JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
For many Fridays during the past 20 months, a constant on the 37th Training Wing commander's calendar is attendance at the Air Force Basic Military Training graduation parade on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The senior leader's attendance for this Friday's parade won't change, but the day will definitely be different.
Col. Mark Camerer will hand over the reins of the Air Force's largest training wing to Col. Trent Edwards in a 37th TRW change of command ceremony prior to the graduation parade for the service's newest Airmen. Edwards has been the 42nd Air Base Wing commander at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., the past two years.
"The wing is lucky to get Colonel Edwards, he's a phenomenal leader," Camerer said. "He will pick up where I left off and lead the wing to the next level. He's the perfect officer to continue the transition the wing has been under the last two years."
Then, only hours after that time-honored military tradition, Camerer will become the Air Force's newest general officer when he is promoted to brigadier general in a ceremony at JBSA-Randolph. Gen. Robin Rand, Air Education and Training Command commander, will preside over the ceremony.
"Leaving a command is bittersweet," said Camerer, whose next assignment, at Ramstein Air Base Germany, is with United States Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa staff as director of requirements, strategic plans and programs, and analysis.
"You look forward to what's in the future and on the horizon, but you'll always look back at the people and the mission, the importance of the work that was done here," he said. "I'll miss the people. I'll reflect back and think about how dedicated they are to getting the mission done.
"Air Education and Training Command is a special place, it sets the foundation for so many things. It is a critical mission and being a part of it has been awe-inspiring for me."
Prior to Camerer's arrival in September 2012, a group of Military Training Instructors were being investigated for sexual assaults against trainees. Subsequent investigations have led to 27 MTIs convicted by court martial, two MTIs are pending courts martial, one MTI acquitted, and five MTIs who received Article 15s.
In addition, AETC issued 46 recommendations to reshape BMT into a more safe and secure training environment.
The wing has successfully implemented the AETC recommendations and is well on the way to institutionalizing them, he said, adding there have been "no serious reports of instructor misconduct" in the past 20 months.
"I said from the onset that if every Airman strictly adhered to our core values, if they put integrity first, service above self, and showed excellence in all they do, then you don't issues with discipline," Camerer said. "It's impossible to adhere to the core values and break laws. I thought it was the simplest way to explain where I expected us to be."
"At the end of the day, we're the undisputed heavyweight champ," he said. "We're the best Air Force in the world--second place isn't even close. We have the finest NCOs our nation has to offer molding and training our newest Airmen. They're the ones doing the job day in and day out, and they're doing it spectacularly. The proof is in the Airmen we're producing."
While basic military training is always associated with Lackland, other, just as important, missions fall under the 37th TRW, Camerer said. On any given day, the 37th TRW has 16,000 students in nine different states, 10 different training locations and 30 different sites around the world in training.
"This is a dynamic and diverse organization," said Camerer. "It's a great group of colonels and chiefs that run their individual groups and academies, a great group of commanders that run their individual squadrons and a great group of Airmen that just job away every day and get the mission done. That is what's impressive to me."
He described what the other groups in the 37th TRW had been through during his time at JBSA-Lackland.
937th Training Group
"The 937th Training Group at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston has trained 98 percent of all new medics in the Air Force. They've teamed with METC (Medical Education & Training Campus at Fort Sam) to become the premier training campus in the world. The lives saved on the battlefield are the direct result of the training they're doing in the 937th Training Group."
37th Training Group
"The 37th Training Group is the largest training group in the Air Force. Roughly 40 percent of all the Airmen that graduate from basic training go through the 37th TRG, which has a very dynamic and diverse set of AFSCs (Air Force Specialty Codes).
"In that group and the 937th TRG, we've incorporated all the lessons learned from BMT to help our Airmen and insure them a safe and secure environment in technical training. (The 37th TRG) has been through turmoil themselves. They been through severe budget constraints, civilian furlongs and they're in the midst of complete battlefield airmen training reorganization, the size and complexity which has not been done in at least 20 years."
Defense Language Institute
English Learning Center
"DLI is not only training thousands of international students, they are implementing the largest foreign military sales case ever in support of Saudi Arabia's buying the F-15 program. It's a $29 billion sale and we're teaching English to all the maintainers who then go back to Saudi Arabia to work on them. Every day there are 400 Saudis here learning English.
"All the while, DLI is going through an organizational change that will make them a stand alone group. That's a huge project in and of itself that's going on behind the scenes."
Air Advisory Academy
"The Air Advisory Academy has been through a defunding and refunding. They have been through turmoil the last year and yet continue to train Airmen to go down range in harm's way. What they've done has been a phenomenal example of steadfast devotion to their mission, a mission that is critical and literally saving lives."
Inter-American Air Forces Academy
"IAAFA is another important international mission. They've hosted chiefs of air forces here, and they've trained over 2,500 South and Latin American students in the last two years. They've done it with a dwindling budget and reduced manpower and they've never missed a beat. The importance of the mission that they do can't be understated to our national security and the peace that we enjoy in our hemisphere."
Camerer also said San Antonio deserved the moniker "Military City USA" because of the community's unwavering military support.
"Our brand new Airmen put on their uniform and walk downtown on Fridays after graduation and are bombarded by great Americans who say 'thank you for your service,'" he said. "That doesn't happen everywhere, but it happens here. When they say 'thank you for your service' to me, my response is always 'thank you for your support.'"