Mentorship, high standards fuel MTLs' passion

  • Published
  • By Steve Hoffmann
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Who would voluntarily sign up to have their life constantly scrutinized, looked at as an example, to open their lives up to the problems, concerns, fears of others. To bear the burden and responsibility of mentoring, leading and shaping potential future leaders? A military training leader would, that's who.

The textbook definition of a military training leader is an Airman who enforces military training that adapts nonprior service Airmen to military life and provides the Air Force with highly-trained, highly-motivated, self-disciplined and physically-fit Airmen with exceptional military bearing and whose behavior is consistent with the standards,
core values and attitudes of the Air Force.

"We want people who are passionate," explained Tech. Sgt. Julie Hammond, 81st Training Group, when describing the role of a military
training leader. "Those are the ones who will do the best job and help their Airmen out the most."

The job of a military training leader is voluntary. It's something MTLs want to do. Call them what you will -- in the '80s they were known as
student training advisors then military training managers in the '90s.

"Air Force leadership determined they didn't need Airmen to be 'managed'," said Master Sgt. Anthony Fisher, superintendent of military training. "They need to be led. So they adopted the military training leader that we have today."

Their job has always been to provide the operational Air Force with ready Airmen. But the philosophy on just exactly how best to do that has evolved over the years.

"When I was an Airman in the 338th Training Squadron 12 years ago, our military training managers were not very available to us," said Hammond. "They took a more directive approach like the military training instructors do at Lackland (Air Force Base, Texas) in basic military training. There was no mentoring. Everything was 'Do this because I said so.' I knew back then that I wanted to do this job and do it better and be available to my Airmen to help them, give them career advice and to set them up for success."

Military training leaders put the 'why?' behind what Airmen learned in basic military training at Lackland. There's more time for mentoring
during technical training school.

"Basic military training is very structured," explained Fisher. "But here, when we make a correction, we have the opportunity to sit down with an Airman and say this is why we do this, this is why we wear the uniform this way -- doing it this way as opposed to that way is what's going to set you up in the operational Air Force. We reinforce standards, but we also are providing good mentorship."

Becoming a military training leader is also an excellent way to begin honing leadership and counseling skills, Fisher said. For those with
aspirations of becoming a first sergeant, the job of military training leader is closely associated with what they do.

The decision to become a military training leader is also a decision to perform at a higher standard.

"It's like living in a fishbowl," said Fisher. "Setting the example is tough. Everywhere you go you're being watched, you're being looked to for what is right and wrong, proper and improper. The
expectations are higher and anyone who signs up to do this welcomes that."

"When you get accepted, you don't fully know how much is going to be expected of you," said Hammond.

"You don't go home at night and think, 'I'm good I'm free'-- you're still working in your mind, still thinking about what you're going to do
or what you should have said to this or that Airman."

Before earning the right to wear the blue aiguillette around the left shoulder, an MTL must be a senior airman, staff sergeant or technical sergeant with excellent military records and performance
reports, among other qualifications. Upon completion of military training school, an MTL is certified and assigned to a squadron.

They become leaders and mentors to the airmen in their squadron. They organize and train Airmen for drill down competitions, they coordinate physical training, distinguished visitor tours, wing retreats and change of command ceremonies. They are responsible for personnel and room inspections and enforce proper behavior becoming of an Airmen. And they do most of this not by telling Airmen what to do, but by showing.