony took place July 26 at Cairns Army Airfield in Hangar 30104 for the STAR4D program that utilizes classroom training; in-booth training; LaserPaint, which is a laser-guided spray training aid; and VirtualPaint, which is the software that the system uses to provide instant feedback, to keep the classes current and up to date, according to Graig Jolley, STAR4D program manager.

"The STAR4D program … teaches effective spraying techniques for different components, equipment, vehicles and surfaces," said Col. Michael C. Aid, Aviation Center Logistics Command commander. "It provides customized training to meet our needs, state-of-the-art equipment, and hands-on and classroom training."

Aid said that the push to get the program to Fort Rucker was the culmination of a team effort that included organizations like the Marine Corps, Aviation and Missile Command, Training and Doctrine Command, Army Fleet Support and ACLC.

"What we're trying to do is meet some standards," said the ACLC commander. "Standards that will [keep us from] coming to a work stoppage, save money on fines, improve combat readiness and allow us to invest money that is saved back into the process."

Seventeen painters have already been trained with the new program, said Aid, adding that all trainers will be trained by Sept. 30.

"We're excited about this program and the benefits and capabilities that it provides to Fort Rucker in support of Army Aviation," he said.

The benefits of the new program play back into the military national standards that ACLC is trying to meet and impact three different areas, according to Robert Herron, Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center Corrosion Programs Office representative.

"It impacts corrosion, it impacts the environment, and it impacts mission safety and reliability of the aircraft," he said. "The coating system is our primary barrier to corrosion prevention. Without a good coating system, we're going to have more corrosion in the field, and have to spend more time and money correcting that."

From the environmental standpoint, the program is looking to use more environmentally friendly coatings, and reduce the amount of waste and overspray on the equipment, he said, adding that the virtual painting also reduces the environmental footprint.

"We just had one of our paint inspections come up with an issue with a UH-60 helicopter coming out with too much coating on the tail," said Herron. "Just from a coating aspect, it can have a significant impact on the handling of the aircraft.

"You wouldn't think that a few millimeters of paint would do much, but when you look over the entire surface of the aircraft, you could be adding 20-25 pounds to the aircraft," he added. "That could reduce the amount of fuel the aircraft can handle."

Utilizing these new technologies to save on waste and meet new environmental standards all plays into the program's goal to improve quality, reduce rework, eliminate hazards and save money, said Jolley.

"The [Department of Defense] is really focused on helping the environment and saving money," he said. "We're building less new assets and we're trying to make everything last a little longer."

ACLC has many different programs to integrate quality, safety, standards, costs savings and environmental issues, but the STAR4D program encompasses all those elements into one program, said Mark S. Wentlent, vice president and general manager of AFS.

"We're going to be better at what we do" because of the program, he said to Aid. "Sir, our commitment to you is that we will continue to make sure that our guys are trained, we keep our certification up, and we provide the best service and best product that we possibly can at Fort Rucker."