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SHIELD develops Airmen of character

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
Aligning with the vision of the 37th Training Wing commander, a program emphasizing character development has had a significant impact on the Airmen of the 343rd Training Squadron.

The program puts into practice the vision Col. William H. Mott V, 37th TRW commander, has for the wing - shape the Air Force with warrior Airmen of character.

Incorporating the program, which began last September, was no small task. The 343rd TRS trains an average of 1,800 security forces students every day; the apprentice flight is home to the largest technical training flight in the Air Force.

The after-duty time spent emphasizing character through the SHIELD (Service, Honor, Integrity, Excellence and Leadership Development) program has been a positive influence on those Airmen.

"Our job is to give these Airmen the tools to be successful Airmen and to give the Air Force a quality Airman who can be the best defender and the best Airman they can be," said Lt. Col. Oliver Towns, 343rd TRS commander. "We're giving them a great defender and a good Airman, we thought we could do a little more and focus on character.

"With Colonel Mott's focus on warrior Airmen of character," he said, "I asked my military training leaders to build a program for the first four or five weeks (of training) to focus on character, life skills and the things needed to make them successful in the Air Force."

Colonel Mott said the program further supports the Air Force core values and the need for an Airmen's commitment to character development.

"This program goes beyond simple skill development and focuses on the values and ideals that prepare our Airmen for success," said Colonel Mott. "It reinforces the ideals that make our Air Force and nation great. I'm excited about it."

SHIELD - the name is also a reminder of the Security Forces badge they will wear every day - classes are held in addition to normal training.

They include two-hour interactive sessions with military training leaders their first four Fridays at Lackland and four hours of community service on the following Saturday. Students at the Security Forces Academy spend 13.5 weeks in training at Lackland.

The classes are not formal lectures; instead, they allow for dialog and exchange between the students and MTLs. The sessions center on elements of the SHIELD acronym along with other topics, such as pride, respect and courtesy, even basic financial management.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Outreach office also talks to the students and representatives of Wilford Hall Medical Hall make a presentation about alcohol and drugs. All are targeted toward an Airman's development.

"We're building and emphasizing the qualities and characteristics we believe to be successful in the Air Force," said Colonel Towns.

The extra hours investment has made a difference; there has been a dramatic drop in incident rates - ranging from minor discipline issues to court cases - since SHIELD began.

"Before the implementation of SHIELD, the prior 1,600 (Airmen to come through) had an incident rate of 1 out of 15 during their training here," Colonel Towns said. "Since we've implemented our program, the numbers are now 1 out of 83 (after) putting through 1,500 Airmen.

"It's not an anomaly," he continued. "We've been running this long enough to get a good sample stock. That's a 551 percent reduction in incidents."

Colonel Towns says this is an opportunity to provide young Airmen with a tool to help protect themselves from some of the common pitfalls they will encounter.

"Regardless of how good a tactical security forces Airman we put out in the field is, if they don't have the character and integrity in life skills and learn those fundamentals, we're going to lose them or they're going to be an extra burden on their supervisors," he said.

The concluding class addresses the importance of service and giving back to the community. SHIELD students have participated in 6,000 hours - and counting - of community service.

Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army are two beneficiaries of the service hours with their ability to handle the large volunteer numbers. Other charitable organizations, along with the San Antonio Police Department, have also benefited.

"Every weekend there are 100-plus Airmen from the 343rd working at Habit for Humanity or the Salvation Army," said Colonel Towns. "You name it, we've done it, from removing graffiti to working with food shelters.

"We're trying to do our part so (the Airmen) understand the value of service. Hopefully it catches on and it becomes a part of their lives."

Even with the program's success in its first six months, improvements are being considered to take advantage of resources available to aid an Airman's development.

The 343rd TRS is also exploring making SHIELD a more formal product. They hope to partner with the Air Force Academy, which already has a formal character development curriculum in place.

Colonel Mott said SHIELD builds on the wing vision and "I really applaud it."

"I'm anxious to see the officers, NCOs and Airmen take the idea to the next level," said the wing commander. "I think the program has merit."

As improvement avenues are reviewed, it's been the MTLs who have helped make SHIELD a valuable and useful instrument to benefit the Airmen.

"Our military training leaders have done great work with this," said Colonel Towns. "It's extra time that I've asked them to put in and they're doing great things. The Airmen love the interaction and feedback.

"We're giving them the tools to succeed in life, to represent this badge with pride and honor, and to represent our heritage and our future."