JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Following a 16-year run, Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, or BEAST, has come to an end.
With an eye toward the future fight, Air Force Basic Military Training is implementing a revised training exercise – PACER FORGE -- where Agile Combat Employment and the concept of multi-capable Airmen are the beating heart.
Primary Agile Combat Employment Range, Forward Operations Readiness Generation Exercise, or PACER FORGE, is a fast-paced, two-day scenario-based deployment that mirrors the Air Force’s force generation process and reinforces concepts introduced at BMT.
“The move toward PACER FORGE is not just a renaming or re-branding of BEAST,” said Col. Jeff Pixley, 737th Training Group commander. “This was a year-long effort to reimagine BEAST.”
BMT has had dedicated training days to instill the warrior mindset, initially called “Warrior Week,” since 1999. In 2004, that training was expanded and in 2006, the four-day BEAST exercise stood up and had largely remained unchanged, until now.
Pixley assumed command of BMT in 2021 and assessed that BEAST was more centered around just-in-time pre-deployment training which led to the re-engineering and birth of PACER FORGE.
“The creation of the PACER FORGE program is an opportunity for students to prepare for their roles as multi-capable Airmen and for instructors to hone their leadership skills to mentor the new generation,” he said.
PACER FORGE is executed in the sixth week of BMT. During a 36-hour window, military training instructors and trainees will deploy to the former BEAST site where they will be organized into smaller dispersed teams. Here, they will be put to the test with scenarios that are built to provide flexibility, promote information seeking, teamwork, and decision making and are results focused.
Pixley said the PACER FORGE curriculum is designed to enhance force packaging with teams tailored for mission generation, command and control, and base operating support functions to help meet the vision of the 2030 Enlisted Force Airman. It is also a change in that cadre is now in a mentorship and facilitation role, versus giving direction and instruction.
“The most important thing we do at BMT is plant the seeds of personal discipline, wingmanship, teamwork, and embrace our core values,” Pixley said. “This culminating event for BMT does just that while focused on the future fight. We are providing basic trainees with their first opportunity to put their teamwork, discipline, and problem-solving skills to the test in a scenario-based deployment that is physically demanding and based on real-world operations.”
Pixley added that trainees can put into practice the basic war-fighting skills learned in earlier weeks of training. Skills such as Tactical Combat Casualty Care and weapons handling.
“Agile Combat Employment is about building foundational skills and problem-solving behaviors in an increasingly challenged threat environment to codify repeatable and understandable processes”, said Lt. Col. Jeff Parrish, 319th Training Squadron commander, whose squadron is responsible for the oversight of PACER FORGE.
He added that instructors also love that the new curriculum affords them the freedom of creativity to adjust and adapt in real-time based on trainee actions, skill level, and capability.
“What we are doing is making them [trainees] ready to join any team, to work well together, to solve tough problems, to be good wingmen and teammates, and to innovate,” Pixley said. “If we get it right, it will be the highlight of their BMT experience, despite only being 36 hours in length. Early feedback suggests we are absolutely on the right track.”
PACER FORGE is operational but officials are purposely keeping the scenarios close to the vest, “We want it to be something trainees consider so important and formative that they don’t spoil it for those that follow,” Pixley stated. "This is not the end of an era but rather a symbolic change to develop capable and ready Airmen and Guardians … anytime, anywhere.”