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Shadowing basic training: An experience from the instructor's perspective

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs
After Tech. Sgt. Joshua Sharp spent three days shadowing a military training instructor in the 322nd Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, it solidified his decision to become an Air Force MTI.

"I already had a pretty good idea I wanted to do this, but the shadowing really hammered it home," Sharp said.

"Hearing the MTIs talk about the sense of pride they have when their flight graduates and how civilians become Airmen actually reinforced how much I wanted to be a part of it," Sharp said. He said he came through basic training in 2002.

The shadow program allows interested MTI applicants to follow and observe different certified instructors through three days of Air Force basic military training.

Participation requires chain of command authorization for the five-day, Monday through Friday, permissive temporary duty assignment. Monday and Friday are travel days, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are spent shadowing instructors. Airmen shadowing instructors leave after attending Friday morning's basic training graduation ceremony.

Service members who attend the shadowing program must pay all transportation and lodging expenses.

A vehicle maintenance craftsman and unit deployment manager stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sharp scheduled his visit to Lackland after learning earlier this year he'd be at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., for Air Force resilience training.

"I decided to come since I was already going to be in the s tates," he said. "It's been great. Any questions I had were answered candidly and honestly. They're all proud and very dedicated."

The program gives potential applicants a first-hand look at basic training through the eyes of an instructor. Shadows focus on how the training operations run and learn about an instructor's lifestyle.

"I saw just how much preparation goes into the day-to-day schedule by instructors," Sharp said. "The results speak for themselves. At the end of 8½ weeks, the MTIs produce the best Airmen in the world."

Staff Sgt. Sabrina Ayres, with the MTI Recruiting Office, which oversees the program, said there is at least one shadow a week and usually more. During Sharp's Feb. 18-22 visit, two other noncommissioned officers were also shadowing instructors.

"There aren't many jobs in the Air Force you can try for a few days to see if it's the right fit for you and your career," Ayres said. "The shadows really experience what it's like to be an instructor. They're able to interact with MTIs and ask questions."

Ayres said inquiries about shadowing and the MTI Corps have increased. "It's been phenomenal for individuals to say, 'I hear the Air Force has this need for instructors, they need people to step up, and I think that's what I want to do,'" she said.

"It's a great feeling when these NCOs tell us, 'I believe in what you do, I'm professional, I can be dedicated to this, and I want to be a part of it.' It's awesome."