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Air Force expands basic training course to focus on readiness, lethality

Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. Recruits are molded into warrior Airmen through a recently expanded Air Force Basic Military Training program. (Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/U.S. Air Force)

Feedback from the field has inspired the Air Force to revamp basic training to focus on readiness, lethality, fitness and warrior ethos.

The changes, which took effect Sept. 4 but were announced Monday, expand Basic Military Training from 7 ½ weeks to 8 ½ weeks, according to a statement out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Basic Expeditionary Airman Skill Training, or BEAST Week — where trainees put all their combat knowledge into practice — moves from Week 5 to become BMT’s culminating event.

“Readiness is the central theme across the BMT curriculum as we deliver trained and committed Airmen capable of delivering 21st Century airpower,” 326th Training Squadron commander Col. Jose Surita, who oversaw the revamped curriculum’s development, said in the statement. “We need highly trained and ready Airmen.”

The changes to BMT’s final week — once called Airmen’s Week — are the latest in a series of improvements since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first major change in 2008 increased the length of Air Force basic training from six to 8 ½ weeks.

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The Air Force created Airman’s Week in 2015 to raise awareness of sexual misconduct, in the wake of a 2013 sexual-assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base involving trainees and their instructors. It focused on character development and was held after trainees graduated BMT, which was scaled back to 7 ½ weeks.

The new BMT curriculum integrates skills once taught in Airmen’s Week throughout the full 8 ½ weeks of training, the statement said.

Airmen must also attend a beefed-up Self-Aid/Buddy Care class called the Tactical Combat Casualty Course and will see their number of fitness sessions increased from 31 to 44 throughout training, the statement said. The sessions are a mix of cardio, strength and interval training.

“These changes sound good to me,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Ahner, deputy dispersing officer with the 374th Comptroller Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan. “Obviously you want fit airmen. Also, I did my BMT in the winter and [physical training] was sometimes canceled because of the weather. If we’d had 44 [days] instead of 31, missing some wouldn’t have been as bad.”

Course designers also added a heritage program that introduces trainees to Air Force heroes and weaves heritage and warrior ethos, the statement said.

“We will be introducing warrior identity, as well as Air Force history and heroes, every week throughout training,” Master Sgt. Richard Bonsra, a military training instructor, said in the statement. “Those topics will then be reinforced during all training events, such as naming physical training sessions after a fallen Airman to cement the experience.”

Future changes to how heritage and warrior ethos are ingrained into BMT will include naming obstacles on the “Creating Leaders, Airmen, Warriors,” or CLAW, course after Air Force heroes, he added.

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“The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior Airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe,” said Col. Jason Corrothers, 737th Training Group and BMT commander, said in the statement. “These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling Airmanship and core values from the very beginning.”

More than 37,314 airmen graduated from BMT in fiscal year 2017, according to the statement. The Air Force aims to increase that number to more than 40,200 graduates in fiscal year 2019.

Stars and Stripes correspondent Leon Cook contributed to this report.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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