KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Mississippi –
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived earlier this year, the way units and people operate in the Air Force changed. With a threat like this, there was a risk the training pipeline could have stopped, but due to the flexibility and adaptability of the 81st Training Group at Keesler Air Force Base, the Basic Military Training pipeline has continued to supply the Air Force with the Airmen we need.
“There are operational units that have people either separating or retiring from those units every day,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason Buckley, 81st TRG superintendent. “I think to operate efficiently. It’s critical to be at 100 percent. With approximately 11,000 Airmen projected to separate or retire from the Air Force this year, it was absolutely critical that the 81st TRG continued to supply operational units around the world with lethal and ready Airmen.”
BMT graduates used to be transported by bus from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, but now they are transported by a commercial aircraft to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and increase the readiness of the training group force.
“The Airmen benefit from not having to travel approximately 12 hours by bus, which leaves them more physically capable to hit the ground running,” Buckley said. “The flight from San Antonio to Keesler is just over one hour and the entire crew is vigilant about following and enforcing CDC guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19.”
Within days of the onset of the stop movement associated with the pandemic, Keesler was able to receive BMT graduates due to the teamwork displayed by the 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron, the 81st TRG, the 737th Training Group and the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron.
“I coordinate with the deployment distribution flight officer in charge every week to find out how many Airmen we’re going to get this week and what time the aircraft is coming in,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Teachout, 81st LRS deployment and distribution flight NCO in charge. “I coordinate with our operations support flight to find out where the aircraft is going to park so we know where we’re going to work. I then coordinate with public health, the training group and our ground transportation team in order to receive them.”
Since March, Teachout has worked 27 missions to receive approximately 2,200 Airmen that graduated BMT at JBSA-Lackland to supply the Airmen we need so the Air Force can continue to dominate in space and cyberspace.
“Within days of being notified of the stop movement order we were able to receive BMT graduates who would fill seats in our courses and eventually graduate and resupply our force,” Buckley said. “Continuing to technically train Airmen at Keesler Air Force Base and around Air Education and Training Command serves notice to any competitor that even a pandemic doesn’t place our military in jeopardy of being supplanted as the world’s deadliest fighting force.”