SECDEF witnesses transformation, protection of citizens becoming Airmen at BMT during COVID-19

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper (center) poses for a group photo with Noncommissioned Officers and Company Grade Officers during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper (center) poses for a group photo with Noncommissioned Officers and Company Grade Officers during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Geoffrey Wadsworth (center), 737th Training Support Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper (left) during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Geoffrey Wadsworth (center), 737th Training Support Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper (left) during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper administers the oath of enlistment during his visit June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper administers the oath of enlistment during his visit June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper addresses Airmen prior to administering the oath of enlistment during his visit June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper addresses Airmen prior to administering the oath of enlistment during his visit June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mitchell, 323rd Training Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper during his tour of the 323rd Training Squadron's Airman Training Complex June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mitchell, 323rd Training Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper during his tour of the 323rd Training Squadron's Airman Training Complex June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Snow, 323rd Training Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper during his tour of the 323rd Training Squadron's Airman Training Complex June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Snow, 323rd Training Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper during his tour of the 323rd Training Squadron's Airman Training Complex June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Kyle Shy, 320th Training Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper during a tour of the U.S. Air Force basic military training's Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how BMT is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Tech. Sgt. Kyle Shy, 320th Training Squadron military training instructor, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper during a tour of the U.S. Air Force basic military training's Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how BMT is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Lt. Col. Joey Tortella, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron commander, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper and Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, during a tour of the U.S. Air Force basic military training's Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how BMT is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

Lt. Col. Joey Tortella, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron commander, briefs U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper and Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, during a tour of the U.S. Air Force basic military training's Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how BMT is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper visits Reid Clinic June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper visits Reid Clinic June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos (left), 2nd Air Force commander, briefs Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper (right), during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
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U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos (left), 2nd Air Force commander, briefs Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper (right), during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper (center) meets with Noncommissioned Officers and Company Grade Officers for a working lunch during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
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U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper (center) meets with Noncommissioned Officers and Company Grade Officers for a working lunch during a tour of the Pfingston Reception Center June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper poses for a group photo with JBSA airmen after administering the oath of enlistment during his visit June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.
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U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper poses for a group photo with JBSA airmen after administering the oath of enlistment during his visit June 16, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Esper met with AETC leaders to see firsthand how Basic Military Training is fighting through COVID-19 with health protection measures in place and adapting operations to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidance. The visit also allowed him to witness how a citizen becomes an Airman during COVID-19.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper visited U.S. Air Force basic military training cadre and recruits, as well as members of the Air Force Recruiting Service, for a first-hand look at how the service transforms citizens into American Airmen here June 16, 2020.

Esper, accompanied on the visit by the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón Colón-López, observed how the 37th Training Wing, with the support of a tri-wing partnership with the 502nd Air Base Wing and 59th Medical Wing, has protected Airmen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The traveling party adhered to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Defense Department social-distancing guidelines to ensure protection of their health and those around them.

“The basic military training mission remains absolutely vital to renew our Air and Space Forces and underwrites our ability to defend the nation and deliver air and space power anytime, anyplace,” Esper said. “The entire team here has demonstrated what fighting through COVID-19 looks like with flexibility and tenacity, ensuring the safety of the recruiting, training and education pipeline.”

The first stop was at BMT’s Pfingston Reception Center for an overview of Gateway Wing operations and an in-depth look at how BMT has adjusted operations in the wake of COVID-19 in order to continue developing the Airmen needed to ensure readiness, including restriction of movement implementation, person-under-investigation and isolation operations.

More than 34,500 Airmen will graduate from BMT in fiscal year 2020 and the wing has graduated more than 8,500 Airmen since March 16, when the service first implemented a 14-day restriction of movement protocol for new accessions arriving to training.  Since May 19, BMT has 100% testing of new recruits and has realigned the training campus to prevent interaction of Airmen in different weeks of training. 

“Two of our top priorities during COVID-19 have been the safety of our people and ensuring the mission of national security continues,” Esper said. “The rapid implementation of safety protocols here have been extremely successful on both of these fronts thanks to the partnership of health experts and the BMT team.”

Military training instructors and cadre had the opportunity to discuss BMT’s tempo, successes and ways forward with Esper before taking him on a walkthrough of new trainee in-processing, daily operations at an Airman Training Complex, as well as the Reid Clinic, where the 59th MDW conducts BMT medical support operations.

BEAR base, also called tent city, was another stop on the visit. This area was established by the 49th Wing at Holloman AFB, N.M., to support potential BMT contingency operations for the Gateway Wing should swing space be required in the COVID-19 environment.

How the service recruits more than 31,000 new accessions every year into the total force was also highlighted for the Department of Defense’s senior leader, including the use of agile shipping methods to adjust the numbers of Airmen reporting to BMT each week. 

“What the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service has done in response to COVID-19 by being ready to pivot, prioritize, and match applicants to an optimal job and enter active duty date on a weekly and sometimes hourly basis, has been incredible,” Esper said.

Esper also learned about the recent integration of the U.S. Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard into total force recruiting and the recent roll-out of the new Aim High phone application by AFRS, which is aimed at helping better communicate, inform and inspire new recruits, with embedded tools to guide them into the right Total Force career path, as their transition from citizens to American service members. 

“It’s evident BMT’s success in the COVID-19 environment can be largely credited to the MTI corps creating a culture of safety,” said Esper. “The work they do year round, laid the foundation for them to adapt swiftly with health recommendations and develop a mentality of early symptom reporting.” 

 
 
  
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