JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –While performing duties as Under Secretary of the Air Force, Shon Manasco, along with Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, observed the ongoing, critical operations at multiple training locations here and at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Apr. 22, 2020.
The visits allowed senior leaders the opportunity to see first-hand how Air Education and Training Command has adjusted operations to mitigate and minimize COVID-19 impacts to the basic, technical and flying training pipelines, all of which have been deemed mission essential.
“We simply can’t accomplish our mission without the dedicated training and medical experts across the AETC enterprise,” Manasco said. “Across every aspect of our training pipeline, we are seeing Airmen innovate and find new ways of executing the mission to recruit, train and educate exceptional Airmen and Space Professionals while balancing their health and safety.”
The traveling party maintained a small footprint and adhered to all CDC and DoD social distancing guidelines to ensure protection of their health and those around them.
Upon arrival at Keesler, Manasco and Wright met with Second Air Force leaders to learn more about how the numbered air force is fighting through the COVID-19 response with force health protection measures in place throughout basic and technical training.
Maj. Gen. Nina Armagno, director of space programs for the office of the assistant secretary for acquisition, accompanied Manasco and Wright during the visit.
“At any given time, there are 30,000 Air and Space professionals in our various pipelines and in order to maintain a trained force, we must continue to bring in new recruits and train them,” said Armagno. “Protection measures put in place proactively have reduced potential COVID-19 exposure to all of our trainees and instructors.”
The senior leaders observed BMT proof of concept operations at Keesler, and also how the 37th Training Wing at JBSA-Lackland handles BMT COVID-19 restriction of movement on arrival, as well as quarantine, person under investigation and isolation operations.
“The BMT proof of concept allows the command flexibility to make necessary adjustments to the training production pipeline as needed during contingencies,” Manasco said. “As one of a number of options for dispersing basic military training under a range of contingencies and in the current COVID-19 situation, Keesler presented the most favorable option.”
After observing new recruits in basic military training, the service’s senior enlisted leader was impressed with the agility of training and perseverance from the soon-to-be Airmen.
“As it always is, seeing the commitment in person of America’s sons and daughters as they transition from civilian life to becoming Airmen is inspiring,” Wright said. “To each and every one of them, we want to say thank you for your dedication to our country and for stepping up to defend her even during these truly uncertain times.”
Manasco and Wright also visited a technical training classroom and experienced the virtual capstone lab for cyber transport training. This allowed the leaders to see how technical training is adapting its curriculum and technology to be more agile in training delivery.
For their final stop, the team visited with instructor pilot students and staff from the 559th Flying Training Squadron at JBSA-Randolph where they learned about the use of virtual reality and the future of pilot training, as well as changes during COVID-19 operations.
Throughout the day, Manasco seized the opportunity to thank all first responders, medical professionals, and trainee health teams in the 81st Medical Group at Keesler and Reid Clinic at JBSA-Lackland for standing ready during the coronavirus response
“To say we’re proud of every single Airman and Space Professional standing directly on the front lines of this COVID-19 fight would be an understatement,” Manasco said. “The courage with which our Airmen have responded in the face of this unknown enemy has been second-to-none.”