New Recruits get a "Taste of Basic"

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rich Murphy
  • 185 PA
As new recruits enter the Air National Guard (ANG), many experience anxiety and uncertainty about what to expect during Basic Military Training and Tech School. To deal with these anxieties, Master Sgt. Thomas Fennel, Tech. Sgt. Carl Laws and the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) in Sioux City, IA have developed the "Student Flight."

The "Student Flight" prepares future Airmen for the challenges they will face in both Basic Training and Tech School. Airman 1st Class Drew Plantage, an Arial Port Technician with the 185th Supply and recent Tech School graduate, said, "The student flight really gave us a taste of basic."

Once Airmen commit to the ANG, they are enrolled into the "Student Flight." At this point, they are assigned their initial uniform, a grey 185th ARW t-shirt.

The students begin each drill by reporting to their assigned shops. Once there, the recruits shadow experienced workers to get a sense of what their military job will entail.

Master Sgt. William Blatchford, the Small Air Terminal Supervisor, said this type of shadowing is helpful but limited. He said, "I might have them tag along with some of the other guys, so they can get a general idea of what to expect, but for the most part, they can't do much until they finish their training."

During the shadowing process, many of the recruits will complete Computer Based Training (CBT) for their career fields. CBT programs provide simulations to help the students understand their future careers in the ANG and to help them succeed in tech school.

Once the students return from lunch, they meet with Fennell and Laws to get prepared for Basic Military Training. Plantage said, "This was when Fennell jumped into T.I. Mode." T.I. refers to Military Training Instructor, the men and women who are in charge of the Basic Military Flights at Lackland AFB.

"Fennell drills us on marching, physical fitness, saluting, and the basics," said Airman 1st Class Jordan Hazel, another new member of the 185th ARW. "We also work on our reporting statements, making beds, and learning the Air Force Song and the Airmen's Creed."

The students are also able to experience the "snake pit."

The "snake pit" is an Air Force tradition where a group of T.I.s sit in the dining facility and look for an Airman to make a mistake. Once an Airman makes a fatal slip, for example making direct eye contact with a higher ranking soldier, the T.I.s begin yelling, screaming, and intimidating the recruit.

Hazel said, "That experience was great. We practiced this in our dining facility here. (Laughing) I never made that mistake at Basic."

Plantage said having the experiences in their "Student Flight" helped him adjust to dramatic changes basic military training provides. "They can only do so much to prepare you. But it really wasn't too much of a culture shock, compared to what some of the other guys were having."

Fennell said, "I try to teach them just a little bit about everything so they know what to expect, but I really focus on three major rules. First never break military bearing, second, don't take anything personal, and third don't cheat. If they can do that and pass physical fitness, they should have no problems."

Not only does the "Student Flight" prepare the new Airmen for their upcoming training, but it also helps them establish friendships around the base. Hazel said, "We really made some great friendships around the base."

Hazel and his fellow Airmen Devon Rook, Ben VanDyke, and Jerid Schumacher were all in the same Flight during Basic Military Training. Hazel said, "We were lucky we all got to be in the same Flight. It was nice to know someone there and spend down time talking to people we knew."

Of course, there were disadvantages to having such camaraderie. Hazel added, "Our T.I. called us 'Team Iowa' and made us sit in the corners during meetings. He was always trying to embarrass us because he knew we were all close."

While the "Student Flight" provides an excellent opportunity for Airmen to adapt to military life, it does have its limitations. "There are some things that Master Sgt. Fennell just couldn't prepare us for," said Plantage. "The hardest part for me was lack of sleep and having to rush to do everything."

Regardless of the limitations, the "Student Flight" program at the 185th ARW offers new Airmen a chance to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety that tends to affect new recruits. Fennell said, "We want to make sure that we are sending over men and women who will succeed in their training while proudly representing all of us here at the 185th."

Those interested in learning more about the 185th ARW "Student Flight" may contact Master Sgt. Thomas Fennel at 712-585-0535, Tech. Sgt. Laws at 712-585-0535 or recruiting at 712-585-0411.

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