The Air Force has deemed Basic Military Training, technical training and flying training operations mission-essential, so they will continue — at least, for the time being — during the coronavirus outbreak.
Air Education and Training Command said Tuesday it is taking steps it hopes will mitigate the chances of spreading the respiratory illness called coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
All technical training and undergraduate flying training students will still outprocess after graduation and move on to their first duty station after they finish training.
Although officials at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama said in a Facebook post last week that the Officer Training School there had paused operations due to a possible case of COVID-19 on campus, OTS has been deemed mission-essential and will continue, as will Reserve Officer Training Corps operations. That OTS Facebook post has since been taken down.
AETC spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday said in an email Tuesday that the OTS Facebook post was made in error and that OTS operations were never paused. The next OTS class will start March 31, she said.
AETC officials have decided to hold BMT graduations on Thursdays, rather than Fridays, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas beginning this week. BMT graduations will continue to be closed, not open to family members, guests or other members of the public, but they will be streamed on the 37th Training Wing’s Facebook page.
AETC also said the commanders of installations that handle technical training will decide when it is safe for those airmen to travel off-base.
But for flying training students, all related training will continue, including permanent change-of-station and temporary duty travel for aircrew students and career enlisted aviators.
“Force health protection is our top priority, and we will continually be monitoring the current COVID-19 situation and our recruiting, training and education operations daily to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our airmen and maintain mission readiness,” said AETC Commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb in a news release. “Calm is contagious. We are making every decision in joint coordination with our sister services and implementing mitigation tactics where necessary, with the commitment to preserving the ability of our servicemen and women to provide for national defense and current worldwide military missions.”
All BMT flights currently in training will — until further notice — continue until their training objectives are met, AETC said. There will be no flight consolidations at this time.
AETC spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday said Tuesday that new recruits are continuing to arrive at BMT.
AETC is still conducting pipeline training operations, including water survival, centrifuge training and survival, evasion, resistance and escape training, but is considering taking additional steps to better safeguard students’ health, to include changing the class makeup.
But students attending Air University at Maxwell in TDY status either have returned, or will soon return, to their home stations. This includes students attending both officer and enlisted professional military education, and the First Sergeant Academy.
Longer-duration courses at Air University, such as the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Air War College and Air Command and Staff College, will continue.
It remains unclear what will happen to airmen scheduled to cross train and attend training, AETC said. Travel guidance is still being prepared for them.
“This is [a] rapidly evolving, fluid situation,” Webb said. “We need your patience as we work through every scenario so we can provide you with the best information possible.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.