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New element assists TACP, CCT and PJ trainees

By Mike Joseph | 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs | Feb. 11, 2011

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Trainees in two Air Force Basic Military Training squadrons now have a "BATTLE" plan in place.

Battlefield Airmen Technical Training Liaison Element, or BATTLE, was recently incorporated for 320th and 331st Training Squadron trainees in the tactical air control party, combat controller and pararescuemen career fields. Pre-screened recruits for these career fields will receive the additional training during basic military training to better prepare them for their new jobs.

BATTLE is an additional measure to improve success rates through the TACP, CCT and PJ training pipelines. Following BMT graduation, the journey continues at the 342nd TRS, home to all Air Force Battlefield Airmen entry-level training. Curriculum includes pararescue indoctrination, TACP and PJ development, and combat control selection courses.

"BATTLE's purpose is to set those trainees up for success when they come to the 342nd," said Master Sgt. Kenneth Huhman, the squadron's combat training flight superintendent. "Our job is to prepare those initially qualified trainees. They will be more educated and ready for what is going to happen.

"BATTLE bridges the gap so they know what's going to be required for the training pipeline," he said. "The ultimate goal is to make those career fields healthy."

Sergeant Huhman said the added instruction starts in the second week of basic military training and continues through week seven. It includes mentoring sessions on Tuesday nights with respective career field instructors or guest speakers. PJ and CCT trainees also have swim training for one hour on Saturday mornings.

"The first two weeks of BMT are intense and a big transition from civilian to military life, so we want the trainees to get acclimated," he said. "After the first two weeks, they'll receive this additional training as they are available on Tuesdays and Saturdays."

In the mentoring groups, instructors from TACP, CCT and PJ meet with their career field trainees for open forums, discussions and one-on-one sessions. Recent career field graduates and experienced Airmen provide additional support to the mentoring program.

Areas addressed during the sessions include mental preparation, physical training requirements throughout the various stages, expectations for team or operational squadron assignments and health maintenance.

"The sessions are concluded with a real world story from an instructor or guest speaker in relation to that specific career field," Sergeant Huhman said. "In some sessions, we'll have recent graduates talk about how to be successful in a course."

For the PJ and CCT trainees in swim training, an instructor and coach are available at the hourly sessions to tutor and improve technique.

"Some (who didn't know how to swim) were able to pass the course requirements by gutting it out," Sergeant Huhman said. "This training teaches the proper swimming techniques so they'll be prepared for our swim course."

A combat controller and two-time Bronze Star recipient, the training superintendent said BATTLE serves as a motivational tool, familiarizes military training instructors about Battlefield Airmen career fields, provides more career field information, speeds up immersion into 342nd courses, and theoretically decreases attrition.

He said the hope for BATTLE was to decrease training elimination rates. Current training elimination rates average 50 to 80 percent in the three career fields.

"My assumption is it should reduce attrition," Sergeant Huhman said. "Trainees will know the proper testing requirements from Day 1. We don't have to assume they have the knowledge.

"We'll trim the edges and build a foundation for those that fit the initial mold so they'll be ready to accept the challenges in the selection courses. If we help to better prepare one Airman, the program will be a success."