SAN ANTONIO – Every young man and woman who enlists in the United States Air Force arrives here in San Antonio — Military City U.S.A.
But their journey doesn’t begin until they arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, better known as the Gateway to the Air Force. New recruits will go through eight weeks of basic military training where they’ll learn everything needed to become an American airman.
“Before you come in in the military, you’re a civilian, you’re worried about yourself at home, you only have you to watch out for. But when you come here, it’s a teamwork aspect. You have to consider everybody else in this team and be able to come together and work together as one unity to get the mission done,” said TSgt Timothy Atchley, 326TH Training Squadron.
New recruits are introduced to drill from the moment they arrive at Lackland. Drill is an important component of a recruit’s training, instilling discipline and military bearing.
“On this drill pad, they’re out here approximately five to six hours a week doing drill, if not more. Sometimes you pull them out here a little bit further. We have some downtime. We’ll go out and we could practice some more drill and really get that precision in there, get that discipline and instill excellence in them at all times,” said Atchley.
Throughout the eight-week training, recruits learn everything from the airman’s role in Air Force missions to basic expeditionary airman skills and training, also known as B.E.A.S.T.
“So, this exercise, this is a culmination of everything that the trainees have learned on basic training. So, when they come here from their line squadrons, they’ve already learned their base defense skills, which we call first T Triple C, which is how they treat a combat casualty,” said Ian Gonzalez, an instructor.
B.E.A.S.T. is a realistic forward operating base environment where they practice wartime readiness and also receive Air Force nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare training.
“Now, this is kind of the difference where a trainee really starts to become an airman or they can fulfill that mission that the Air Force needs for them to meet overseas in different locations. How crucial is this training? Extremely crucial. So, this right here baseline, many of these trainees from the day one, when they hit the ground, will be ready for deployment,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez says that though not all will deploy right away, they’ll still have the skills needed to perform their jobs in a deployed environment if they’re called to do that.
“So, it all depends on where they go and what the threat is like. But as a minimum, every single basic training recruit when they become an airman is going to have to experience this training every 18 months for the rest of their career,” said Gonzalez.