The first major overhaul to basic military training in years begins Tuesday when a group of 400 recruits embark on the 8-1/2 week course that will now culminate with five full days of classroom instruction focused on character development.
Those recruits will march in the graduation parade at the 7-1/2 week mark — one week earlier than trainees traditionally have. But instead of heading off to technical training afterward, they'll return to BMT on March 23 for the inaugural capstone, or transition, week, when where they'll cover in detail topics such as ethical decision making, wingmanship, resiliency, respect and sexual assault prevention and response.
Trainees will have received crash courses in these and other subjects before the prior to capstone week. But the five-day course transition will give them time to consider how they'll incorporate integrity, service and excellence into their lives as newly -minted airmen, said Kevin Adelsen, capstone week program manager.
"They've taken the information into their brains. We need to move it 12 to 19 inches to the heart where they can truly embrace it," he said.
The Air Force intends do that through classes with civilian facilitators and hand-picked military training instructors who will lead them through role-playing exercises and real-life scenarios they are bound to encounter as first-term airmen and beyond, Adelsen said. While some of the lessons will come in the form of lectures, those, too, will be interactive.
"If we put PowerPoint in front of these young women and men, we have failed them and we're going to lose them," Adelsen said. "We want to hear from them, get them talking, find out what's made an impression and what questions they have."
The revamping of basic is among the most significant since 2008, when the Air Force tacked an additional two weeks onto what was then 6-1/2 weeks of training. It follows a professional and sexual misconduct scandal that roiled BMT in late 2011 and 2012, when dozens of MTIs were accused of a range of crimes, from inappropriate relationships with trainees to sexual assault.
In November 2012, a commander-directed investigation ordered by then-head of Air Education and Training Command Gen. Edward Rice recommended 46 changes to BMT to help prevent a repeat of the widespread misconduct. Among them: sShortening basic training by a week to cut down on idle time within the schedule and reduce MTI manning requirements.
The Air Force decided to keep basic training at the traditional 8-1/2 weeks and re-engineer the schedule.
Mostly, Adelsen said, "we re-sequenced some of the training events to be more efficient."
For example, an obstacle course all basic trainees were required to participate in used to be a stand-alone, daylong experience that required busing recruits to a relatively remote location. Now it will take place alongside basic expeditionary skills training — BEAST for short — on a single day.
"Things like that saved a substantial amount of time," Adelsen said.
Physical and military standards remain unchanged. Though referred to as capstone or transition week, the first 400 recruits will have a role in coming up with an official name for it.
"Our Basic Military Training today does a tremendous job developing young men and women into Airmen. But as we looked at the current structure, we saw an opportunity to further enhance those Airmanship skills with a final week focused entirely on character development. These are core skills every Airman needs to be successful in our Air Force," Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said in an Air Forces news release.
"We have five days to do this," Adelsen said. "We can't change the world in five days, but we can make quite an impact."