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Chief's View: The secret to our success: Training, training and more training

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight Badgett, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight Badgett, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Citizen Airman/June 2010 -- Our competence and qualifications make us unique in the world of reserve components. You are qualified because you are trained to the same rigorous standards as our brothers and sisters in an active status.

We have to ensure that we maintain these high standards because you are an important part of our nation's defense. Yes, we have many demands on our training time, especially the requirement to complete ancillary training on a periodic basis. Sometimes it seems like we can't do it all. However, our technical, leadership and basic military skills must be maintained, and we do that through training.

Basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, is the cornerstone that we use to build our Air Force careers. Airmen leave BMT with a basic knowledge of what it means to be an Airman and a desire to contribute to the greatest Air Force in the world. It is our job as leaders to make sure we cultivate that desire and improve on the knowledge and skills.

I had the honor of visiting BMT in April with a group of Air Force Reserve Command command chiefs, and I can tell you that our Airmen are being well prepared for the Air Force that we live in today.

Most Air Force leaders have not experienced the changes to BMT and would be amazed at the contingency skills taught in the first 8 1/2 weeks of our warriors' careers.

Contingency training is incorporated into every aspect of the first six weeks of BMT, culminating in a week-long exercise known as the Beast. After this training, Airmen can operate in a contingency environment as well as most seasoned leaders.

I would encourage all senior leaders to arrange a trip to Lackland to witness the Beast, as well as the Airmen's run, coin ceremony, retreat and the parade and graduation that takes place during the last week of an Airman's life in BMT. It will change your outlook on the future of our Air Force and the great young men and women who join every day.

After completion of BMT and technical school, our Airmen depend on us to train them to be proficient in their chosen career field. It is critical that we continue the level of training that they received from Air Education and Training Command professionals and challenge them to continually improve.

One way we do this is by getting our Citizen Airmen into the Seasoning Training Program when they arrive back at their unit. STP is having a positive impact on our readiness and retention. Airmen tell me they feel more competent and a part of the team because we get them involved early in their career. We have cut upgrade training time in some career fields by more than half using STP and are preparing warriors to deploy much earlier.

Whenever graduates from technical school can participate in STP, we should encourage them to take advantage of this valuable tool to not only expedite their proficiency training but also to immerse them into our Air Force culture on a daily basis.

Once our Airmen are upgraded, the next challenge is to make sure we keep them proficient in their career field and contingency skills. One way we can do this is through the Innovative Readiness Training Program. IRT allows Airmen to train in their speciality, sometimes in a contingency environment, and help our citizens at the same time.

Operation Arctic Care is one of the many IRT projects that the Defense Department sponsors each year. This year, 200 Airmen from all statuses traveled to northern Alaska to provide medical and dental care for thousands of Americans who desperately needed their help. As I talked to these Airmen, I found that they received more from the experience than they gave. If you have a chance to participate in an IRT project, it just might be a life-changing event.

Initial and continuous training ensures our Airmen are prepared for their wartime taskings. In addition, through programs like STP and IRT, we can help them keep those skills sharp. We owe it to all of our Airmen to prepare them with everything we have to excel in their jobs and careers. We do that by training, training and then training some more.