Gen. Robin Rand (Air Force)
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An April climate survey of basic military training showed morale within the beleaguered organization was on the uptick as sexual misconduct cases against instructors dwindled.
Nine months after an outside survey of MTIs found less than half were satisfied with their jobs and believed minor missteps could mean an end to their Air Force careers, results from the command’s climate survey paint a brighter picture: Eight out of 10 said they believe the health of their unit had improved from a year ago. More than nine out of 10 said they feel central to the BMT mission and that their workplace is free from maltreatment and abuse, said Gen. Robin Rand, head of Air Education and Training Command, which oversees basic training.
“We are better than we were a year ago, and I expect we will be better a year from now,” Rand said in an interview Friday with Air Force Times.
Rand discussed the climate survey results following news this week of the July survey, in which a large number of instructors said they felt changes to BMT had turned the tables too far, giving recruits rather than trainers the upper hand.
The July survey has not been repeated. But Rand said the climate assessment of basic training, the results of which have not been made public, shows morale among MTIs is improving following nearly two years of trainer courts-martial for crimes ranging from unprofessional relationships to rape.
“There is still room for improvement,” he said. But “our training instructors are adapting the way we expected.”
Rand said the pages of anonymous comments describing low morale and little job satisfaction 10 months ago do not surprise him.
“We were in the infancy stages of implementing” dozens of changes a command-directed investigation into the sexual misconduct scandal recommended.
“Whether perceived or real, our military training environment was under great scrutiny and deservedly so,” Rand said.
Basic training was still undermanned at that time, and MTIs were working long days with little or no time off.
“There is no way to have that work pace and not have a negative impact on the quality of life,” Col. J.D. Willis, deputy director of technical training for Air Education and Training Command, told Air Force Times this week. “A large part of their quality of life concerns were due to manning issues, which we have been addressing. We’re well on our way and getting very close.”
'Hitting a home run'
While MTIs said in July they couldn’t properly train for fear of being punished for minor infractions by overzealous leadership and ever-changing policy, the numbers show a different story, Rand said.
There have been no sexual misconduct reports made against MTIs in two years. About half of the 168 proven cases of other forms of misconduct over the last year resulted in verbal counseling, he said. Forty-three trainers received letters of counseling; 16 were issued a more serious letter of reprimand.
Four were released from MTI duty, Rand said. That is compared to a historical average of seven to eight a year.
“I would argue steps taken have reduced the number of infractions,” he said.
Rand said he also doesn’t buy into the argument that watered-down basic training is turning out ill-prepared airmen.
“I meet with these trainees. You can see the look in their eyes. They view these training instructors as the ultimate role model. They are someone they will never forget. I’m not buying for one second that training is easy and that trainees are driving the train out there,” he said.
AETC has also worked on standardizing policy so MTIs know what is expected of them.
“We’re going to make sure they know what the right thing is. If they do the right thing, they’ll have nothing to worry about,” Rand said.
Today’s MTIs are “hitting a home run,” he said. “I know you can fool a four-star some of the time but you can’t fool a four-star all of the time. In my entire career I have never served with better [noncommissioned officers] than the ones now serving as MTIs.”