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JBSA News
NEWS | July 1, 2024

Academy cadets join military training instructors at Basic Military Training

By Ava Leone 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Twenty-four U.S. Air Force Academy cadets participated in the annual Summer Leadership Program at Basic Military Training from June 1-20. They worked alongside Military Training Instructors and through their mentorship gained invaluable expertise.

The SLP is an opportunity designed to bring USAFA cadets to the 737th Training Group for three weeks to collaborate with MTIs. Upon their return to USAFA in the fall, the cadets will serve as subject matter experts for their six-week training course, also referred to as Basic Cadet Training, where cadets guide incoming students through their transformation from civilians into fourth-class cadets (freshmen).

After leading flights at BMT, teaching trainees, engaging in counseling sessions and interacting with MTIs, the goal is that the cadets take what they learn here and apply it to BCT.

“You're pushed out of your comfort zone from day one,” said Cadet 1st Class Jennifer Moreno, Air Education and Training Command Summer Leadership Program director of operations. “Your MTI tells you, ‘Okay, the flight is yours, start making corrections and start interacting’ — so they throw you under the fire. And without that, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to learn.”

At USAFA, cadets rarely engage with MTIs. At BCT, approximately 1,000 cadets replicate what MTIs do at BMT — they teach and coach trainees. The SLP allows cadets to have hands-on interactions with MTIs, which prepares them to lead at BCT.

During the SLP, cadets do not sit in a classroom taking notes or merely shadow an MTI; they are actively involved in every aspect of BMT.

“Seeing the cadets motivating, training, and inspiring our trainees in partnership with their MTIs was amazing,” said Lt. Col. Rodolfo Orozco, commander of the 321st Training Squadron. “While some of their peers may be observing operations at Air Force bases around the world —these SLP cadets engage in shaping the future of the Air Force, and by extension, also improve their own ability to lead people. These are qualities and attributes that will pay dividends in the months and years that follow.”

The SLP starts in October and members meet twice a week for an hour and a half in the evenings USAFA. The program recruits dedicated individuals who will commit their time and energy to the SLP, on top of their academics, athletics and other military duties at USAFA. Cadets learn different skills throughout the year that will prepare them for BMT and BCT, for example, how to teach drill lessons and dorm lessons to trainees.

For Moreno, the SLP was such a rewarding experience last summer, so she decided to return to JBSA-Lackland for a second time this year. If the program did not exist, cadets would only have about four to five days of briefings to get ready before BCT begins.

“If you met me a year ago and you meet me now, I have developed a lot of confidence [within the last year],” Moreno said. “When I went back to the Academy, and pushed my own flight for BCT, I was very comfortable in my position. I was able to lead amongst my peers and to lead the incoming freshmen class.”

Moreno wanted to come back to BMT to influence and guide the next class of cadets at USAFA. Since the program changed how Moreno carried herself, she wants to help transform other cadets, too.

Witnessing the MTIs in action at BMT has inspired Moreno. The opportunity to have so many MTIs as mentors in different roles as coaches, teachers and counselors has shaped her perspective on leadership and made an indelible impact on her life.

“I think that this program has really developed me to be the person I am today,” Moreno said. “And I'm so grateful for the experience.”