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Training flight fuels fervor of future Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andria J. Allmond
  • 512th Airlift Wing
Her glasses having slid down the bridge of her nose, Latoya Gatewood-Young's expression hardens slightly. She grips her pen and pad tightly while scribbling down the names of the other tan-shirted trainees whose whereabouts she's responsible for tracking this weekend.

The rigid hands of the wall clock glide to 7:03 a.m.

"Three minutes late; that's three push-ups," she says with a nervous, yet authoritative voice.

Gatewood-Young - her group's class leader - and 14 other returning Air Force Reserve hopefuls met again last weekend at Dover Air Force Base, Del., to participate in the 512th Airlift Wing's second Development and Training Flight program since its enactment last month.

The program, intended to better prepare new recruits for Air Force Basic Military Training and decrease an approximate 7-percent failure rate, was created by the Air Force Reserve Command who began testing the concept in August 2011 at seven bases around the United States. Recruits must partake in the monthly instruction weekends as part of enlistment into the inactive Reserve while awaiting positions to open in basic and technical training. Upon arriving at Lackland AFB, Texas, the newcomers shed their civilian status and undergo Air Force basic training. D&TF alumni may find the transition into military life less daunting then others in the same position.

"I really feel like I'm going to be more prepared to leave for (BMT) than if they didn't have this," said Gatewood-Young, who was bestowed the responsibility of red rope due to her exceptional leadership qualities and serves as the top student supervisor of the Liberty Wing's D&TF class. "I feel more at ease and even more motivated than I was before. We definitely have an edge from going through this."

The course educates the not-yet Airmen in areas such as military customs and courtesies, correct uniform wear and rank structure. The classes also introduce attendees to the Air Force's core values, creed and song. In addition to education, the two-day assemblies require execution of the newly acquired skills and awareness.

"They've shown that they grasp a surprising amount of Air Force knowledge," said Senior Airman Dan Grove of the 326th Airlift Flight and a D&TF facilitator. "They've been asking a lot of good, relevant questions. The group is what we call 'ate-up', but that's good; they're really motivated."

"Honestly," he added, "they already know stuff that I really didn't get until weeks into basic training."

While the rookie recruits were implementing what they learned the month prior, an even greener crop of citizen airmen were getting their first taste of the Air Force Reserve concurrently. A class of 13 newly-gained members was present - although separate from their more-seasoned comrades - during this weekend's event. Each month, the training agenda will have different schedules for inexperienced and revisiting participants.

"We have nearly 30 D&TF members here this weekend," said Senior Master Sgt. James McGarvey of the 512th Security Force Squadron and lead D&TF facilitator. "We keep the new members separate during their first training weekend and then combine them with the returning members the next month. It's necessary to divide them in order to get the administrative items taken care of when they first get here."

For Byron White, a Hartley, Del., native and eventual 709th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, last month's training has already begun to pay dividends.

"So far, this has been helping me with my discipline," he said. "If I hadn't been here last month, I might've started to slack off. There's a sense of accountability now and I know I need that."

Some members will only experience one D&FT assembly, while others will participate in multiple weekends up to one year, based on their projected BMT departure date. But, for Gatewood-Young, who is slated to leave for BMT in early October, next month will prove more challenging as a whole new batch of newbies gaggle through the gates of Dover AFB and into her D&TF class.

"New faces, new people; It's a lot of pressure and pretty big shoes to fill when you're responsible for all these trainees," said the prospective 512th SFS member, who contacted her colleagues at 6:30 a.m. to ensure their on-time arrival the second training day. "I told them, 'I'm not your mother, but I'm responsible for you and you're going to do what you need to.' If I end up being in the same position (as dorm chief or element leader) in boot camp, I'll be ready."