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NEWS | Dec. 17, 2008

Air Force debuts new BEAST site

By Mike Joseph 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

The training and dry runs are complete. The commander and instructors stand at the ready. The red-ribbon site ceremonies are now a thing of the past.

Simply put: It's time for the Air Force's focal point in the expansion of basic military training from 6.5  to 8.5 weeks to be tested by trainees. 

The first group of BMTs to use the $28 million Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training course at the Lackland Training Annex hit the site Dec. 15.

These trainees are not only the initial ones to use the BEAST, they also hold the distinction of being the first in 8.5 training.

"I call this the centerpiece of 8.5 expansion," said Col. Edward Westermann, 737th Training Group commander. "This is the key value-added part to the entire expansion by providing these young men and women the opportunity over a five-day period to apply warrior skills that we've given them.

"It's going to be their operational readiness inspection to demonstrate that they can go to a forward deployed location and be able to execute the mission," he added.

The sights, sounds and emotions in a deployed situation will be replicated for the BMTs in the BEAST exercise.

BEAST gives the Air Force the opportunity for teaching trainees more in the field in the areas of basic self-defense, integrated base defense, self aid and buddy care, and improvised explosive device training.

Colonel Westermann is enthusiastic about the new course, as are the instructors and the trainees.

"I've talked to a number of our instructors who are equally excited because we have a cadre of instructors who have deployment experience themselves," he said. "They see this program is going to do exactly what they're talking about: Better prepare young men and woman for those challenges they will face downrange.

"The BMTs are excited because many of them say this is exactly why wanted to be in the military," he said. "They recognize that they will be deployed in their career, and the expectations and challenges they'll face in their career are part of that deployed experience."

However, the final grade will be later down the line when trainees who have been through the course become Airmen and are deployed overseas.

"Ultimately, the bottom line will be when the combat commanders come back and tell us how successful we are in achieving a better prepared young man and young woman who now goes downrange to do the mission," Colonel Westermann said. "That is going to be our ultimate test of success."