Monday, April 13, 2009

Air Force Basic Military Training... Again?

It’s true.  For a week in April of 2009, I was returned to Active Duty as a MSgt in the USAF to participate in a SecAF directed Push-Pull exercise at Lackland AFB.  How amazing it is to see Lackland again, after 27 years since being a boot there.

Let me say this now, and begin to eat the crow I so richly deserve.  If the state of Basic Military Training has anything to do with the future of the Air Force, then the AF is safe at last.  I am AMAZED at how much training has changed over the years and over the last 2 years in particular.  So even though we have a crop of lousy leaders right now, we’re on a WAY better track to improve from the ground up.  Be proud General Patrick, what you’re doing at BMTS is great!

I’m going to toss a bunch of pics up on the photo page so you can see some of what I speak of.

First off, the old RH&T (Recruit Housing and Training) dorms are still there, still in use and still need to be condemned.  The building that the TI’s have offices in has a 6 inch crack in the third floor from which you can see the asphalt pad underneath the building.

The best of the dorms are in use by the 6 BMT squadrons.  Some changes from my day... 27 years ago...

1 - Trainees are issued a weapon on day 1 and keep it until they are done with all combat skills training 6 weeks later.  I watched two young trainees tear down and build up an M-16 in 30 seconds.  The standard they aim for is 2 minutes.   In my day, you got your M-16 only at the firing range and only for the few hours it took to shoot the range.

2 - Trainees are NOT airman.  You cannot refer to them as Airman until they pass the BEAST, graduate and receive their Airman’s coin from their TI.  He/She is the first one that ever calls them Airman, until then they are Trainee.  At the ceremony, there are few dry eyes.

3 - Clothing issue has gone from 1 day to about 30 minutes.  RFID tags are used to keep the size info of the Trainee and control the stock of uniforms they get.  The system is AWESOME.

4 - Warrior week and the confidence course are pretty much gone.  The confidence course is more like a picnic-reward day after the BEAST.

5 - The chow hall is still many miles from anything else at Lackland.  No matter where you are, the chow hall is 2 miles away, I know, I walked it for a week.  Unfortunately, the show hall SUX these days, it was better when I was a Trainee.  (Or am I just more picky?)   Come to think of it, no matter where you need to be next, it is 2 miles away from anywhere else.  Lackland has a rip in the space-time continuum for exactly the purpose of making you walk everywhere.

6 - Some things have not changed at Lackland.  TSgt Eubanks reliably informed us that the SAME 4 gents who gave us our haircuts 30 years ago, are STILL doing it.  The clothing issue, Arnold Hall, Chapel, Reid Clinic, post office are all the SAME.  We visited most of them to in-process and she was right.  The only new thing was a new mini-BX.  The paymaster window in Arnold Hall is still there, the only change is that they do not give cash anymore.  They load the money on your USAF credit card.

7 - Basic is now 8.5 weeks, the first 6 of which are Combat Skills.  2 weeks in the trainee can do tricks with the M-16 I never even learned.  3 weeks in they are qualified for CBRNE and SABC.  (CBRNE = Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high yield Explosive training, SABC = Self Aid and Buddy Care).  4 weeks in and they are done with Combat Skills and ready for the BEAST.

8 - Basic Expeditionary Airman Skill Training = The BEAST.  Imagine this, 110 acres at Lackland AFB (read: Hot, dry, scorpions, snakes...) - sound like anywhere we know?  Trainee’s now spend a week there, using all the skills they have learned thus far in a realistic training environment.  They get attacked on the perimeters, they have to man DFPs (Defensive Fire Positions), do SABC, play Chem warfare games and all that crap.  They start at a pre-built “camp” and mid-week they have to pack out and build a FOL (Forward Operating Location).  They march to a spot, throw down some gear and build an airbase.  All while getting shot at, gassed and generally made miserable.  On the way there, they have to deal with the DoD’s first IED walk.  After the BEAST, these kids are for REAL - finally

9 - For 6 weeks in my Basic training, they filled my head with history, protocol and military knowledge. Trainee’s today do all that in the two weeks after the BEAST.  Oh and a couple of those days are Confidence course, appointments and Basic sillyness.  Then they graduate and become Airmen in my Air Force.  God Bless ‘em all.

The one thing that did not change at Lackland AFB??  -  the MTI’s are still the best in the world, more dedicated, military and honorable than any other caste.

Do not screw with ANYONE in a Campaign Hat, EVER.

If you wanna see my crappy pictures taken with a cell phone, click on the BMTS 09 link from the Photo page, or click HERE!