JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Basic Military Training has implemented several heritage-based programs in an effort to better connect Airmen to the Air Force core values.
“Over our 71 years of heritage we’ve had a lot of young men and women who shaped who we are,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, 737th Training Group Superintendent at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “We need to make sure that when a trainee becomes an Airman, they are tied in to what it means to be an Airman.”
The first step BMT is making toward this goal is the implementation of “Heritage Books.”
“Heritage books are filled with stories about inspirational Airmen our military training instructors can use to motivate trainees and help them learn why we do what we do,” said Master Sgt. Jacob Babich, a 326th Training Squadron MTI. “They really focus on sharing our Air Force heritage, not just our history. History is knowledge, heritage is something you feel; something that drives and motivates you.”
Heritage books will be in the hands of every MTI and soon every trainee. These books are only part of the change, as plaques at Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training have also been created to further infuse heritage with technical training.
“We’ve created plaques honoring enlisted heros at each obstacle in the obstacle course,” Babich said. “Whenever groups of trainees approach the next obstacle, they’re met by these plaques. The MTI leading the group will stop and share the enlisted hero’s story, allowing the trainees to reflect and indulge themselves in the next challenge as the Airmen before them have done.”
The plaques honor notable figures in Air Force history such as Airman 1st Class John Levitow, who became the lowest ranking Air Force member to ever receive the Medal of Honor. Levitow selflessly threw himself on a burning flare in an aircraft and kept it covered with his body until he was able to throw it from the aircraft, saving the entire crew. He accomplished this despite having sustained many wounds.
Along with the heritage books and plaques, MTIs are also sharing the stories of Air Force heros during special physical training sessions, Babich added.
“We call it BRAVE PT,” Babich said. “BRAVE stands for battle ready Airmen of valor and excellence. We tell a story over the loudspeaker about an enlisted hero and use it to drive the trainees. For example, we’ll talk about Chief Master Sgt. Dwayne Hackney, the most decorated enlisted man in Air Force history, and allow the Airmen to connect with his story so they can say ‘hey, I’m not gonna slow down, because Chief Hackney didn’t slow down.’”
These three programs come in conjunction with broader curriculum changes aimed at increasing readiness, lethality and human performance.
“All of these tools work in concert to teach what it means to become an Airmen,” Hoover said. “You don’t just have a class about what it means; you have to have continuous two-way conversations and insert information about the people who've gone before you and challenge Airmen to think, ‘what does it mean to become an Airman?’”
Upholding the Air Force core values is the price of entry for becoming a member of the world’s greatest Air Force, Babich added.
“You can't just be technically ready, you have to be ready in your heart,” Babich said. “If you don't want to come to work everyday and fight for our country then you’re in the wrong place. Were not here to just give you a paycheck, we’re here to defend our country and uphold the standard of excellence of our enlisted heroes.”