Pre-BMT program prepares recruits, increases retention

  • Published
  • By Capt. John T. Stamm
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
There are many reasons to join the United States Air Force Reserve: job skills training, educational benefits and the opportunity to travel and meet new people. For 26-year-old Erica Taylor of Ashville, Ohio, lack of satisfaction in her everyday civilian life was the main motivating factor.

"I've been a bartender for the past five years, and was a waitress before that," Taylor said. "I've enjoyed it, but my career wasn't going in the direction that I wanted it to and the 445thAirlift Wing offered me an opportunity to change my life."

She is not alone. Many individuals enlist not only for the training, pay and benefits that come with military service, but also for the satisfaction of knowing that what they do everyday makes a difference in the world and their community. However, an unacceptably high number of trainees have never realized that sense of satisfaction due to an unusually high drop-out rate at Air Force Basic Military Training.

That is unlikely to happen to Taylor, future Avionics technician for the wing. She is fortunate to be a member of the development and training flight here, a new Air Force Reserve Command program designed to increase the completion rate and save the AFRC money by preparing recruits for BMT through a thorough introduction to the Air Force Reserve.

Once gained by the 445th, the recruits attend drill periods prior reporting to BMT. Though they hold no official rank, they are paid at the Airman Basic, or E-1, rate for each drill period attended. The trainees learn Air Force and Air Force Reserve history, customs and courtesies, enlisted force structure, proper dress and appearance and engage in physical training. New members are also provided assistance to ensure their paperwork and personal affairs are in order.

"The goal of the program is ensure that the individuals we recruit complete BMT and finish training at their technical schools and then transition into their units," said Chief Master Sgt. Peri Rogowski, 445th AW command chief, who has oversight of the program.
"We accomplish this by mentally and physically preparing recruits for training and life in the Air Force Reserve," she added.

The AFRC began implementing the program at select reserve bases in August of 2011. The 445th D&TF was activated in March of this year. In fiscal year 2011, the loss rate was 16.8 percent of enlistees at a cost of $18 million. As of May, reserve units participating in the program have only lost three out of 608 recruits, a rate of less than half of 1 percent. Comparatively, reserve units without the program have suffered a loss of almost 7.5 percent.

"This program is proving to be one of the greatest the Reserve command has developed," Rogowski said. "It saves tax dollars as well prepares our future Airmen by relieving anxiety and the fear of the unknown. The D&TF program is most definitely working."

The program is projected to become a permanent fixture at all AFRC installations by October of 2012 and participation by all new recruits will be mandatory.

"Through this program, I've learned more of what to expect as well as having a head start on what we're going to learn," Taylor said. "The fear that I had before is gone because I know I'm ready."