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AETC turns 80: First Step, First Flight, First Command

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  • By C Arce
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – Air Education and Training Command celebrates its 80th anniversary Jan. 23, 2022, with the overarching theme being, “First Step, First Flight, First Command,” signifying the command’s foundational impact across the Air Force in developing Airmen of character.

Although AETC has had various name changes over the last 79 plus years, one thing remains the same: airpower always starts here in the First Command. 

“Regardless of the era, we’ve always been very successful in developing the Airmen we need to deliver airpower where it’s needed most, no matter the mission,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of AETC. “Recruiting, training and education continue to be foundational responsibilities that underpin the Air Force’s critical role in national defense and global security.”

First Step

All enlisted Airmen take their first steps in basic military training at the “Gateway to the Air Force” at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. A key component of the AETC mission since 1943, BMT is where military training instructors, serving as force generators, develop America’s civilians into resilient, agile and adaptive Airmen.

To date, millions of Airmen have graduated from BMT. Adding to that heritage, more history was made at BMT on Dec. 10, 2020, as the first seven people to enlist directly into the U.S. Space Force graduated from BMT.

After BMT, Airmen transition to technical training, where they learn the technical skills needed to perform in their individual career fields. Led by the Second Air Force team headquartered at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, it graduates approximately 150,000 Air Force, joint and coalition partner students annually.

While AETC has been successful in developing total force Airmen who have bested our adversaries for decades, the urgent need to accelerate change in how the service builds next-generation Airmen has resulted in a dedicated effort to transform the way Airmen learn. Part of that development includes the transformation of technical training delivery.

“Through Technical Training Transformation, Airmen have access to foundational concepts such as early access to content, modular curriculum, blended learning, student-centered instruction, flipped classrooms and competency-based training,” said Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, command chief of AETC. “Learner-centric initiatives and an improved training infrastructure have sped up the training pipeline by allowing Airmen to progress at the speed of learning.”

First Flight

Flying training has been part of the command’s mission for almost 80 years. Whether it’s the dollar ride, transition check flight or first solo flight, Air Force pilots fly their first flights in AETC. 

The 19th Air Force, headquartered at JBSA-Randolph, is responsible for the training of more than 30,000 U.S. and allied students annually in numerous specialties ranging from aircrews, remotely piloted aircraft crews, air battle managers, weapons directors, Air Force Academy Airmanship programs, and survival, escape, resistance, and evasion specialists.

Looking back at how far pilot training began, the first Air Force pilots trained with a toilet plunger to practice cockpit maneuvers. Today’s pilot training has not only been modernized with innovative technology, but also to meet the demands of today’s generation of learners.

Pilot Training Transformation is AETC’s overarching effort that includes several initiatives to transform pilot training and capitalize on modern tools, methods and learning processes to develop a quality Air Force pilot. With innovation as a cornerstone, the initiatives center on fully integrated state-of-the-art technologies and accelerated, cost-efficient and student-focused programs.

Beginning in 2018 and now through several iterations, the “Pilot Training Next” program has experimented with virtual reality, artificial intelligence and data analytics to “reimagine” how learning is delivered to Airmen. Using data from these iterations, officials continue to tailor and scale the training curriculum to the individual student, creating an Airman-centric and competency-based training environment.

“We are tailoring the programs to where the Airmen are headed, maximizing the use of technology to help get students prepared as soon as we can, but not to the detriment of quality,” Webb said. “At the end of the day, quality is still job one.”

First Command

From the Army Air Forces Flying Training Command in 1942, to merging with Air University in 1993, AETC continues to be the team the nation looks to, to train and educate the next generation of Airmen.

AETC is overhauling legacy technical and flying training pipelines to make them more agile and to enable faster delivery of fully-qualified Airmen to their operational units.

“The game-changing decision for AETC was to move from the industrial-age model to learner-centered, modern training and education,” Webb said. “This affects every corner of our command, and our challenge now is to continue to operationalize the transformation going on in every organization.”

Maxwell Field began as a major command in 1946. At Maxwell Air Force Base, today, Air University puts the “E” for education in AETC. The school is responsible for officer and enlisted professional military education programs, professional continuing education programs, officer accessions through Air Force ROTC and Officer Training Schools, enlisted and civilian associates, master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as leader development programs and courses.

Webb noted it is the enlisted Airmen and company-grade officers who provide the asymmetric strategic advantage and developing them is crucial to the Air Force’s mission to deliver airpower anytime, anywhere.  

With AETC’s 80th anniversary Jan. 23, 2022, each AETC wing’s history and role will be featured until then. Look for those articles, videos and photos at https://www.aetc.af.mil/About-Us/AETC-80th-Anniversary/.

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