JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, along with Chief Master Sgt. Manny Pineiro, the service’s first sergeant special duty manager, visited Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland May 7, seeing first-hand how basic military training has adapted operations to fight through the COVID-19 environment.
Basic military training, in addition to technical and flying training, has been deemed mission essential and vital to readiness.
“The nation relies on us to provide global vision, reach and power, which doesn't happen without the critical foundation built here at basic military training,” Goldfein said. “BMT’s response in the COVID-19 fight has been swift and unwavering in developing the enlisted air and space professionals we need to fly, fight and win in all domains.”
The traveling party maintained a small footprint and adhered to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Defense Department social-distancing guidelines to ensure protection of their health and those around them.
During the visit, Goldfein and Pineiro met with Air Education and Training Command’s frontline BMT personnel, including the Military Entrance Processing Station team, support staff, military training instructors, charge of quarters team and newest graduates.
“Developing lethal, ready Airmen is a year-round business for our MTIs and all of the BMT training support organizations,” Goldfein said. “I’m motivated by their dedication, but their flexibility during COVID-19 is a reminder that the mission doesn’t stop.”
The service’s senior leaders personally addressed the newest Airmen during their BMT graduation ceremony. The 630 graduates were the first Airmen placed in a 14-day restriction of movement status at the start of training, one of many measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“This is the first class to face all of the new procedures and measures since the COVID-19 crisis began, and you made it,” Goldfein said. “To the families back home, thank you for sharing your greatest treasure with us.”
After graduation, Goldfein spoke directly to the Airmen who recovered from COVID-19 during BMT and completed training.
“You arrived here in the face of unprecedented times and I’m proud to be your wingman,” Goldfein said. “You are leaving here with the foundation and now we look to you to keep learning, keep adapting, and keep finding creative solutions for tomorrow’s battlespace.”
With force health protection as a top priority, while balancing mission readiness, charting the path forward for BMT during the response to COVID-19 has been a joint effort between members of the 37th Training Wing, 502nd Air Base Wing and the 59th Medical Wing.
“We have been able to continue fueling our force thanks to the effective collaboration of this tri-wing approach,” Goldfein said. “Partnerships such as these are how we, as a Force, will shape our new abnormal. Despite COVID-19, what the BMT team and the supporting wings have established here is the gold standard for training.”
Senior leaders also visited the Reid Clinic, observing how 59th MDW members have adjusted medical support operations for BMT.
“Our overall mission to provide routine and preventive health care to our most important asset, our Airmen, has not changed," said Maj. Gen. John J. DeGoes, 59th MDW commander. "We continue to provide high reliability healthcare in order to aid in supplying combatant commanders with healthy, expertly-trained warfighters."
The senior leaders also observed how the 37th TRW and 502nd ABW implemented BMT COVID-19 restriction of movement on arrival, as well as quarantine, person-under-investigation and isolation operations.
Throughout the visit, Goldfein emphasized the Air Force way ahead: living and operating with a cyclical virus in our midst.
“Many of your cadre and leadership teams were in their early years when the attacks of 9/11 shaped the nation,” Goldfein said. “This is now your time and responsibility to shape and contribute to our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”