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AF Reserve Training Manager Shapes Future of Space Force Boot Camp

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Eric M. Sharman
  • 908th Airlift Wing

July 26, 1947, President Harry Truman signed The National Security Act of 1947 into law, which restructured the military and intelligence operations for the United States. Among those changes was the establishment of The United States Air Force as a separate branch of military service.

Most Airmen know that piece of history. It was a pivotal moment, which served as the first step in creating the identity of what the concept of an Airman is today.

When former President Donald Trump signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, the same opportunity was created for those who would go on to be called Guardians.

Signing a bill, however, does not immediately make a corps of Space Force Guardians with their own unique culture and training standards. Guardians are currently attending Air Force basic military training at the 37th Training Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and held to Air Force standards, with some Space Force-specific academic instruction.

So, the question remains: How do we make a Guardian?

That question is just one of many that are being tackled by Tech. Sgt. Haleigh Irby, 908th Airlift Wing’s 25th Aerial Port Squadron training manager. Since November 2022, Irby has been on temporary-duty to the 1st Delta Operations Squadron, JBSA-Lackland, where she has been writing the curriculum for United States Space Force basic military training.

“Guardian mentality is what we are working to instill, while at the same time defining what exactly that looks like,” said Irby. “They know what they want a Guardian to be, and it’s my job to put it on paper.”

Irby’s efforts in the stand-up of a separate BMT began with familiarizing herself with the Guardian spirit, and finding methods to help the recruits connect more with the Guardian identity.

“I think they come to us with pride as Guardians, but they come to an Air Force unit and are mixed with Airmen, so by setting them apart it will give them more of a sense of identity as Guardians,” said Irby.

“They have to have their own course number, and course,” said Irby. “Once that is stood up, we can truly separate the Guardian from the Airman.”

The process of creating a program that works for the Space Force has been challenging as the young service branch is still determining what it needs to succeed. Irby has been working with the Delta’s contracting personnel on requests for proposals to vendors to create a learning management system that works for the Space Force; one that can be used not only for BMT but can also capture a Guardian’s training records for the duration of their career.

“Some of the systems we work with in the Air Force just won’t work for the Space Force,” said Irby. “We are going to set the Guardians up with a cradle-to-grave record repository that is in one central and accessible location and captures everything that the Guardian has done; every training, every certification, every comment.”

To that effort, Irby has been working with the Air Education and Training Command curriculum development team at the 737th Training Group, JBSA-Lackland, in coordinating a Utilization and Training Workshop. A UT&W is designed to bring together the functional managers, training providers and career field managers to review Air Force specialty code skills and knowledge requirements based on utilization of an AFSC.

“She has been working on getting the curriculum for those requirements and informing our contract writers and exploring what companies are in the market to help us reach those requirements,” said USSF 1st Delta Operations Squadron Commander Maj. Clinton J. Emry.

The difficulty with current systems used in training and accessioning is that they are all different, with recruiting, military entrance and processing stations, and technical training schools are all using distinct systems that don’t always talk to each other.

“There is not a single cradle-to-grave system that we can use,” said Emry. “It would be great to have one, but there are many other platforms that we must connect with.”

“We have systems that have flaws. As a unit training manager, I see the struggles…some days it works, some days it doesn’t,” said Irby.

Apart from the influence her collaboration has made within the curriculum and in streamlining learning management processes, her efforts have also impacted those who are hands-on in the day-to-day endeavor to mold and shape the future Guardians.

“By collaborating with Tech. Sgt. Irby, I and the 11 other Space Force military training instructors are able to give our input on what we recognize on a daily basis; what Guardians are lacking in fundamental training and also what we are lacking in instruction,” said Tech. Sgt. Michelle Holt, military training instructor, 1st Delta Operations Squadron, Detachment 1.

Holt was the first Guardian to be selected for, and graduate from the military training instructor course at JBSA-Lackland. All previous USSF MTIs have been transferred from the USAF.

“She has taken our vision and given it sustenance by inputting it into the curriculum that will be taught to all future Guardians,” said Holt.

This real-time feedback has been critical in aiding the USSF MTIs in implementing the necessary changes as the service learns what exactly is needed to administer an effective training plan designed specifically for the Guardians, as well as the standards used by MTI staff who are training them as the service continues to strive into its own identity. 

“Not only do I know that the Guardians will receive their own identity apart from our teammate Airmen, but myself and fellow Space Force MTI’s will have the tools to build warfighters of Space,” said Holt, “As easy as it would be to simply follow the same curriculum and fall under similar standards as that of the Air Force, that will not do the separate service justice.”

In the grand scheme of things, Irby is standing in the shoes of those former Army Air Corps Soldiers who had to figure out what it took to create an Airman. While her tasks may not be as recognized as Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, the first Air Force Chief of Staff, they bear sweeping significance, nonetheless.

“She is on the cutting edge of history,” said Emry. “USSF BMT has been built on the hard work of people like Tech. Sgt. Irby. It’s not just a job for her, it is a passion for creating the future of all Guardians that come through our doors, and ultimately, she knows that those members are our greatest advantage against our adversaries.”

Basic military training is frequently a life-changing experience for the men and women who serve. The values and foundations taught during training are meant to cast recruits into warriors with determination, grit, loyalty, integrity and courage. In contemplation of how her mission will affect future Guardians, Irby is humbled.

“When I think about it like that, it’s impactful,” said Irby, “I’m realizing now that this is changing people’s lives; I wasn’t the same after BMT, and these Guardians likely won’t be either.”