Dragon Corner: ever-changing faces of training

  • Published
  • By Michael E. Bullington
  • 336th Training Squadron
Imagine for a moment, being part of a unit in which you are constantly gaining new personnel and constantly losing experienced personnel who have just learned your operations. How would you maintain your productivity? How would you ensure your personnel are properly trained? When would you ever be able to establish a sense of normalcy in such a dynamic environment? Now, imagine no more--because these units can be found in many of our technical training squadrons here at Keesler.

While I cannot speak for every training squadron here at Keesler, I can assure you that in the 336th Training Squadron, we have to face that kind of challenge each and every day. Many of the technical training courses in our squadron only keep our students here two-three months at most before they graduate and are sent on to their first duty station. With such a high turnover rate, we find ourselves continually facing the challenge of dealing with constant change. What are some of those challenges--you might ask? There are three challenges: the constant need to establish standards among our students, the constant need to deal with student issues, and the constant need to mentor--to prepare our students for the future. So, let's look at some of these challenges.

The first challenge is the constant need to establish standards among our students. Knowing and following the standards leads to our top goal for our students: to successfully study and graduate. Of course, in technical training, this is often easier said than done. This is because students face many challenges themselves.

Students must establish good classroom and study habits to ensure their greatest chances for success in classrooms with many variations of difficulty. On top of this, most of our students are brand-new Airmen who just graduated from Basic Training who are still transitioning from the mentality of Basic Training into the mentality of Technical Training--where more freedom is granted but where also, more is expected.

Other students are re-trainees who have already been stationed at other installations, and who bring a great deal of experience and insight with them. Integrating these two types of students into relatively short schools further emphasizes the need to establish standards among our students.

Our students need to know what the rules are in order to follow them--even if they do not know all the reasons. This is where our instructors, military training leaders and other faculty do whatever they can to establish and reinforce these standards. This process is always on-going since new students are always arriving and others are moving on to other places. So, what happens when students cannot adapt to these standards? Well, then we must deal with our second challenge.

The second challenge we face in technical training is the constant need to deal with student issues. While many of our students proceed nicely through technical training with little or no issues, there are those others who are troubled with all types of issues such as problems with assignments, finances, medical matters, family matters at home and, of course, for our newest students, coming to terms with new-found freedoms. Our instructors, military training leaders and other personnel assigned to the schoolhouse do a remarkable job of not only instructing and establishing standards for our students, but also helping our students with a multitude of issues that could affect their ability to study and graduate.

Even fellow students make a difference. Whether a student is a red, yellow, green, white, black or teal rope, or whether a student is a class leader, all play a hand in watching out for the care and welfare of each other. Even those students who have no special recognized role are very important because we all must not only do what we must to take care of ourselves but we must be willing to help others too--when the situation calls for it. Many times, this type of help takes a lot of time and a lot of resiliency behind the scenes that most people will never see, hear or even know about. Doing these things not only helps to deal with unique student issues, but also helps us deal with the third challenge we face in technical training.

The third challenge we face is mentoring and preparing our students for the future. We can enforce standards and deal with unique student issues all day long, but, if we do not have a vision for what we are doing, we fail. The old saying "without vision, the people perish" is absolutely true and completely applicable here.

Yes, from time to time, it seems that we must simply go through the motions of tech training--whether as a student or as an instructor--but, we must all stop and remember what our larger purpose is here. We are directly contributing to our ability to build and re-supply a war-fighting force that is proficient and is sufficient to ensure our national freedoms and way of life. While we must deal with the challenges of the day-to-day activities, we must mentor and prepare those who go after us to carry on what we need them to do--what our nation needs them to do. It is high calling--and it is definitely an honor to be in such a position as ours; one that shapes and molds the future of the United States Air Force, our nation and even the world.

I'm sure that these three challenges--the constant need to establish standards, the constant need to deal with student issues and the constant need to prepare our students for the future--is common to all of our training squadrons in some form or fashion. All of us must continually train our students on what is needed and expected, all of us must help students overcome the problems they may encounter and all of us must work together to prepare our students for what lies ahead. However, this is not simply the responsibility of the personnel assigned to the technical training squadrons--this is everyone's responsibility--everyone who has a vested interest in the future of our military and of our nation.

As the old saying goes, "it takes a village to raise a child." So, whether you are a part of the 336th Training Squadron, the Training Group or the Training Wing or Keesler itself, or whether you work or reside some place where one of our technical training students may be assigned upon graduation, each of us has a responsibility. Only by working together can we succeed in a world filled with the ever-changing faces of training.