Feasibility of secondary Air Force BMT location proven; COVID-19 surge operations to begin June 2

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While performing duties as Under Secretary of the Air Force, Shon Manasco, along with Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, tour the 37th Training Wing Detachment 5 living quarters inside Erwin Manor at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Apr. 22, 2020. Manasco and Wright met with Second Air Force leaders to learn more about how the numbered air force is fighting through the COVID-19 response with force health protection measures in place throughout basic and technical training in line with current CDC guidance. Air Force officials announced that, beginning June 2, the service will continue to hold basic military training at Keesler AFB as a secondary location until the end of COVID-19 surge operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue) (Photo by Kemberly Groue)

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KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Mississippi — 

Air Force officials announced that, beginning June 2, the service will continue to hold basic military training at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, as a secondary location until the end of COVID-19 surge operations.

The decision to stand up BMT’s initial operating capability at Keesler Air Force Base under Det. 5 of the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland comes after a successful proof of concept trial run at the base, which began April 7.

“This capability was a deliberately developed option to disperse the delivery of BMT during contingencies to provide surge capacity and introduce agility in the training pipeline construct,” said Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos, 2nd Air Force commander. “This move also helps ensure the health and safety of our trainees and instructors by allowing proper safety controls, like physical distancing and deep cleaning.”

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Julie Gudgel, Air Education and Training Command command chief, delivers remarks during the basic military training graduation ceremony at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 15, 2020. Due to safety concerns stemming from COVID-19, the Air Force sent new recruits to Keesler to demonstrate a proof of concept to generate the force at multiple locations during contingencies. Air Force officials announced that, beginning June 2, the service will continue to hold basic military training at Keesler AFB as secondary location until the end of COVID-19 surge operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue) (Photo by Kemberly Groue)

With the stand-up of initial operating capability, and every week until the need for surge operations diminishes, 60 new recruits from across the Total Force will arrive for six weeks of BMT here.  The shortened requirement, down from eight and a half weeks, is due to the physical layout of the BMT area, the small number of recruits, and a surge schedule, which trains Airmen 10 hours per day, six days a week, versus eight hours per day.

The move also provides relief to JBSA-Lackland’s training infrastructure, Tullos said.

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“Air Force BMT remains vital to renew the force and to the delivery of air and space power anytime, anyplace,” she said. “Keesler’s training mission is already set up with many of the facilities and procedures required to execute the mission.”

Another reason Keesler was chosen for BMT was in the fact members of the 81st Training Wing and its detachments already conduct more than 160 career field specialty training courses.

Basic military trainees under the 37th Training Wing, 737th Training Group Detachment 5 from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, participate in weapons-firing training at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, May 6, 2020. Air Force officials announced that, beginning June 2, the service will continue to hold basic military training at Keesler AFB until the end of COVID-19 surge operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue) (Photo by Kemberly Groue)

“Having trainees finish BMT and head across the base to begin technical training eliminates the need to transport trainees to another location after graduation,” Tullos said. “Limiting movement effectively limits the number of times our Airmen could potentially be exposed to COVID-19.”

Keesler BMT is a contingency option and is not designed to be implemented longer than 180 days, but it is designed to be sustainable for longer periods if required, Tullos said.   She also said that there are no current plans to continue BMT at multiple locations following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keesler has historically hosted basic training for the War Department and the Air Force, beginning in 1941.  Although that training tapered off after 1944, it carried on in some fashion until the 1960s.

Located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Keesler Air Force Base is home to the 81st TRW, 2nd Air Force, the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing, and is the single largest employer in the area.

With a mission to develop and inspire Airmen, members at Keesler train more than 28,000 students annually with an average daily student load of more than 2,700 at eight operating locations in the continental United States. The 81st TRW is a lead, joint training installation, and courses are provided for not only Air Force members, but representatives from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and civilian federal agencies.

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