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MTI duty: Building tomorrow’s leaders one recruit at a time

  • Published
  • By Janis El Shabazz, 340th Flying Training Group Public Affairs

Airmen separate from active duty for many reasons. For those who still want to serve their country and have a hand in shaping the next generation of exceptional Airmen, service in the Air Force Reserve as a Military Training Instructor beckons.


One such Airman, Master Sgt. Faith Wells, said her transition to the Reserve component after 11 years of active duty (and service as a MTI with the 433rd Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland) was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.


Wells initially left active duty to finish school and look into a commission. Although that didn’t work out, she longed for the cohesion and sense of purpose she’d found in the military. So, she decided to reenlist; this time in the Air Force Reserve.


“During my active duty time I was in services and finance, but when I came to the Reserve I wanted to stretch myself, to get outside my comfort zone, so I volunteered to be a MTI,” said Wells. “The Air Force has done so much for me. I wanted a chance to pay it forward and give our newest Airmen the tools and the foundation they’ll need to take on the armor of warrior Airmen.”


Wells said serving in the military is sort of like ‘her family business’. Her dad retired from the Air Force, two sisters enlisted in the Air Force and her brother served in the Navy. She was born at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, but now calls Louisiana home. Referring to herself as a ‘military brat,’ she’s travelled all over the world.


“I gained a love for the military very early in life,” said Wells.” I saw the unity and family among service members no matter where we went. I wanted the chance to imprint that love onto Airmen at the start of their career so they understand the tremendous opportunity they are being given to lead the Air Force of the future.”


As an MTI Wells served in several capacities including team chief, instructor supervisor, academic instructor, and Airmen’s Week Facilitator.


Many mentors set her up for success, personally and professionally, but she singles out two who left the most lasting impression on her during her time as a MTI.


Senior Master Sgt. Ricardo Chavez and Master Sgt. Carlos Recoder made sure she knew what she needed to know as a MTI as well as a noncommissioned officer. They tested her limits and many times pushed her where she thought she couldn’t go, and today she’s proud to call them great leaders and true friends.


Wells had a positive impact on them, as well.


“She came to the 433rd armed with a voracious appetite for mentoring. She worked seamlessly with the active duty MTIs and during her time as a MTI she lead and mentored nearly 40,000 Airmen recruits,” Chavez said. “Faith developed immeasurable personal and professional expertise, quickly becoming a ’go-to’ NCO in the BMT arena.”


Serving as an MTI was an experience Wells recommends others pursue.


“The first thing I would say to anyone considering becoming a MTI, is that you do not have to be perfect,” she said. “An MTI is in a critical position of trust to safely, effectively train and transition recruits into military service. True there is a lot to learn and it does take hard work, but the force is strong in the MTI corps – everyone WANTS you to succeed. You’ll find that there is no more satisfying feeling than knowing that you had a hand in building Air Force leaders from the ground up, one recruit at a time.”


After four years and 12 flights, Wells transferred back to her original field, where her MTI experiences continue to drive career successes.


Her continuing successes came as no surprise to Chavez.


“The skills she gained through the MTI experience fortified her abilities to inspire and develop in others an internalized understanding of the Air Force Core Values and culture. I was delighted - but not at all surprised - when she was selected for a headquarters position and promoted to master sergeant. Even though she’s no longer an MTI, Faith continues to be a very visible and active leader, ceaselessly providing highly effective leadership, guidance and support to Airmen across the globe.”


The MTI experience doesn’t just impact recruits. It also changes the trainer.


“Your mental attitude toward how you handle situations is key,” said Wells. “As an MTI drilling the four pillars of resiliency - physical, mental, spiritual and social excellence - into Airmen day after day and seeing that look on their face when they ‘get it’ fortifies your own Airmanship. You come away from the experience knowing that you can handle any obstacles life puts in your path.”