JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas - The distinct wide-brimmed blue campaign hat is easily recognizable and worn only by a specific group of Airmen: U.S. Air Force military training instructors.
Known for professionalism, these specially selected and trained MTIs are tasked with mentoring, teaching and molding civilians arriving at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for basic military training.
To give MTIs skills to be successful in their role, the 37th Training Wing first trains any aspiring instructor with a combination of on-the-job training and having them attend a course at the military training instructor schoolhouse located here.
“Being an MTI is about motivating, developing, mentoring and supervising 50 people at once, but how do you do that?” said Master Sgt. Kyle Eckert, 737th Training Support Squadron Military Training Instructor Schoolhouse commandant. “That is what a lot of the course is based on: how to be approachable, but firm; how to use your experience as an NCO and translate it to 50 people.”
To attend the course and become an instructor, Airmen first submit a developmental special duty application package. If selected, the instructor candidate will shadow an experienced MTI for about two weeks to experience day-to-day life of an instructor before attending the formal course, which is 35 academic days. Afterwards, they are assigned to one of the training squadrons for on-the-job training for an additional 90 days.
“The course teaches the foundation of how to be a proper MTI,” Eckert said.
“It is probably one of the most difficult things I have done because you have to get yourself in the mindset that you are going to be the image of the Air Force,” said Staff Sgt. Heath Goins, 737th TRSS MTIS student. “You are going to be the face that these trainees remember for the rest of their lives. You want to make sure you are on your Ps and Qs all the time.
“You have to put the time in and study your materials and become familiar with it because you are going to be doing it every week for 8 1/2 weeks per flight,” Goins continued. “The knowledge you learn here, you are going to apply out there.”
The course covers a range of topics to include heat stress, nutrition, sexual assault prevention and response, and using a command voice. The students learn how to teach the proper way set up a dorm room from making beds to rolling socks and shirts to ensuring proper cleanliness. They also practice how to conduct dorm evaluations, uniform inspections, as well as drill and ceremony.
It also focuses on how to effectively teach and mentor by going over concepts like learning styles, laws of learning and communication process along with questioning and counseling techniques. The 737th TRSS has also incorporated military training consult services, which is composed of behavior specialists who brief students on topics like coping with stress and behavioral drift.
“It is very structured on how to deliver instruction,” Eckert said. “The schoolhouse spends a lot of time focusing on how people learn and how to best deliver information. It is important because there are 50 people (in a basic training flight) who need to learn an unbelievable amount of information in eight weeks.
“The course teaches how to effectively train; how to reach out to people who have different learning styles and get the same result regardless of whom I am speaking with or training,” Goins added.
The seven learning styles the instructors must be familiar with are visual, aural or auditory-musical, verbal, physical/kinesthetic, logical, social and solitary.
“It is not inherently natural to teach to all the different learning styles and it is no secret that public speaking is a challenge,” Eckert said. “As an MTI, if I can present information in a way that auditory learner can understand it as well as visual and kinesthetic learners, then I am confident that all 50 people in my flight are going to pick up on what I am teaching them.”
Despite how challenging the course is, both the experienced and aspiring instructors expressed pride for their role in the mission.
“There is nothing else like being an MTI,” Eckert said, adding that he loves being a MTI so much he applied to extend his time as one. “Becoming an MTI is something you really have to dedicate yourself to because the initial training is very challenging both physically and mentally, however, it’s rewarding – we have a direct impact on the Air Force and a life-long impact on every single trainee.”
This was the case for Goins.
“My MTI earned my respect and gave me a good insight on how the military is supposed to be,” Goins recalled, adding that he was the first in his family to join the military. “I haven’t forgotten him, I haven’t forgotten the things he taught.”
In fact, it was his MTI’s influence that inspired Goins to apply to become one himself.
The MTI position is one of 10 developmental special duty positions. For more information, visit https://www.afpc.af.mil/Assignment/Developmental-Special-Duty/.