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MTIs shape tomorrow's Airmen

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
There's a tie that unites the men and women who serve as the 737th Training Group's Military Training Instructors. For them, it is service before self while transitioning more than 35,000 civilians each year into Airmen.

It's an MTI's professionalism and commitment to Air Force core values in basic military training that molds those civilians into successful Airmen; role models to be followed and at the end of 8.5 weeks of Air Force Basic Military Training, often imitated.

Their effectiveness as leaders, teachers and mentors has changed civilians into Airmen for more than 60 years. Those attributes and mission objectives, beyond just marching flights and teaching drill, prompted the Air Force to change from the original 1947 title of "flight marchers" to "military training instructors."

It was the leadership, teaching, mentoring and recognition skills of an MTI that not only changed the life of Staff Sgt. Carmen DeLeon-Acosta but served as a catalyst to her Air Force career as an MTI recruiter and a former instructor.

"My TI changed my life in a lot of ways ...," Sergeant DeLeon-Acosta said. "He was not only my mentor but someone in whose footsteps I wanted to follow."

She credits her MTI with giving her a positive perception of mentorship.

"He changed my life," said Sergeant DeLeon-Acosta who attended BMT in February 2002. "To this day we still talk  That's a long time to have someone in your life."

"I wanted to come back and do something similar," she said. "And I have."

Master Sgt. Eric Gaona, MTI recruiting team flight chief, agreed that not only did his MTI change him, but his time as an instructor also served as a career springboard.

"I clearly remember the day when I came to basic training with no discipline and didn't know where I wanted to go in life," Sergeant Gaona said. "That man (now Chief Master Sgt. William Dambacher, his current supervisor) made a difference. He inspired me greatly."

Sergeant Gaona, an instructor from 1993-1997, returned to the MTI corps in a supervisory role in April.

"I had an itch again to make a difference before I retire," he said. 

For him the intangibles of the special duty assignment also had a huge impact on his career and he encourages others to become an MTI and earn those qualities that helped him.

"There is no measure of how much you get from being an MTI," Sergeant Gaona said. "I came in 1993 as a senior airman. When I left and compared myself to other senior Airmen, the difference was amazing.

"The (MTI) experience is invaluable," he said. "Supervisors single you out because you're more professional. Your career just takes off."

Staff Sgt. Scott Weimer said the skill set he developed as an MTI and MTI recruiter will be beneficial when he returns to the missile maintenance career field in April.

"It doesn't matter what rank you leave (the MTI corps) as, you leave performing two stripes higher," Sergeant Weimer said. "The different people to deal with, the responsibility, time management, work ethic and counseling skills you develop as an MTI will make you an unparalleled asset to whatever job you're assigned."

For more information on the MTI Corps, contact the MTI recruiting office at 671-1018.