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Sheppard | Getting it right here means getting it right for AF

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

Part 1 of 4

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — The global environment the Department of Defense and Air Force face is different from the one today’s senior leaders engaged when they began their careers two or more decades ago.

For the majority of those wearing the uniform during that time, deployments took them to the Middle East, specifically to places like Iraq or Afghanistan. There were other locations in that region, but they were all to primarily support operations in those two countries.

As the pacing challenges presented by China and Russia continue to grow and threaten democracy around the world, today’s Airmen will be asked to go and perform in capacities and missions unlike those seen in the Global War on Terror and the Iraq war. They will be required to be flexible, to be agile, and be definitive in their actions.

Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew, 82nd Training Wing and Sheppard AFB commander, said during a series of commander’s calls in October that today’s Airmen will go to places like Eastern Europe and areas within U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, a geographic combatant command that covers Asia and Southeast Asia. The general echoed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s sentiments by saying if the Air Force doesn’t accelerate change, the reality is the nation could lose in peer-to-peer competition.

The change for the Air Force that has a direct impact on the service’s ability to generate combat capability and airpower starts here at Sheppard, he said, by effectively and efficiently producing the world’s best Airmen.

“Forty-seven percent of the Airmen that graduate basic military training come to Sheppard. If we get it right here, we get it right for the Air Force,” he said. “If we don’t get it right here, we cause a ripple effect across the Air Force. So, if we don’t have the ability to change here in the way we train and the way we develop our Airmen, then it will make it more difficult for the Air Force to be competitive in the future.”

A challenge for Sheppard, though, has been getting some technical training graduates off the installation and onto their next location within 24 hours of graduation. Drew said when he arrived in July 2021, close to 500 Airmen were in “student out of training” status, meaning something was preventing them from leaving Sheppard within the targeted time frame.

Previous wing leadership began the processing of delving into the various reasons why Airmen were being delayed. Those studying the process found there were administrative inefficiencies holding up the ability for Airmen to move on, whether it was the student assignment process in the 82nd Force Support Squadron, medical clearance and Exceptional Family Member Program within the 82nd Medical Group, or how squadrons and groups were managing and submitting paperwork to other agencies.

A deep dive reversed the trend over the past several months, and the number of SOTs has hovered at about 100 or less.

“To those who contributed to that — thank you very much. That was a heavy lift,” Drew said. “To keep that going is going to be hard because it’s easy to slip back up to that number.”

The following series of articles will take a look at how agencies directly involved in the movement of Airmen reviewed their processes, and the changes they made to improve the pipeline of technical trained Airmen contributing to the Air Force mission.