Preparing for Basic Military Training
By SSgt Erin Brogan, 143 Airlift Wing
/ Published February 02, 2010
09/20/09 -- On September 20, 14 Rhode Island Air National Guard recruits attentively sat at a table as Technical Sergeant Greg Grutter of the 143d Security Forces disassembled a 9 mm handgun. For many, it was their first time handling a weapon, but they knew it would not be their last. The students were part of a two-day program held at Camp Varnum, Narragansett intended to take the mystery out of "boot camp" and better prepare new enlistees for the challenges ahead.
Often represented as either a comedic adventure like that in Private Benjamin or a brain-washing machine like that in Full-Metal Jacket, boot camp is one of the most misunderstood military traditions in the public eye. As a result, Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT) remains a high source of stress for incoming recruits. For that reason, this new program was instituted as part of the Newcomer's Briefing program to familiarize the newly enlisted with what to expect at BMT.
Chris Gabriele, an enlistee with the Engine Shop, was one of these recruits. "I've learned a lot. We've had some excellent instructors," he said, taking apart an M-9 with the aid of Airman 1st Class Caitlin Farrar of Security Forces.
Organized by Colonel Peter Sepe, 143d Mission Support Group Commander, the training covered a multitude of important information, all in preparation for eight and a half weeks at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Using the essentials taught at BMT, instructors focused on basic war skills, military discipline, physical fitness, drill and ceremonies, Air Force core values and a comprehensive range of subjects relating to Air Force life.
"We've covered Sexual Assault Prevention Training, contact numbers for college information, basic training facing movements. We had M-16 familiarization yesterday," Airman 1st Class Michael Hadaya said.
A member of the 143d Services Flight, Airman Hadaya took a break from preparing chow in order to help out with the training program. "I think it gives them [the trainees] a taste of the basic training atmosphere; it preps them for military bearing. You can definitely see a difference in their discipline already," he said.
"This program gives them a 'real world' approach to what they are getting into," said Tech. Sgt. Grutter. "It gives them straight answers and an understanding of what they signed up for."
A hand shot up to ask a question about the M-9 and Airman Ferrar quickly went to the trainee's side to demonstrate the disassembling of the weapon. Noticing this, Tech. Sgt. Grutter reflected, "You can see their confidence build. After all, the more you learn [before basic training], the less heat you draw [at basic training]."
In 2008, BMT was revamped into a more rigorous training program intended to address the unique needs of a modern, expeditionary Air Force. Two additional weeks of training were added to enhance and reinforce BMT's current war skills training. BMT now includes an intense four-day Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training exercise called BEAST which replicates the sights, sounds and emotions Airmen will experience in the deployed environment.
The 737th Training Group provides Air Force Basic Military Training for all enlisted people entering the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, earning Lackland the
nickname, "Gateway to the Air Force." The Air Force receives approximately 35,000 Airmen each year from the 737th Training Group. Following graduation, Airmen go on to technical training at Lackland or elsewhere before their first Air Force assignment. More than seven million Airmen have completed BMT since 1946.