JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Life for U.S. Air Force Airmen in technical training has been rough since March due to COVID-19 restrictions. That changed Oct. 9 when several organizations partnered at Joint Base San Antonio-Kelly Field to provide a movie, games and socializing night for the Air Force’s newest Airmen.
“The event that's happening tonight is a partnership between the USO and the 502nd Operations Support Squadron, and is what we wanted to do is bring a little bit more morale and welfare to the technical school trainees,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Fairburn, 502nd OSS maintenance supervisor, at the Friday evening event.
“We understand that trainees don't get a whole lot of time to decompress at the end of the week due to COVID-19 restrictions,” he said. “We have this huge hangar space and we figured we could let them use it and watch a movie and play some games, among other things.”
Fairburn said the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron also provided assistance.
“They've been an integral part of this whole process, with getting the technical trainees over here,” he said. “We also have the 37th Training Group members helping out and coordinating getting the students over here with the LRS.”
Now, more than ever, socializing is important to trainees, Fairburn said.
“Every single day they're going to technical school, and they're required to learn material that's new to them,” he said. “I understand that it could be very stressful, and COVID-19 has kind of restricted their time to decompress, that time to get away from the Air Force, per se, for a second and just have a good time, good personal time.”
Heather Krauss, USO San Antonio executive director, said the idea behind creating the event was to give the students resiliency through the long training pipeline during COVID-19.
“Tonight is all about giving them some fun and enjoyment and a little bit of down time,” she said. “They're training very hard. Their training pipeline hasn't slowed down.”
Keeping training moving during the pandemic is key to military readiness.
“It's very important to the military services that they keep that training going,” Krauss said. “We want to support that in any way possible, and when they asked us if we would have some events just to give them some down time, some morale, some camaraderie, we jumped at the chance to be able to provide that for these students.”
Krauss said she hopes the down time helps the students refresh and recharge their batteries so that come Monday, they're back in the game and training hard.
Airman Basic Christopher Shell, an Oklahoma native and student at the 343rd Training Squadron Security Forces Academy, enjoyed the night away from training, noting that being restricted to base during the pandemic has been difficult for technical school Airmen.
“Leaving base that was a big thing that got taken away from us, but the Air Force is very good at getting over obstacles with these boundaries that we have, and I think we're doing a great job,” he said. “We're getting to watch a fantastic movie, and we're just getting to hang around.”
Shell was appreciative of the efforts the units and USO made to give the Airmen the opportunity to get out and socialize.
“Because of this whole COVID thing, this is a huge deal for us Airmen. We finally get the chance to hang out and do stuff together," he said. "We are built to be social and have a society around us, and with training 24/7 being the only thing on your mind, it is very important to have these opportunities.”
The turnout for the evening was excellent, Krauss said, adding that she is hopeful the partners who organized the outing can continue to support the amazing attendance at a weekly movie night for JBSA’s Airmen in training.
“Tonight is our inaugural night for this event,” Krauss said as she watched the Airmen enjoying themselves in the hangar. “We're very excited that we have at least 250 airmen out here, maybe as many as 275, and we're looking forward to doing it every Friday.”
Krauss said anyone who would like to volunteer to help can contact the San Antonio USO at volunteers.uso.org/. (This site is an external site and does not belong to the U.S. Air Force)