HOMESTEAD ARB, Fla. --- The program manager for the F-35 Maintenance Training Devices Program for Lockheed Martin Corporation was once an F-16 maintainer at the 482nd Fighter Wing here.
1st Lt. Benito Avendano, a personnel officer with the 482nd Force Support Squadron, began his military career as fuels systems maintainer, where he reached the rank of staff sergeant before commissioning.
He now heads a team of over 100 engineers, software developers, production personnel, quality leads, and subject matter experts to work the Maintenance Training Device Program for Lockheed Martin.
In his new position, Avendano is responsible for six F-35 Maintenance Training Devices. These devices will be utilized to train every maintainer that the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps select to work on the F-35.
These Maintenance Training Devices are to maintainers what flight simulators are to pilots. The six F-35 Maintenance Training Devices are:
-- ASMT – Aircraft System Maintenance Trainer (a computer-based trainer)
-- ESMT – Ejection Seat Maintenance Trainer (a hands-on trainer)
-- WLT – Weapons Loading Trainer (a hands-on trainer)
-- IPPMT – Integrated Power Package Maintenance Trainer (a hands-on trainer)
-- LGMT – Landing Gear Maintenance Trainer (a hands-on trainer)
-- ELFRIT – Engine Lift Fan Removal & Install Trainer (a hands-on trainer)
When maintainers go to Eglin AFB, Florida, to train on how to maintain the F-35, the devices/simulators that will train them will have been developed by Lockheed Martin with Avendano as their lead program manager.
“We are excited that one of our own is playing such a pivotal role in the F-35’s future,” said Col. David P. Garfield, the 482nd Fighter Wing commander.
“When our jets are in the air, we have full confidence in our maintainers’ ability to keep those jets safe and able to do their mission,” said Garfield “We can’t do that without the right training. We can’t do that without Lieutenant Avendano.”
Avendano, an engineer with Lockheed Martin, received his BS in Aerospace Engineering from Embry Riddle University in 2002 and also has an MBA from University of Phoenix (2007). He is three classes away from his second Masters in Systems Engineering.
Avendano also has an AA in Aircraft Maintenance from the Community College of the Air Force. This AA, according to Mike Luntz, Lockheed Martin Director for the F-35 Training Systems Products, and the ten years of experience as a maintainer Avendano had under his belt, was what gave him the edge in the selection process.
“Benito’s experience as an F-16 maintainer combined with the leadership experience gained in the Air Force is a game changer for Lockheed Martin,” said Luntz.
Avendano began with Lockheed Martin in 2009. He was in Iraq with the 482nd Maintenance Squadron when he was hired by Lockheed Martin to work as an engineer planner for the DDG-1000 which is a U.S. Navy destroyer ship.
He has spent the last six years working on unmanned underwater vehicles as deputy program manager for the remote multi-mission vehicle for the U.S. Navy in Lockheed Martin’s West Palm Beach, Florida, complex.
As a Traditional Reservist, Avendano applied for commissioning in 2014 through the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program. He met the board and was selected while deployed to Afghanistan.
Brigadier Gen. Funk, the 19th Air Force vice commander at Randolph AFB, Texas, said Avendano will be a pivotal leader that makes a difference in the Air Force's future.
"He is the type of leader we need in the Air Force today and tomorrow,” said Funk.
Funk, the former 482nd FW commander, selected Avendano for commissioning in 2014 through the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program and was there when he pinned on second lieutenant at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
“In AETC [Air Education Training Command] we are poised for producing more fighter pilots for the Air Force,” said Funk. “More pilots means more maintenance professionals. Training devices are extremely important for getting our maintenance professionals prepared.”
The F-35 represents the future of air dominance and Avendano is on the leading edge of training our next generation of maintainers. His impact will be felt for decades, said Funk.
Current F-35 maintainers receive all training through on the job training and Career Development Courses—more of a classroom environment. The training devices Avendano is developing will offer maintainers a supplement to enhance training.
For example, if a task is to remove and replace a wing, the job is done in a virtual reality setting through the training devices. “An ASMT classroom is already at Eglin and we are in the process of working on adding additional training modules to it,” said Avendano.
“The second, the ESMT, is a hands-on trainer where the maintainer can go and remove and install the ejection system for the aircraft,” said Avendano. “It is already available at Eglin but my team is working on delivering the trainer to our partner countries.”
The third training device, the WLT, teaches maintainers how to load and unload weapons from the aircraft. Its initial capability is set but Avendano’s team is working on new learning modules.
The last three devices, the IPPMT, LGMT, and ELFRIT are still under development at this time.
These devices will all be housed at Eglin AFB, but 11 other countries will be benefiting from these devices for their own training enhancement.
“I see myself with Lockheed Martin for many years to come,” said Avendano. “I have the opportunity to work on a variety of programs that play a very important role not only for the Department of Defense but for the security of our nation.”
“The future is bright for Lieutenant Avendano,” said Garfield. “DG out of OTS, DG out of tech school, our 2015 CGO of the Year and now running a program that is vital to the future mission of the Air Force.”
“You never know what you can become if you work hard enough. And you never know what your experiences as a Reservist can provide, what doors they can open,” said Garfield. “Benito is proof that the sky is the limit and he truly epitomizes the quality of the Airmen in our wing.”