LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
"Training for Success" is the new motto of the 737th Training Group, requiring Airmen and the new commander, Col. Edward Westermann, to go the extra mile and a half to ensure trainees are successful.
That extends into every facet of being an Airman and a commander, even if it means sharing running techniques with a new trainee struggling to pass her physical fitness test during a early morning run.
Colonel Westermann took command of the 737th TRG from Col. Robert MacDonald in a ceremony on the Lackland parade ground Jan.18 and has literally been on the run ever since, losing 8 pounds during the first 14 days on the job because he forgot to eat.
A couple of weeks ago, the new commander helped mentor a new trainee who had difficulty passing her fitness assessment. His tutelage provided instant results.
"She ran the fastest time she's ever run, which was actually below (basic military training) standards, so we were able to send her to (technical) school," said Colonel Westermann. "Running out there with an old guy like me, they don't want to lose to me."
Before assuming command of the Air Force's sole basic military training group comprised of six "street" and two support squadrons, more than 650 permanent party personnel and a daily student load of more than 6,000, Colonel Westermann was a professor of Military Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
His strategic perspective and analytical skills will be fully utilized as he leads the expansion of basic military training to eight and half weeks.
"We have to be prepared to look at a number of issues, whether they are manning issues, facilities or training," said Colonel Westermann. "We have to have the strategic perspective about how we approach integrating all those various pieces, so that when we get to November 2008 we're going to be prepared to execute."
Recruiting efforts are currently under way to add 160 military training instructors to the staff by November.
The MTI School is a 14-week program, so in addition to recruiting new MTIs, the 737th TRG is also seeking approval from Air Education and Training Command for current MTIs who volunteer to extend their assignment.
Plus, former MTIs are being contacted about doing another tour.
"Folks understand how hard they have to work in this job, but those who have been away still want to come back because of that sense of identity and elite character of the MTI Corps," said the commander. "The BMT expansion is the most historic change in this program in almost half a century, and that's an amazing thing to think about."
While the BMT expansion is a primary focus, Colonel Westermann said the mission and No. 1 priority of the 737th TRG is graduating the most qualified and capable young men and women into today's Air Force.
"The Air Force that I entered about 24 years ago is not the Air Force they are entering today," said Colonel Westermann. "The Cold War is over and the warrior Airman has to be prepared to deploy and go into harm's way into unimproved areas and to do the mission. That requires a physically fit Airman. That requires an intelligent Airman and the dedication and selflessness we talk about."
Colonel Westermann clearly exemplifies those core values.
The scholar, who has published extensively in the area of German military, airpower and Holocaust history, including two books, "Flak: German Anti-aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945" and "Hitler's Police Battalions," has placed a current book contract on hold in order to devote his full attention to the 737th TRG.
"My concentration has to be on this mission, because this is the most important thing right now that we are doing and it is absolutely critical for the Air Force that we get this right," said the commander.
Meanwhile his staff, being good Wingmen, have given him a jumbo jar of peanuts that sits on his desk to remind him to eat.