There are many briefings required either by federal law, or military regulations for first-term airmen reporting to their first duty assignment. Unfortunately, in the past, these briefings and appointments were scheduled separately, meaning the new airman was in and out of their duty section for their first four to six months after arrival. It's hard for a supervisor to set up an "on the job training program," just to have their new troops continually yanked out of the section for a mandatory briefing/appointment at a critical time of their training.
Additionally, each base has their share of details (tasks) that are not covered by contractors, and have to be performed by the lower-ranked airmen. These tasks can range from painting, cleaning up the "common areas" of the dormitory, or even picking up litter on the base. In the "old days," the first sergeant would get "tasked" by the Wing/Group to provide so-many "bodies," on a continuing basis for these tasks, which -- again -- resulted in removing airmen from the duty section and interrupting their OJT.
Enter the FTAC Program -- the First Term Airman Center Program. The FTAC program, founded in at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. in 1977 by Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Estrem, which was established to provide a pool of airmen for base cleaning while taking care of ancillary training in the process.
The program was slow to catch on in the rest of the Air Force, however. But, today, almost every Air Force base has an FTAC program. The concept is simple. Take first term airmen, as soon as they arrive at their first duty station, and combine all the necessary appointments and required details into a single two-week period. (Note: Each base runs their FTAC Program slightly differently, but it averages out to about two weeks -- half the time doing appointments/briefings and half the time performing details).
FTAC is designed to aid all first-duty-stationed airmen with their transition from a systematic and regimented environment into a hands-on employment of the airmen's skills, knowledge and training gained from technical school.
"FTAC is a 'one-stop-shop-program' that greatly benefits the airmen and allows them to focus on their job without being tagged for various appointments," said Staff Sgt. Laura Ailes, FTAC non commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) at Hill Air Force Base, UT.
"Before there was an FTAC program, airmen were missing many of the mandatory appointments and as a result administrative action was taken," said Ailes. "Many NCOs today will tell you that it could take anywhere from 4-6 months to complete all of the essential briefings. Many briefings in those days were much longer and required you to be away from duty for a full day. The great aspect about FTAC is the fact the agencies come to the airmen as opposed to the airmen going to the agencies. As a result, no one misses an appointment."
"It made getting used to the base a little easier," said Airman 1st Class Melissa Ruffing, 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB. "I didn't know anything other than where the chow hall and BX were. After we went through the classes, I learned about the Family Support Center and everything they could do for me and also about other agencies and how I can best utilize them."
Not only airmen see the benefits of FTAC, so do supervisors, teachers and 5-level dorm residents.
While in FTAC, airmen have to spend half their time in a base detail program, bay orderly or other details. The program significantly impacts all units on base who previously provided 5-level dormitory residents to pull bay orderly. Many of these included skilled airmen first class and senior airmen who were in charge of managing their duty sections. Now, airmen from FTAC perform the duties of bay orderly during the tenure and because the base receives airmen on a rapid basis, the workload is constantly changing from airman to airman so no one gets the bulk of the labor. With classes ranging from 12 to 32, depending on the number of inbounds, there are enough airmen to balance out the work.