Forging a Foundation: Basic Military Training

  • Published
  • By Tyler Prince
  • Airman Magazine
 

  "The future force requires Airmen at all levels to look at the Air Force we have today and ask ourselves, 'While [our Air Force] got us here, will it get us there? To get us there, the force needs Airmen who think critically, challenge the status quo, and adapt and evolve to stay ahead."

 

 
Photo by Brian Boisvert
U.S. Air Force Basic Military Training graduates participate in their graduation ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 16, 2023. More than 500 Airmen assigned to the 324th Training Squadron graduated from BMTS, March 15-16 2023. Brig. Gen. Terrence Adams, Director, Cyberspace Operations and Warfighter Communications, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Cyber Effects Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., reviewed the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Brian Boisvert)
 
  Brick by metaphorical brick, the Air Force is laying the foundation for the force of 2030. That foundation begins with improving how Airmen develop and learn, starting with basic military training and continuing throughout their careers. Leading that effort is the first command: Air Education and Training Command.

  “We call ourselves the first command because we literally touch every part of the Air Force,” said Lt. Gen. Brian S. Robinson, AETC commander. “We're in the business of producing Airmen, whether they come in through basic military training or one of the officer accessions programs.”  

  As educational concepts and technology improve, it’s vital that the Air Force keeps up with the status quo to maximize the learning capability of its Airmen and set them up for success once they reach their operational units. To that end, Robinson has directed AETC to adapt and transition to a learner-centric model and incorporate more digital-age techniques.

  “Modernizing our training methods is important because most of the Airmen that we recruit today have spent their early lives learning in a learner-centric model and through digital means and platforms,” Robinson explained.

  “They come into the Air Force to our instructor-based model and get held back because they can’t learn at the pace they’ve become accustomed to. We have knowledgeable, adept people joining our Air Force. That’s why transitioning our teaching model is essential: We can deliver the training they need at the same quality or better and do it faster.”


 
 

Embracing the Digital Era

Photo by Joe Gangemi
Digital tablets have been issued to trainees at basic military training conducted by the 737th Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The technology more fully engages future Airmen who have grown up using digital information technology and allows more efficiency and flexibility for instructors in keeping information up to date. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joe Gangemi)
 
  Col. Billy R. Wilson Jr., the 737th Training Group commander, oversees BMT and underscores the importance of innovation and evolving how the organization does business.

  “We must understand that to meet the demands of the strategic environment, this organization has to remain agile and incorporate more innovation,” Wilson emphasized. “It's absolutely essential." 

  In September 2022, BMT began issuing iPads to Airmen and Guardians for the duration of their training experience. These tablets have replaced BMT's various textbooks and learning materials and provide a more robust way for Airmen to study.

  “It's natural for the Airmen today,” Wilson explained. “Because they're digital natives, they prefer that technology at their fingertips.”

  Additionally, BMT uses an adaptive learning application and software designed to help trainees quickly acquire the basic knowledge and skills they learn in BMT. This software enables students to study at their own pace in short practice sessions distributed over a period of time for better memory retention. It also allows military training instructors to monitor academic progress and identify where their trainees may require more instruction.

  "The entire curriculum is available, allowing the students to review all the knowledge they will learn while here at BMT,” Wilson explained. “On top of that, it provides a quick avenue for trainees to provide us feedback on how things are going. It could be about anything: the curriculum, their MTI, or the BMT culture and climate.” 

  This innovation has reduced the cost of creating learning materials and enables BMT to get operational lessons from the field to trainees faster, ensuring they learn the most up-to-date tactics, techniques, and procedures. 

  “Back in the day, if there were a curriculum update, we would have to reprint reams and reams of paper, which could take weeks or months,” Wilson explained. “Having the ability to deliver an operational lesson from the field to upwards of 6,000 people instantaneously…it's a force multiplier.”

 


 

Pacer Forge

Photo by Jerome Tayborn
A basic military trainee adjusts her wingman’s tactical gear at the Primary Agile Combat Employment Range Forward Operations Readiness Generation Exercise Headquarters on March 15, 2023. Pacer Forge is a 36-hour, scenario-based exercise that tests trainees’ teamwork, discipline and problem-solving skills before graduating basic military training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerome S. Tayborn)

  Technology isn’t the only way BMT is modernizing its training tactics and techniques. Primary Agile Combat Employment Range Forward Operational Readiness Generation Exercise, or Pacer Forge, is a scenario-based 36-hour exercise that has replaced Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training or BEAST. After six weeks of instruction that requires adherent and compliant thinking, trainees participate in a dynamic exercise requiring them to develop problem-solving skills through critical thinking. They’re coached throughout this process and evaluated based on how their team creates solutions.


  "Pacer Forge is an acknowledgment that the strategic environment has changed,"  Wilson explained. "Our goal with the exercise is to harden some of the lessons trainees are taught earlier in training. How to problem solve. How to work as a team. How to gather and process information. How to adapt to stressful situations, everything we believe is essential for the future fight."

  Wilson explained that Pacer Forge is iterative and adaptable - an evolving assessment designed to keep pace with the needs of the operational Air Force and ensure training remains relevant and anticipates potential challenges.

  "We want Pacer Forge to be agile enough so that when the strategic environment changes, we can fold that back into what we're doing here at BMT,” Wilson said. "We want to ensure that we set our trainees up for success in the best way possible.” 


 

Holistic Approach to Training

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  The Versatile Injury Prevention and Embedded Recovery Clinic at basic military training works to ensure trainees remain in the training pipeline. The team’s goal is to prevent injuries that would result in musculoskeletal injury attrition, lost training time, and increased Airmen production by inserting sports medicine teams in the training environment. (U.S. Air Force video by Delano Scott)

  BMT also seeks to teach intangible skills like resilience—a crucial cultural element for equipping Airmen to face future challenges.

  “I think the programs we have now are promoting just that; we also go after some of those human performance aspects: sleep hygiene, nutrition, mental health,” Wilson said.

  One such program is the Versatile Injury Prevention and Embedded Recovery clinic, a team of Airmen and contractors devoted to teaching trainees about nutrition and physiology. These lessons help trainees better understand how to exercise correctly. 


  “When a trainee gets injured in training, that’s a huge burden on the trainee,” says Maj. Korey Kasper, 37th Training Wing Human Performance Squadron sports medicine physician, “that’s why injury prevention is such a key to what we do in VIPER.”

  Injuries to the lower extremities can delay the completion of a trainee’s training for weeks and, in the worst cases, cause them to recycle out of BMT entirely. The VIPER clinic provides instructions on how to run, what to eat, and even how to sleep. When a trainee does get injured, the clinic offers physical therapy to help them return to training faster.


 


 

Qualities for Tomorrow's Airmen...and Today's

Photo by Airman 1st Class Erin Currie
A U.S. Air Force Trainee from the 326th Training Wing pulls himself across a rope while completing an obstacle course as part of the Primary Agile Combat Employment Range Forward Operations Readiness Generation Exercise, or PACER FORGE, August 8, 2023, on Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Annex. PACER FORGE is designed to expose trainees to the physical and mental challenges they may face while on a deployment in the operational Air Force and how to overcome them. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Erin V. Currie)

  By design, BMT is a stressful environment intended to push future Airmen past their limits and help them grow into the kinds of leaders that the Air Force will need in the future. 

  "In this environment, we need someone who can think on their feet, solve problems, ask questions, stay curious, and follow through,” Wilson explained. “We also need courageous folks because it takes courage to tell your wingman that, ‘hey, that's not the way we need to treat one another,’ or ‘that's not acceptable.’ We also want someone honest and kind who understands that people from all walks of life will enter your sphere of influence.”


  For MTIs, Wilson says they need Airmen who can exemplify the standard of excellence they’re demanding from their trainees.

  "That comes down to three things we need: Competence, Commitment, and Courage. You need to be competent at what we're asking you to do. You need to have that credibility and be that recognized authority. Commitment. We must have highly committed people. There will be days when you don't feel like it because the trainees are many, and the days are long. So we need folks who are highly committed to what we're doing, highly committed to training our next generation of Airmen. Finally, we need courageous individuals. We need individuals who can correct their teammates and provide honest supervisor feedback.”  

  Across the board, BMT is bringing intellectual and technological advancements to bear, leveraging its resources to create a more agile and knowledgeable force. Wilson says ensuring Airmen leave BMT with more than just information is essential.

  "I want them to leave with the impression that we've shown them what right looks like. And I hope that as they depart, our conversations about character, commitment, and courage resonate with them and that they will be men and women of high character in society whenever they return to society,” explains Wilson. 

 

Class of Aug. 31st, 2023

 
We spoke to Airmen who graduated on August 31st, 2023, about how they hope to contribute to the force of 2030. 
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