Not your daddy's BMT

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Erica Hokkanen
  • 934 AW D&TF program manager

Since I have been working with the Development & Training Flight for the last year, I get to hear from returning Airmen who are freshly graduated from Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT).  My eyes have really been opened to just how much it has changed since I went through in 2002.  It is interesting to explore the differences that young Airmen are experiencing today in BMT vs. the experiences anyone had who came in five to ten years ago.

For starters, BMT used to be 6 1/2 weeks long but in 2006 Air Force leadership lengthened it to 8 1/2 weeks in order to have longer and more thorough training in some areas.  Another large-scale change is the recent implementation of "Capstone" week, also called "Airman's week".  This week occurs in the last week of BMT and serves not as a strict training week like the first 7 1/2 weeks, but instead as an opportunity for young Airmen to focus heavily on sexual misconduct awareness training and character building.  This week polishes these new Airmen and helps to better prepare them to make decisions in harmful situations.  It is more discussion-based than intense training-based. Due to this change, the graduation ceremony (when family members travel to Lackland AFB) occurs during the 7th week and not at the very end of the 8th week.

Other changes that have occurred over the years deal specifically with how training is conducted in BMT and how Trainees are treated.  In the past it was not uncommon to hear a Military Training Instructor (MTI) refer to a Trainee as "Trainee Dumb-dumb", or " Dirt bag", or "Turd" along with a host of many other nick-names.  Some nick-names were specific to that person such as "Trainee Freckle-face", or "Trainee Osbourne" (for the Trainee in my flight who held a strong resemblance to Kelly Osbourne).  There were many nick-names or terms used toward Trainees that at the time seemed like just part of the environment; not in today's BMT however.  MTI's are no longer allowed to refer to a Trainee as anything other than "Trainee So-and-so".  The word "Trainee" itself must also not be said with a sharp or condescending tone.

A second difference is in the arena of the dining facility.  Years ago, MTI's could scream and yell at Trainees while they ate their meals.  It was discovered though that Trainees were becoming too stressed while eating and therefore they would not eat or they would get sick while eating.  This was an unhealthy situation and at some point the decision was made to only address the Trainees in the dining facility when they were called up to the "Snake Pit" (a table of MTI's who fire questions at the Trainees as they walk past on their way to their seats).

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in BMT today is that MTI's are not able to have the Trainees do massive and constant amounts of push-ups throughout a day as punishment.  If an MTI does utilize push-ups, they must adhere to an allowed number of sessions per day and an allowed number of minutes per session.  The session must also be a mixture of push-ups, flutter kicks, squat thrusts, and burpees.  For example, an MTI could have his/her flight do these exercises for 30 seconds each up to two minutes, and a maximum of three times per day.  This routine is dubbed "MTI tools".  The allowed amount of sessions per day does increase up to five times per day in the later weeks of training.

Trainees have also been given some control over their environment with the addition of comment boxes located in many places around the squadrons.  If a Trainee feels that something has occurred that is morally questionable or unfair, they have the ability to report it through the comment boxes which are checked daily.  The Trainees may be contacted by a Squadron Commander directly to discuss and resolve the situation.
The examples I have given are just some of the ways Air Force BMT is much different today than it was a number of years ago.  To some, these changes are not favored but to Air Force leadership, these changes mean less opportunity for mal-treatment, hazing, and sexual misconduct cases.  If you would like to hear more about Air Force BMT today, I suggest finding the newest Airman in your unit and strike up a conversation.  The culture and standard of living is always changing in BMT, and it will be interesting to follow future changes as well!