Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
In his office decorated with special operations plaques, C-130 models and a CamelBak propped against the desk, the new 737th Training Group commander, Col. Robert J. MacDonald revealed his outlook of Air Force Basic Military Training this week.
Colonel MacDonald took command from Col. Gina M. Grosso in a ceremony on the parade field June 30.
"The definition of what constitutes Basic Military Training has evolved because the nature of the world has evolved from 1946 to right now," said Colonel MacDonald. "The environment requires warfighting skills to match the warfighting environment of the modern battlefield. We feel that we have to create Airmen that have those skills before we can send them out to do anything else."
In the early weeks of BMT, Airmen are still taught the basic principles of military professionalism: discipline, bearing, following orders, as well as Air Force tradition and heritage. However, expansive training now deals specifically with warfighting skills learned through field training exercises, weapons training and a confidence course.
"They will demonstrate through teamwork and individual effort the culmination of their experience," said Colonel MacDonald.
The colonel added that there will be a shift in basic training to incorporate the Air Force expeditionary approach to international engagement.
"From 9/11, we learned that, for us to do our jobs, we have to go to other locations. In order to go to those other locations, we have to have skills in air base defense; to be able to go to places that are not well established and establish a foundation," said the colonel. "The expansion of BMT is positive because it reflects the reality of what is going on in the world."
Expeditionary is not a new term to Colonel MacDonald, who spent much of his career in special operations.
"I've been all over the world. I understand expeditionary operations and third-world countries," said the colonel. "My major concern is taking what I know operationally and what I understand politically and militarily from the different places I've been and translate it into success here at Lackland."
The 1983 Air Force Academy graduate has had years of experience with the Air Force beyond his own career.
"My father is a retired chief master sergeant, just shy of 31 years in service. When he came out to San Antonio (for BMT) in 1956, it was a two-day train ride rather than a plane ride that most of the kids make today."
The colonel said that growing up in an Air Force family is the No. 1 strength he brings with him to this position.
"There is no substitute for having core values indoctrinated in your life from the outset," said the colonel.
"The No. 2 strength is diversity. My mother is Spanish and so my outlook is decidedly international, and that is reinforced with all I've done in the Air Force, particularly with special operations," he said. "I've been able to build relationships with people of other cultures."
Colonel MacDonald's strengths and experiences are welcomed in the 737th TRG with the daily enrollment of more than 6,000 Airmen.
"If I'm able, through my efforts with the Airmen, to show why training is important, to tell them that they are special because of their service, to motivate them to be their best, to be greater than they have been their entire lives, it would be the best thing that one would want to come out because in the end, you not only make a better Airman, you also make a better American."