Texas Border Business
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND-Texas — Following the success of launching Airmen’s Week, the 737th Training Group executed another major change in Air Force Basic Military Training, marching male and female Airmen together in combined “Heritage Flights” July 17 signifying their transition in becoming a part of the world’s greatest Air Force.
These Airmen learn they are following in the footsteps of the enlisted heroes for which their flights are named. They are also no longer one Airman, in one training flight, but are now key Airmen in the United States Air Force.
As such, this is the first time the basic military trainees were combined with a flight of Airmen possessing similar Air Force specialties, regardless of gender, said Lt. Col. Christopher Fuller, 737th TRG deputy commander.
“The Airmen’s Run, Coin Ceremony and graduation parade give a vivid depiction of the way Air Force BMT is heading; a fully integrated training environment to better prepare Airmen for the operational Air Force,” he said.
“For right now and the foreseeable future, we will reorganize trainees in their last week of training from their respective training squadron flights into career field determined heritage flights, and these groups will go on to train together during Airmen’s Week,” Fuller said. “So, during graduation week festivities and going down the bomb run, you will see gender-integrated flights. It’s great for family and friends to see their Airmen in units reflecting the Air Force they have joined.
“Men and women have trained together for years at BMT in many aspects, but we wanted to do more and the time is now,” said Fuller. “In the operational Air Force, this is reality. The Air Force Academy, Officer Training School and technical training is already fully integrated and so we saw no reason for BMT to wait any longer and took a major step forward toward full gender integration.”
“Our military training instructors are a great example of how we value diversity and team work in BMT,” said Capt. Bethany Parker, 737th TRG Standardization and Evaluations officer in charge. “More than 25 percent of the military training instructor corps are female, indicative of the where the rest of the Air Force would like to be. They work as a team, regardless of gender, allowing every trainee exposure to great male and female enlisted leaders.”
All these changes in BMT are in line with Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody’s vision for enhancing the culture of Airmen to continue treating each other with dignity and respect by instilling the necessity and purpose of core values in producing extremely diversified warrior Airmen of character, Fuller said.
The initiative for greater gender integrated training was championed by 2nd Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Brown and former Air Education and Training Commander Gen. Robin Rand. A team from the 37th Training Wing, consisting of military training instructors, civilian training experts and senior leaders then developed an execution plan to train and better posture Airmen for what they will experience in the operational Air Force.
“It’s about preparing them to work as part of a team, and without doubt, the best, most efficient teams are the ones that capitalize on the strengths of all members,” said Dr. Laura Munro, 737th TRG training director. “We are preparing the Airmen for the active duty Air Force they will experience and how it operates day to day.”
As a result of developing the most efficient plan to integrate the flights, the idea for Heritage Flights was born. These 14 flights bear the names of some the most influential enlisted members in Air Force history to include 12 former chief master sergeants of the Air Force who are responsible for shaping today’s Air Force; the first woman to enlist in the Air Force, Staff Sgt. Esther Blake; and the first enlisted Airman to receive the Medal of Honor, Staff Sgt. Maynard Smith.
“We chose Heritage Flights because we want to educate our Airmen on enlisted heritage,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Carter, who helped design the construct of the flights. “Those heroes paved the way and shaped the Air Force into what it is today. They learn more about these prominent members when they arrive at Airmen’s week, so it is only fitting that we begin to introduce them in BMT.”
“Because of the introduction of the heritage flight, the Airmen get the opportunity to work as a team with many diverse backgrounds and cultures, as well as the opposite gender,” said Maj. Jerry Hambright, 326th TRS director of operations. “They also get to hear different perspectives in these same diverse groups on the ethical and moral topics. Airmen’s Week is the foundation for developing the culture of professionalism, dignity, and respect expected across the Air Force through gender integration and practicing how we fight together as a team.”
The graduating Airmen not only display excellence, resulting from the quality in their training, by quickly adjusting to drill and maneuver procedures with a new group after six and a half weeks, they are also encouraged to understand and exemplify the courage and dedication of the member who the flight is named after.
As the heritage flights mark one of the first steps toward complete gender integration, members of the 737th TRG anticipate no change to the tempo of training.
“It makes no real difference to military training instructors who are training and how they form up. We train great Airmen, bottom line,” Fuller said. “BMT – it all starts here.”