Thursday, December 17, 2015

But the hat was fun, too

by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

12/15/2015 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Every Airman experiences the anxiety of getting off the bus at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas for basic military training followed by eight intense weeks with military training instructors.

When someone mentions BMT, the memories of folding shirts, spacing in lockers, and of course getting "put on your face" or push-ups come to mind. But what would it be like to wear the MTI's shoes and the campaign hat for once? To be the one who gets to yell and scream and be responsible for putting trained and disciplined Airmen into the Air Force?

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lawson, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, spent four years as an MTI from February 2007 to 2011.

"At the time I didn't have a (career job reservation) so the Air Force gave me a choice to go from blue to green, retrain, or get out," said Lawson. "I didn't like any of those options so I started looking into the special duties; I can wear blues all day and talk to high-schoolers or I could yell and scream and have fun and wear the cool hat, so I did that and loved it."

Lawson described his experience fun but very intense and stressful. Training in 2007 consisted of seven weeks of classroom training and seven weeks with a trainer MTI leading a flight.

"(My peers) told me before I went down there 'you can't do it, you laugh too much, you smile too much, you joke too much, you goof off too much, you can't do it,'" said Lawson. "Then when I left there after the four years we had a going away party and (the other MTIs) stood up and said, 'you know Sgt. Lawson, out of 56 instructors here, you were the loudest, meanest, most intimidating instructor.' And I thought 'I made it.'"

Lawson was at the 323rd Training Squadron for his four-year duty and the fun and anxiety continued, but he learned many lessons during his time.

"I got my very first flight after training and they kind of just threw me to the wolves," Lawson said. "I fell on my face because I wasn't mean enough."

After his first flight, he stopped worrying about the trainees' feelings and being too mean to them. He found the balance needed to be a successful MTI.

"You're screaming at them because they made a mistake or they didn't do a drill movement right or the socks they rolled sucked, then afterwards you show them how they can fix it and that's how you mentor them," said Lawson. "Just like being a (noncommissioned officer) or any kind of leader in any career field, you're going to have an Airman that screws up or falls on their face so you're going to have to discipline them, but then what you do after the discipline is you show them what they did wrong and how to fix it and then follow up with them. It's just a little more intense in Lackland."

Lawson recounted a story about a trainee in the third or fourth week of training. Lawson questioned him on the chain of command memory sheet and the trainee didn't know any of the names, not even his dorm chief. Angry at the trainee, Lawson took him to the section supervisor and the section supervisor also questioned him, but gave him 24 hours to completely memorize the chain of command. The next day the trainee was back in front of the section supervisor and this time recited the entire chain of command from memory.

When Lawson questioned the trainee on how he was able to do that, the trainee responded that someone taught him a different way to remember it.

"That's when I realized you can get to every single trainee. You just have figure out how to get to them," Lawson said. "With memory work, I had some trainees read it out loud or write it down or (ask each other) questions. There are so many different ways to teach people and that's what I didn't realize until that moment."

After working long hours, often from 3:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., the most rewarding part for Lawson was meeting the family members during the open house after graduation.

"That was probably one of the coolest feelings because (the parents) always want to come up to you and shake your hand to say 'hey, thanks for turning my son into a man and he's changed so much,'" said Lawson. "I've seen kids come to BMT who were living in a box on the streets, others got everything they wanted from their parents. Some even showed me bullet wounds. To know that you truly made a huge difference in somebody's life, those times were probably the most rewarding experiences that I had there. But the hat was fun, too."

"It's a cool experience. It will open your eyes to the Air Force - the discipline, the standards and regulations," Lawson said. "You can look back at yourself prior to MTI duty and think 'I was a screw up, big time.'"

No comments: