Maj. Walter Yazzie and Maj. Rodney Harris look over some of the Air Force’s unique training areas.
The United States Air Force (USAF) takes training and education very seriously. One of the training programs getting a lot of attention at USAF these days involves HVACR in dormitories, hospitals, dining facilities, and other buildings in the United States and in deployed locations.

This training is conducted at the USAF 366th Training Squadron, Mechanical Flight, HVACR program at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. The 366th trains HVACR technicians for lifelong opportunities with the armed services. The program is designed to prepare them to transition to civilian life, where they can use their skills to heat and cool buildings.

The USAF wanted to ensure its personnel have technical skills so that they can be articulated, transferred, and recognized in the civilian world. The best way to accomplish this is through programmatic accreditation.

In seeking an accrediting body, the USAF followed the United States Department of Education guidelines that specify that the accrediting body shall be a non-governmental peer evaluation, must be free of influence from the agency (USAF) that oversees the school system, and must meet the separate and independent requirements set by the United States Department of Education as defined in 34 C.F.R. § 602.10 (revised 2004).

To meet this task of accrediting the HVACR program, the USAF selected HVAC Excellence.

Pass The Test

The USAF 366th completed a self-study comparing its HVACR program to 10 national standards. The HVAC Excellence executive committee, having reviewed the self-study, selected a group of industry veterans - with over 60 years of combined technical administrative and teaching experience - to conduct an in-depth, on-site evaluation of the program. The on-site evaluation, which took place in June of this year, took into account curriculum, faculty, training facilities, equipment and safety, student facilities, placement services, and financial aid.

After critique of the on-site analysis, HVAC Excellence’s executive committee determined that the HVACR program at the USAF 366th Training Squadron, Mechanical Flight, at Sheppard Air Force Base exceeded all standards. It was granted the distinguished honor of a six-year accreditation with commendations for Maj. Rodney Harris and Maj. Walter Yazzie. Pictured at the on-site completion ceremony are (from left) Jerry Lester, instruction supervisor of HVAC courses; Joseph Cardon, technical sergeant; Michael Murray, staff sergeant; Col. Keith Maxwell, commander 366th Training Squadron; Raymond Stephens, staff sergeant; Maj. Harris, commander, Mechanical Flight; Thomas Tebbe, from HVAC Excellence; Maj. Yazzie, commander, Mechanical Flight; and Coy Gibson, from HVAC Excellence.
The team interviewed, as part of the process, key personnel of the USAF 366th training program, including Lt. Col. Keith Maxwell (commander, 366th training squadron), Maj. Rodney Harris (commander, mechanical flight), Maj. Walter Yazzie (incoming commander, mechanical flight), Denise Wilburn (chief, wing learning and development), Mike Harris (training manager, HVACR), Bud Teel (chief, training support, GLT), Jerry Lester (instruction supervisor of HVACR courses), Ron Lawson (course development), and Carol Fedo (training specialist).

After critique of the on-site analysis, HVAC Excellence's executive committee determined that the HVACR program exceeded all standards. It was granted the distinguished honor of a six-year accreditation with commendations for Majs. Harris and Yazzie.

Part Of The Program

The 366th Training Squadron is part of the Air Force college system that offers graduates an associate's degree. The college works with Air Force training schools, regional accrediting agencies, and hundreds of cooperating civilian colleges and universities. High school graduates looking for an opportunity can chose from more than 80 fields of study, ranging from police science to environmental services technology or HVACR. Registration is free, and the college establishes a special study program for each student.

Maj. Walter Yazzie, commander, Mechanical Flight and Training, stands at the entrance to the USAF 366th Training Squadron, Mechanical Flight, HVACR Program, along with Staff Sergeant Raymond Stephens.
Professional, industrial, and governmental organizations that issue licenses, certifications, and set standards for civilian work recognize Air Force training and education through the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). Airmen earn fully recognized college credits for most of what they learn in job training and on-the-job training. They can combine those credits with attendance at off-duty courses from civilian colleges to earn a two-year accredited associate's degree in Applied Sciences from CCAF.

"The United States Air Force training centers offer an educational opportunity for high school graduates that is second to none," said Thomas Tebbe, HVAC Excellence regional director. "Their training programs are equal to or better than similar civilian institutional programs. I began my career having served four years in the Air Force, and as a retired educator can attest to the benefits and life-long career opportunities that the Air Force can provide.

The Air Force’s boiler training lab is full of various boilers for hands-on training.
"I highly encourage all schools to articulate with the USAF and employers to recruit those transitioning back to civilian life."

The United States Air Force 366th Training Squadron, Mechanical Flight, HVACR Program is now listed in HVAC Excellence's official directory, Photos of this program can be viewed online at To learn more about training opportunities with the USAF 366th program, contact Jerry Lester at 940-676-6203, or visit

Publication date: 10/17/2005