HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Development and Training Flight has taken their training to the cyber realm to ensure the health and safety of the 419th Fighter Wing’s future Airmen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The DTF prepares newly enlisted trainees for Basic Military Training, giving them a leg up before taking on the challenges that await them. Trainees learn Air Force history and culture, core values, customs and courtesies, and various other skills to prepare them not only for BMT, but their Air Force careers.
Master Sgt. Blake Erickson, NCOIC of the DTF, said this valuable training has assumed a new format in 2020 to meet safety guidelines amid a recent surge of coronavirus cases across the U.S., which means trainees now meet digitally via video chat.
“Conducting virtual training offered a few challenges in connectivity, because each trainee has different personal equipment and technical abilities,” Erickson said. “But I was pleasantly surprised at the resourcefulness of the trainees. During our last unit training assembly weekend, we conducted 16 hours of virtual training.”
Erickson said some aspects of the new “virtual UTA,” such as formations and physical fitness routines, must now be done on the trainees’ own time. But other team exercises still build camaraderie, like singing the Air Force song and reciting the Airman’s Creed together. They also have a chance to share why they joined the Air Force Reserve and some of their career goals.
“This new format is a unique and effective way to accomplish our goals in other-than-ideal circumstances,” Erickson said. “Besides a few things like forming up and physical fitness, we were able to accomplish all our training, connect and interact, just like they were here in person.”
Erickson said he stays in touch with DTF trainees after they’ve enlisted, tracking their technical school dates and ensuring they know what they need to out-process for BMT.
“Working with the brand new trainees has been such a unique opportunity for me,” Erickson said. “In essence, I get to be their first mentor in the Air Force. I get to show them the ropes, answer their questions, and address any uncertainty they may be having before starting this new chapter in their lives.”
For information on joining the Air Force Reserve, call 1-800-257-1212 or visit www.afreserve.com.