BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily changed many aspects of life here, but the 307th Development and Training Flight is still sending trainees to Air Force Basic Military Training.
Three of those trainees reported to the 307th Force Support Squadron to ship out March 24. They were the first the 307th DTF has sent since Air Education and Training Command implemented new health and safety protocols for trainees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, AETC commander, signed a memorandum March 18, making all arriving trainees mission essential.
"AETC executes the critical mission of training and preparing our servicemen and women to provide for the national defense and current worldwide military missions," Webb stated in the memorandum. "Maintaining AETC's recruiting, training and education activities and pipeline is critical to the operational mission success of our commanders executing the National Security Strategy."
Air Education and Training Command issued a press release stating that trainees arriving at BMT would be under a restriction of movement order for 14 days upon arrival. During that two-week window, new trainees won’t come in contact with any trainees already at BMT.
The change will not extend BMT past its current length of 8.5 weeks.
New arrivals are scheduled to be housed at the most geographically separated Recruit, Housing, and Training facility at the installation. AETC said recruits will be housed in large bays with fewer than 40 residents each. This is designed to minimize the risk of infection, per Center for Disease Control guidelines.
Senior Airman Kourtnei Walker, 307th Medical Squadron medical technician, was on hand to implement some of the new safety protocols before the trainees even left the 307th FSS building.
Walker took temperature readings on each trainee and asked them a series of questions regarding their recent travels and contacts.
One of the trainees, Thai Nguyen, had researched the COVID-19 issue and its potential impact before leaving for BMT.
“I have a family friend who is a doctor and she said since I don’t have any underlying health issues, it would be fine,” he said.
Jaylen Thigpen, another trainee, didn’t realize he was one of the first 307th DTF trainees to leave for BMT since the new restriction of movement policies were implemented.
“I am a little nervous about going to BMT, but not because of the pandemic,” he said. “That part really does not make any difference to me,” he said.
In addition to the other efforts made to keep trainees healthy, AETC has elected to keep BMT graduations private, without any outside visitors. The event normally draws large crowds of friends, family and well-wishers.
Instead, the 37th Training Wing will live-stream graduations on their Facebook page, @USAFBMT, and archive the events on their YouTube channel.