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VATUSA Suggestions


Jeff Thomas
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I would hope that the server would do it, so as to hinder any sort of end user editing of the tracks to make it look like they worked more than they did, hence cheating the system. I think we can all agree that would not be a benefit to VATUSA.

 

Someone could do this, but it's honestly really stupid on their end...and they really need to find another hobby if they'd rather just "edit" their way up the ranks I guess we could run on the premise that the controllers aren't trying to cheat...even though some may?

Nick Bartolotta - ZSE Instructor, pilot at large

 

"Just fly it on down to within a inch of the runway and let it drop in from there."

- Capt. Don Lanham, ATA Airlines

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One of the thing's that ZLA has had going for it recently is our influx of eager new S1s/S3s. Lately these guys have been begging for more training with some manning SMO or LAX for hours on end almost every day. I'm not sure where this motivation comes from but it is great to see students that really WANT to move up and get better. What do you guys think? Would decreasing stagnant rosters by requiring students to train and move up...or get out...be a good way to keep a controller base strong?

 

Maybe stronger filtering of students to begin with. Make sure these guys understand the intricacies of controlling well before they apply for the observer test. A lot of the very realistic virtual airlines for example are loaded with disclaimers on their application pages: "UNDERSTAND, pilot candidate, that we FLY ONLINE; UNDERSTAND, pilot candidate, that you have to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] a relatively rigorous checkride to get in; UNDERSTAND, pilot candidate, that we use realistic FAR Part 121 flight operations and expect, for example, NO 2x/4x, NO autoland on every flight...etc..etc." Maybe some sort of grandiose caveat before new controllers get into it could weed out people that thnk it's just like hopping on the zone and slewing your aircraft next to Meigs Tower. Even better, maybe once the new controller makes observer, require a mandatory ASRC OBS session of seniorcontroller working center somewhere to give him/her an idea of what a controller is really looking at and. Just some random ideas...

 

Everyone has to learn. If you make it hard for new pilots or confront them like this, you'll scare them off. Many new folks that have the stuff to become successful long term pilots on VATSIM are scared to death when they first connect. Coming at them like that would just about be guaranteed to send them screaming into the distance never to come back. Further, some folks occasionally use 2x or 4x, usually with ATC consent. Not everyone has time to be flying for hours on end.

 

And that leads us into your statement on controllers. I'll admit I've been an S1 a little too long. I am, however, great at controlling tower, with a number of very successful large events under my belt, including 1 TGIF. I'm a working professional, who doesn't have a lot of time during the week, and often not a lot of time on the weekends. In the last week, I've logged a grand total of maybe 5 or 6 hours on VATSIM in general. No, I'm not on the scopes every night grinding away to get my S3. No, I don't log in all the time to rack up hours. I haven't the time to do so. However, that doesn't make me any less valuable when I block out time to help my ARTCC staff up for an event. To tell me "control 20 hours a week or don't control at all", I'd tell you to shove it. Then my ARTCC has one less person they can call on when they need staffing. Bear in mind, not all of us are in college or school where we can spend scads of time on the computer. I work a lot of overtime whilest managing an IT department, and am very busy during the week and don't always have a lot of time for the fun stuff. To say "you can't do this without this time commitment" would cause a lot of folks like me to quit, leaving pilots with even less ATC to fly with.

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Well speaking specifically about controllers (i.e. not pilots), I'm not saying we should have time commitment, I do think that new controllers need to know what they are getting themselves into. You, Garry, are obviously not the typical new controller - you know what you're doing and the only thing that hinders you from moving up is not your own competency or dedication but time. I'm talking about the guys that think it'll be fun to try out LAX TWR so they take the first two or three tests, and can't be bothered (or challenged) to progress any further than that because all that approach stuff is too hard. Maybe just a more rigorous entry process to become a first-line controller?

Christian Renne

Events Director/VA Liaison

VATUSA (5)

[email protected]

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In my most humblest opinion, constructing more barriers to entry is the wrong thing to do. VATUSA CTR staffing is significantly down, and we want to make it HARDER to fix that? Sorry, as much as I would love to weed out the true trouble controllers we'd scare away too many legit guys that way.

Fred Clausen, vZAB ATM

ZAB real life

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In my most humblest opinion, constructing more barriers to entry is the wrong thing to do. VATUSA CTR staffing is significantly down, and we want to make it HARDER to fix that? Sorry, as much as I would love to weed out the true trouble controllers we'd scare away too many legit guys that way.

 

Now that I do not understand.

 

I'm slowly starting to get fed up with the attitude of "let's make it easier."

 

I certainly do not think that anyone suggested making it HARDER to get CTR staffing, but rather making it more of a challenge for the ones who want to half-a.ss it through the process to work CTR. Trust me, the legit ones will do the things required to get promoted. If we make it "harder" (as you say), it will require the ones who just want to putts around to work harder, stay at the TWR level, or drop out. Sounds like natural selection to me. If you can't cut it, go elsewhere. H[Mod - Happy Thoughts], but in my most humblest opinion, it is the way it should be. We have a large number of legit controllers at ZLA alone that went through what some consider "hard" to become some of our best senior controllers. I actually look up to the younger guys who are giving their hearts out to making it through the process. The ones that cry about the process being hard, and then drop out, shame on them.

CMEL.CSEL.IA.AGI.CFI.CFII.MEI.CRJ2.FO.Furloughed

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I've been on the fence regarding the issue of whether or not to raise the bar. At ZBW, I feel that we have struck a decent balance between the more "difficult" ARTCCs, and the more relaxed ones. We have earned a reputation for high quality ATC, and that brings us traffic. It also means that we have a higher turnover rate than some of the more relaxed ARTCCs. Some students simply don't want to take the time that we expect them to take to earn each cert. Most of those students move to another ARTCC where progression is faster. What this adds up to is that we don't have as large of an active roster. We've hosted TGIF twice now, and barely had enough controllers to handle the load. That's a position I don't really like to be in, but I understand that it is the cost of maintaining our chosen level of "difficulty" in our training program.

 

I agree with those that are saying that the problem is the perception created for pilots. Pilots get inconsistent quality of service as they p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] from one ARTCC to the next. That's just not a good thing, no matter how you slice it. I don't think it's a totally evil thing that must be corrected, either, but I would support any move towards more standardized testing requirements to earn each new rating. In my opinion, those standards should be higher than those of the "lowest" quality ARTCC that we have now, but not as high as the highest. In other words, find a middle ground, and enforce that. I think this way because I believe that not every ARTCC has to be as good as ZBW, ZLA, ZNY, etc. in order for pilots to have a truly enjoyable experience.

 

Whatever happens, as has been mentioned by others here, I think it will take at least a year before any change can be deemed successful or not. If we find that we've raised the bar too high, and our overall staffing suffers, then we need to reconsider. However, if we find that we've managed to weed out the "zone junkies" and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]isted the ARTCCs in encouraging students to excel, then the net result can only be viewed as an improvement.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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I agree with you Ross regarding the standardized testing, but isn't that something we've already got? At least in the written portion. We all have to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the same written exam to move from S1 to S3 etc. Standardizing the OTS would be harder. Maybe giving the ARTCC's a list of specific abilities the controller must demonstrate during their OTS to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] may be a good idea.

 

@ Josh

 

Sorry to clash with you (again ) but I don't think an argument against making advancement more difficult is the same as saying it needs to become easier. I agree with you that a proficiency level needs to be attained in order to provide satisfactory ATC. However, adding mandatory (VATUSA wide) controlling time requirements in order to A. advance and/or B. to stay active will drive away most everyone but the die-hard ATC's in high school (or in a position that allows them many hours a day to controll). What do you think??

Jason Harris

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well reasoned thought

 

I'm not talking about dumbing down cirriculum. I am referring to having, as I believe Chris stated, several tests before you even get on the scopes. I think that is a HUGE barrier to entry that is unnecessary. Yes, doing several tests to get the coveted S1 rating would cut out significantly cut down the load of bum controllers, but at what cost? A guy, like Gary, who is a perfectly capable controller will say "shove it" and move on if he had to jump through hoops to get on as a mere student. That is the problem. You scare away more legit controllers than you realize.

 

I understand the desire to raise the quality, but we need to be careful. We cannot afford to alienate anyone. The biggest complaint I believe about VATSIM is controller coverage. VATUSA staffing is down 12%. But people want to cut down the base of potential new controllers that could cover the 12% loss. I have always respected your opinion Josh (even if I didn't agree with it ), but I'm afraid I just can't see how being more picky about controllers would help anything.

Fred Clausen, vZAB ATM

ZAB real life

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Not a plethora of tests, Fred; just a few plus required observation time (or something similar; insert better idea here) to make sure that the candidate understands what he/she is getting him/herself into. There's a big difference between a whim that turns into nothing and a concentrated, deliberate motivation to become a dedicated controller. I think that difference is what we should isolate in the initial stages of controller recruitment, however we do it. I do not mean to weed out good controllers (as I think we all are here) or time-constrained good controllers (as some of us are here)...simply those that a week into it will say, whoa this whole CRAFT and SOP and OTS stuff is not what I expected, forget this. Hopefully this will avoid the same turnover some have mentioned.

 

For the record: I don't think we all have to be the best most realistic ATC service in the world. I do, however, think we need to come relatively close if we want to offer any legitimate alternative to the ZONE or offline ATC. I spent four years becoming Chief Executive Officer of a prominent VA only to realize in the end that quality, dedication, and community in a pilot base was FAR more important than quantity.

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Christian Renne

Events Director/VA Liaison

VATUSA (5)

[email protected]

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I agree with you Ross regarding the standardized testing, but isn't that something we've already got? At least in the written portion. We all have to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the same written exam to move from S1 to S3 etc.

 

You'd be surprised. Controllers at some ARTCC's are apparently getting by without even taking those tests.

Bryan Wollenberg

ZLA!

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I agree with you Ross regarding the standardized testing, but isn't that something we've already got? At least in the written portion. We all have to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the same written exam to move from S1 to S3 etc.

 

You'd be surprised. Controllers at some ARTCC's are apparently getting by without even taking those tests.

 

Wow did not know that! I now have a better understanding of where you are coming from.

Jason Harris

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Sorry to clash with you (again ) but I don't think an argument against making advancement more difficult is the same as saying it needs to become easier. I agree with you that a proficiency level needs to be attained in order to provide satisfactory ATC. However, adding mandatory (VATUSA wide) controlling time requirements in order to A. advance and/or B. to stay active will drive away most everyone but the die-hard ATC's in high school (or in a position that allows them many hours a day to controll). What do you think??

 

It is difficult to make replies to threads when you are playing online poker.

 

Jason I certainly don't feel as if you are clashing with me, so don't worry about it. You have my respect.

 

I'm against any sort of time requirement solely for the reason that anyone can log on at 3 am local and just sit there playing solitare. I wouldn't be so against it if it were possible to maintain some sort of peak hour tracking of controllers. It would take work on the part of the systems guru's, but if a controller works say 10-15 hours total, all of those hours within say 5:30pm local to 12am, I think that wouldn't be too bad of an idea. Of course, on top of hours with a mentor or instructor, on top of time spent doing a practice OTS before being allowed to waste instructor usage in a failed OTS.

 

Thoughts?

 

Before I suggest having some sort of board of senior controllers to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ist VATUSA in dealing with this region wide issue of training, I'm going to wait and see what Jim at VATUSA training has to say with regards to any sort of upgrades to the present program. Hence giving the staff some time to develop something.

CMEL.CSEL.IA.AGI.CFI.CFII.MEI.CRJ2.FO.Furloughed

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Time requirements are not practical and not necessary. A controller in an active ARTCC will be motivated to be online without the regulation hanging over him.

 

Controllers at some ARTCC's are apparently getting by without even taking those tests

 

Interesting. Which ARTCCs are these Bryan? Last time I checked, in order for a controller to get a promotion, he must p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the VATUSA written exams, and an OTS exam from his instructor. If an ARTCC isn't operating in that manner, then obviously someone should look into it.

 

There's a common misconception being perpetuated in this thread that I see quite often. The idea that a less restrictive environment, and/or a less heavily structured training program would somehow result in "dumbing down" the skill levels of VATUSA controllers.

 

That's simply not the case.

 

I can't speak for other ARTCCs, but my ARTCC, while being a more "relaxed" place with a "less intense" training program, still requires teaching all the same skills and abilities as any other ARTCC.

 

Where the problems come in both division wide and network wide are:

 

1: People who don't retain the info they're taught. C'mon folks. A large portion of our member base is under the age of 18, and we ALL know how good most teenager's attention spans are.

 

2: Varying opinions of what skills and abilities define each promotion level. A Senior Controller to one instructor may not be much more skilled then a Senior Student to another instructor.

 

Instead of throwing 10 billion tests at people, why not establish division wide "Practical Test Standards" to ensure that what is taught in ZMA is the same as what is taught in ZAN, and therefore when a student tests out, he's tested on the same skills and abilities no matter where he is learning?

 

Forcing a more complicated training & promotion system at our member base is not the answer. Increasing the quality of the training that's offered is. Or at least that's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it!

Paul Biderman
ZAN DATM

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I agree with you Ross regarding the standardized testing, but isn't that something we've already got? At least in the written portion. We all have to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the same written exam to move from S1 to S3 etc. Standardizing the OTS would be harder. Maybe giving the ARTCC's a list of specific abilities the controller must demonstrate during their OTS to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] may be a good idea.

 

Exactly ... when I say "testing" I don't mean the VATUSA exams. I mean the local exams (do other ARTCCs have those?) as well as OTS tests. We certainly do not have standards when it comes to those.

 

Time requirements are not practical and not necessary. A controller in an active ARTCC will be motivated to be online without the regulation hanging over him.

 

 

2: Varying opinions of what skills and abilities define each promotion level. A Senior Controller to one instructor may not be much more skilled then a Senior Student to another instructor.

 

Instead of throwing 10 billion tests at people, why not establish division wide "Practical Test Standards" to ensure that what is taught in ZMA is the same as what is taught in ZAN, and therefore when a student tests out, he's tested on the same skills and abilities no matter where he is learning?

 

Forcing a more complicated training & promotion system at our member base is not the answer. Increasing the quality of the training that's offered is. Or at least that's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it!

 

Big, huge, enthusiastic agreement here. Practical test standards for the OTS would be great. In order to raise the bar and create consistency in the pilot experience from one ARTCC to the next, we need to do the exact same thing in the training programs of each ARTCC. (Raise the bar for training standards and create consistency in training quality across ARTCCs.)

 

I also fully agree that a time requirement is useless. Time online just tells you how often that controller plugs in. It tells you nothing about how much experience he has (number of planes handled) nor anything about how skilled he is. It can not and should not be used as a basis for determining eligibility for promotion. That decision should rest solely on the shoulders of the mentors and instructors in the ARTCC. Having a time requirement would be like looking at the odometer in my car and deciding if I was qualified to drive NASCAR.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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Ross and Paul,

 

I think you guys are onto something. It's like medical school...Harvard may put out better docs than some state school, but regardless of where a doctor graduates there is a minumum level of competency that they ALL must meet. So, as you said so well Ross, a C1 from ZMP should have the same baseline skills as a C1 from ZLA (not going to say which one is Harvard and which one is just a state school....lol). IMO, this is a very reasonable and prudent step that VATUSA could take. No extra restrictions, just a common knowledge base that is expected.

Jason Harris

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Interesting. Which ARTCCs are these Bryan? Last time I checked, in order for a controller to get a promotion, he must p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the VATUSA written exams, and an OTS exam from his instructor. If an ARTCC isn't operating in that manner, then obviously someone should look into it.

 

Paul, I'm not about to list any of them publically. I just wanted to mention that it's happening. And yes, every now and then, a student or two can slip through the cracks, forget to be [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned a test, or whatever, but there are entire ARTCC's that appear to not be [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igning/requiring the VATUSA tests (Senior Student, Controller, Voice, Instructor, etc.). Just start looking people up in the Cert. Center if you're interested. Why it hasn't been enforced, your guess is as good as mine.

 

Anyway, as far as the rest of your post Paul, you're right on the money. If there were standards set for every single level of control, things might be better, or at least at a minimum level across the board. I.e. at S3 level, the controller must know xxx, and at a minimum xxx things MUST be tested in a practical OTS. etc. etc. Whatever ARTCC's want to add above the minimum material would be fine. Of course, it would still be pretty much an honor system if there's no enforcement, but it's probably better than nothing.

 

Like I've already mentioned, I believe there are still ARTCC's with no Practical Standards what so ever. It's pretty much a p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] the written tests and start controlling Approach right away. So we end up with students on Approach/Center, and what have you, who really shouldn't be there.

Bryan Wollenberg

ZLA!

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What about the possibility of setting up a VATUSA wide training facility with their own staff. They can train ATC and give flying lessons so people can learn controlling and flying if they want to. You wanna be as real as it gets? well we have to get endorsed for solo flight in the real world and we might think about a way to utilize the instructor station that Microsoft furnishes with FS. We can volunteer to take on a sim studend if we are real pilots and those who have the desire can teach ATC all in a standardized format. Once they p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] a basic OTS and written they can control ground or clearance on VATSIM. Once they get a basic idea of how to fly a plane and participate in the ATC system then they can fly on vatsim. Maybe we could even set [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ide a server for taining purposes only just so we have an environment where people can learn before getting subjected to getting pushed around by controllers who are trained and able to push the tin to the breaking point.

 

just a crazy idea from a crazy old man.

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A bottom line, set standard, minimum requirements set forth by VATUSA training in the form of Practical Test Standards would go over great. The facilities would be left to increase the standards as they see fit, but they can not be allowed to dumb them down or to be more politically correct, reduce them at all. If they are found to have been reduced, I certainly hope that some administrative actions would be taken. Otherwise the whole program is in jeopardy of lossing its integrity. And that certainly would not be in the best interest of VATUSA.

CMEL.CSEL.IA.AGI.CFI.CFII.MEI.CRJ2.FO.Furloughed

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Thanks for all of the great suggestions here. We are interested in your input and it will certainly be considered as we develop new programs and materials. I'm sure there will be a lot of opinions about whatever we come up with in the end, and not everyone is going to agree. I do ask, like Ian said, that you give our plan at least a year before judging it a failure or sucess. The new staff has fresh ideas and we're gearing up to give VATUSA a fresh start. Keep the suggestions coming... I'll stay tuned to this thread!

Jim Johnson

VP - Membership (VATGOV12)

j.johnson(at)vatsim.net

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As a previous chief and instructor from the get go of virtual atc, training and everything related to it are keys to making this work. It is a revolving door that never closes, students coming in one end, high level controllers and instructors going out the back door.

 

Some issues that always come up:

 

1) Why does it seem that now we have just gotten our ace student to controller, something happens in his personal life and he is gone? It took him X months of training plus X hours of instructor time all down the toilet. How can we shorten the training time yet still have a quality controller?

 

2) I bet most instructors would rather be controlling than instructing. How can we further reduce the time burden on our instructors so they can control? Group conference training sessions? Perhaps crash weekened courses in major cities hotels?

 

Maybe the convention could have a crash course marathon (with several instructors who know appropriate topics), not just a short talk on weather. At the KC convention a couple years ago I tested someone and promoted them. Perhaps this could be done as well.

Scott Bickford

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I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but I would like to see an [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned mentor program in each ARTCC. I'm pretty sure most ARTCC's at the very least have mentors, but I know not all of them are [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned to certain students. I think this would help build a familiarity with the mentor and the student, which, at least in my mind, would help the student be more likely to control. It will also allow the mentor to see himself what a student needs help on.

 

Case in point. A friend of mine watched me control a little bit about a week or so ago and he decided he wanted to try it. I told him the steps he needed to take, and he signed up. The ARTCC, no I won't say who, does not have an [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned mentor program. Basically, he signed up, and then had no clue what he was supposed to do. I think he got frustrated because he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do, and I'm not sure he's going to try it at all.

 

I think having [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned mentors when a student signs up, will help this problem. I know when I signed up, I filled out a request a mentor form, and was [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned a mentor. He contacted me, and let me know what I needed to do. This to me, was easier then having to contact a random person or posting on a message board for help. If I had to contact a random person, and wasn't able to work with one person over and over, it would have been difficult for me to continue.

 

Just a suggestion from a pretty new memeber.

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Maybe the convention could have a crash course marathon (with several instructors who know appropriate topics), not just a short talk on weather. At the KC convention a couple years ago I tested someone and promoted them. Perhaps this could be done as well.

 

Hey, that's a good idea Scott!

Jeff "JU" Turner

US Army Retired

http://www.skyblueradio.com

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I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but I would like to see an [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned mentor program in each ARTCC. I'm pretty sure most ARTCC's at the very least have mentors, but I know not all of them are [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned to certain students. I think this would help build a familiarity with the mentor and the student, which, at least in my mind, would help the student be more likely to control. It will also allow the mentor to see himself what a student needs help on.

 

Case in point. A friend of mine watched me control a little bit about a week or so ago and he decided he wanted to try it. I told him the steps he needed to take, and he signed up. The ARTCC, no I won't say who, does not have an [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned mentor program. Basically, he signed up, and then had no clue what he was supposed to do. I think he got frustrated because he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do, and I'm not sure he's going to try it at all.

 

I think having [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned mentors when a student signs up, will help this problem. I know when I signed up, I filled out a request a mentor form, and was [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned a mentor. He contacted me, and let me know what I needed to do. This to me, was easier then having to contact a random person or posting on a message board for help. If I had to contact a random person, and wasn't able to work with one person over and over, it would have been difficult for me to continue.

 

Just a suggestion from a pretty new memeber.

 

 

Tom, ask your friend to contact me, Craig or Jim Johnson. We will make sure that he gets the help that he needs and deserves as a new student. I'm not sure all that he tried but we're willing to make sure that he has the tools to be successful....

 

JT

Jeff "JU" Turner

US Army Retired

http://www.skyblueradio.com

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