The U.S. Air Force has expanded its Basic Military Training from seven-and-a-half weeks to eight-and-a-half weeks in an effort to align more closely with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ heightened focus on readiness and lethality, officials said Monday.
In a move that took effect Sept. 4 but was announced Monday, the BMT curriculum has been enhanced with additional physical fitness and combat skills courses to train airmen for real-world events during the earliest days of their service, Air Education and Training Command said in a release.
"The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe," Col. Jason Corrothers, 737th Training Group and BMT commander, said in the release. "These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling Airmanship and core values from the very beginning."
The 737th is the service's largest training unit, with nine squadrons and more than 900 personnel.
The Air Force is the third Defense Department service to make changes to early enlisted training in recent months. Last October, the Marine Corps restructured its boot camp schedule to create a “fourth phase” for recruits in which they could experience peer mentoring by drill instructors following receipt of the traditional Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin that marks induction into the ranks of Marines. And earlier this year, the Army announced it would expand its 14-week infantry one-station unit training to 22 weeks in a pilot program designed to allow soldiers more time to practice key skills such as land navigation and marksmanship.
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The Air Force changes address the Pentagon's readiness goals through a "revamped expeditionary skills and weapons training curriculum," said Lt. Col. Jose Surita, 326th Training Squadron commander, in the release.
"Readiness is the central theme across the BMT curriculum as we deliver trained and committed airmen capable of delivering 21st-century airpower," he said, referencing what AETC calls the "Mach-21" airman, or the next generation of 21st-century troops.
BMT changes at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, include:
- An increase from 31 to 44 fitness sessions throughout training. Workouts will be a "balanced mix of cardio, strength and interval training," AETC said.
- The Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, or BEAST, course will happen later in training. BEAST, which previously took place in week five, has been moved to the final training week "as the culminating event of BMT" before graduation, officials said.
- A new first-aid course replaces the Self-Aid/Buddy Care program. Instead, airmen will receive a beefed-up "Tactical Combat Casualty Course," which mimics real-world situations for airmen to practice live-saving skills in battle scenarios.
- An increased focus on weapons handling and familiarization. Whether airmen will receive a full weapons qualification program has yet to be determined, according to Air Force Times.
- Elements of "Airmen's Week" will be incorporated throughout the 8.5-week training regimen. Airmen's Week previously occurred the week following BMT to offer airmen perspective into the Air Force's honor code, leadership and character development, among other life lessons.
- An emphasis on Air Force heroes and warrior culture. Instructors will introduce the "warrior identity, as well as Air Force history and heroes, every week throughout training," said Master Sgt. Richard Bonsra, a military training instructor. "Those topics will then be reinforced during all training events, such as naming physical training sessions after a fallen airman to cement the experience."
The new BMT experience "accelerates 'mind to heart' adoption of Air Force core values and airman-warrior ethos principles," the service said in a separate video introducing the changes Monday.
More than 37,314 airmen graduated from BMT in fiscal 2017, AETC said. The command is poised to graduate 40,200 graduates by the end of fiscal 2019.
"Over the last 70 years, we have become the most dominant Air Force the world has ever known, but there is no doubt we must be, and can be, better in the future," said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, 737th Training Group superintendent. "The next generation of airmen will take us there, so it's critical we start them on the right foot. These changes ensure we move in that direction."