Ground Training in BMT
Author: Sig Christenson
San Antonio Express-News
If today's airmen found a silver lining beyond the
predawn 5-mile marches of basic training at Lackland AFB, it might be that the
whole miserable experience lasted only 6 1/2 weeks - the shortest of any service
So much for silver linings.
Starting next year, Air Force trainees will endure an
additional two weeks of training designed to make things tougher and more
realistic - right down to their own personal M-16, officials said Friday.
"Extending basic military training will produce more lethal
and adaptable airmen," said Gen. William R. Looney III, head of the Air
Education and Training Command at Randolph AFB.
The realities of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where
every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is a rifleman facing an enemy on a
360-degree battlefield, have transformed basic training across the services.
Ground combat fundamentals are the heart of an
increasingly rigorous training doctrine for all military services.
When the new Air Force training begins in fall 2007, all
four services will conclude boot camp with an extended final exam that tests
endurance, skill and mental fortitude.
The evolution of Air Force training isn't only about
push-ups, sit-ups, 2-mile runs and marksmanship. The new course, which still
remains shorter than the Army, Navy or Marines, aims to create a new state of
mind for a service that's technical and often far from the front.
"We're not trying to make every airmen into an Army
infantryman, but we're trying to make them more expeditionary so they can go
into a conflict, protect themselves and protect their wingman," said Brig. Gen.
Mary Kay Hertog, chief of Lackland's 37th Training Wing.
Enlistees still will spend just one day on Lackland's
firing range. But they'll get what she called a "demilitarized" M-16 rifle on
the second day of training that they can clean, break down and reassemble - but
They won't get hand-to-hand combat training or be taught to
bayonet enemy combatants. They will, however, learn to act as a defense force
and get extensive training on basic battlefield first aid, including how to stop
bleeding and take wounded troops to safety.
The tougher training isn't new. Dubbed the "chair force" by
some critics for its relatively light physical conditioning standards, the Air
Force in 1999 introduced "Warrior Week" to its basic training curriculum.
The idea was to prepare airmen for service in troubled,
austere locales where soldiering skills make the difference between life and
The Air Force last year veered off from time-honored
traditions such as the meticulous folding of T-shirts, shorts and socks and
edged toward a greater combat focus.
A big change in the new training program, which will
include a $28 million basic expeditionary skills training exercise area, will be
the phase-out of Warrior Week. In its place will be BEAST - Basic Expeditionary
Airman Skills and Training Exercise, to run five days during Week 6 of boot
Airmen will defend a mock base night and day from an
opposition force as part of the exercise, Hertog said.
Forward operating bases in Iraq, including the country's
largest U.S. Air Force installation in Balad north of Baghdad, often have been
hit by mortar rounds since the occupation.
"There really are no front lines or rear areas," said
Andrew Krepinevich Jr., a former aide to three defense secretaries who now heads
the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "This notion of sort of a
World War II environment where you had these air bases well behind the lines,
that really doesn't square anymore in a world with al-Qaida, Iraqi insurgents
and so on."
Though much of the extra training time will emphasize
soldiering skills, the Air Force will add sessions on sexual assault reporting
and suicide prevention, and will continue one on the service's history and
Efforts to reverse sexual harassment incidents, which
occurred at the Air Force Academy and some AETC bases, come from the top. Gen.
T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff, has vowed to "provide a workplace
with dignity and respect, and a safe environment for our people to serve
The primary focus, though, will be grafting more of the
infantryman's mentality on airmen.
Needless to say, an Armed Air Force is a shift in paradigm.
It is surprising how fast it is happening, just look at the Army. OTS is
now teaching Arabic to new officers... Something to think about.