KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Mississippi —
Air Force Basic Military Training, commonly referred to as “BMT” or “boot camp,” is a training program that must be completed for every trainee to attain the title of Airman.
The experience challenges trainees mentally and physically to prepare them for their Air Force career. Although COVID-19 has made training and everyday life a little different, the requirements to recruit and train Airmen have stayed the same.
At the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Master Sgt. Kenneth Veazey is the 403rd Wing’s Development and Training Flight chief, which is a program that is specific to the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard that prepares trainees for BMT.
The D&TF was created to prepare trainees for BMT and reduce the number of trainee discharges, Veazey said. In fiscal year 2019, there were 130 enlisted and 86 percent of those members made it through basic.
“When I joined the Air Force Reserve this program did not exist here, and I went to ‘basic’ with little knowledge of what to expect when I got there,” Veazey said. “Now, I’m in a position that helps prepare our future Airmen with a foundation of Air Force knowledge before they attend basic training.”
Prior to leading trainees of the D&TF, Veazey was an aerospace ground equipment Air Reserve Technician with the 403rd Maintenance Squadron. He now assists civilians with taking their first steps in becoming Reserve Citizen Airmen, after they’ve taken the oath of enlistment.
Civilians such as Adeola Shafe, a New Orleans Sherriff deputy, who said that joining the Air Force has been one of his life’s goals.
“I’m originally from Nigeria and ever since immigrating to the ‘states’ I have always wanted to serve,” Shafe said. “Being in the military has always been a passion of mine, so anything Master Sgt. Veazey has to say, I do my best to absorb the information and his advice.”
Before each unit training assembly, Veazey builds a schedule for his trainees, guides newcomers, coordinates in-processing, and conducts team-building exercises. When new trainees arrive he gives them their unit and installation rules, teaches them about Air Force culture, core values, customs and courtesies, rank structure and chain of command.
“My goal for the D&TF is to create a constructive learning environment that lays down the foundation to understanding the military lifestyle,” Veazey said. “I’ve tried to be the kind of (noncommissioned officer) that takes care of their Airmen and learn from them, all while growing as a leader.”
Contrary to the hustle, bustle, and occasional yelling of basic training, he said he wants to instill order and discipline without having to be aggressive, but will still administer corrective actions when necessary.
In addition to leading and teaching, Veazey also acts as a liaison between the trainee and their eventual unit.
“When we find out what career field and unit a trainee will be in, I do my best to get them acquainted with their future unit and office environment,” he said. “I do this so when Airmen get back from basic training or technical school they’re not wondering who or where they need to report to.”
Veazey said that he believes to be a good leader, you also have to be a good follower and it shows when trainees have positive attitudes and constructive dialogue that enhance training for everyone.
“I believe attending development and training has been very beneficial,” Shafe said. “Coming in with an open mind and a positive attitude will prepare you for anything. I definitely feel prepared for basic training, and I thank Sergeant Veazey for that.”
Currently, Veazey said he’s had to make adjustments due to the travel restrictions and is looking forward to in-person training again.
“We’ve postponed in-person training, due to many of the trainees being outside of the local commuting area and adhering to travel restrictions,” Veazey said. “I am, however, keeping constant communication with them through phone calls and emails so they have training materials to study while we wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted. I am positive they’ll be ready and willing to train when the time comes.”