JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
For Air Education and Training Command, developing the Airmen we need doesn’t happen magically. It takes the right Airmen with the right training at the right time with the right focus. It means investing in our future by investing in force generators – recruiters, military training instructors and military training leaders.
“We’re using the term force generators to describe the work being done by our recruiters, MTIs, and MTLs,” said Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, command chief of Air Education and Training Command. “Force generation is exactly their charge during their assignments at either BMT or technical training. Their contribution in laying the foundation for tomorrow’s American Airmen and space professionals is priceless.”
Thompson visited the 737th Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Oct. 14-15 to get a better understanding of current MTI development as NCOs and senior NCOs, specifically, their vectoring into key development and leadership positions.
“Developing the Airmen we need who possess the Air Force core values starts with our instructor corps,” Thompson continued. “We have to look at our force generators with an eye on four key points. How are we assessing and selecting them, how are we onboarding them, how are we continuously developing them while they are assigned to AETC, and how do we prepare them to return to their career field when they have completed their tour with us.”
Thompson’s visit began with an introduction to BMT briefing presented by Chief Master Sgt. Learie R. Gaitan, superintendent of Air Force BMT at the 737th Training Group. Gaitan said that the focus within the 737th TRG was to “learn and grow” the MTI corps through deliberate developmental and mentorship programs.
“This way, when MTIs go back to their specialties after completing their assignment here in BMT, we are returning a certified, full-up, rounded NCO or senior NCO who can lead our formations in the operational Air Force successfully without being set back in their Air Force Specialty Code. That’s a message we want to send to Airmen in all AFSCs,” Gaitan said.
“There is no better way to send that message than having our AETC command chief stand within and alongside the MTI corps to see firsthand the blueprint leadership these men and women generate every day for our Air Force,” Gaitan added.
In its simplest form, Thompson said the most visible way to show force generators how much they’re valued is by recognizing what they do every day.
“Our instructors work tirelessly every day to ensure America’s sons and daughters are properly trained and fully-qualified to join their operational units,” Thompson said. “Valuing our force generators is, has been, and will continue to be a top priority for all of us. Senior leaders are actively engaged in discussing the future for MTIs and MTLs. After all, our instructor corps should be the best and brightest.”
Several changes have been made to improve quality of life in response to concerns over retention, loss of operational expertise and assignment-related burnout. Challenges of work-life balance include shift work, professional demands and responsibilities outside typical duty hours.
“These are real worries for our instructor corps and to address them the Air Force changed the tour length for MTIs, MTLs, professional military education and T-prefix instructors from 48 to 36 months, with an opportunity to extend an additional year, back in July 2019,” Thompson said. “A vital part of caring for all of our Airmen is doing our best to provide a work environment where they know they are valued.”
In addition to the BMT presentation, the AETC command chief received briefings on war skills military study, developmental special duty, and MTI school, among others. He was the guest speaker at the BMT graduation Oct. 15, and toured the 319th Training Squadron Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, or BEAST, facility at the JBSA-Chapman Annex.
“The Air Force needs passionate leaders committed to the development of our Airmen,” Thompson said. “While all Airmen possess professionalism and represent our Air Force core values, the Airmen who serve in developmental special duty positions are the gold standard.
“These men and women are in demanding careers that offer positive career broadening experiences for them to mature and grow as leaders,” he continued. “We must take a hard look at ourselves, our organization and our culture to determine the changes needed in order to support our growing, lethal force.”