The Air Force is making significant changes to Air Force Basic Training, beginning with recruits who report to Lackland on November 9th. Instead of waiting until week #5 to get into the "war-fighting mode," new recruits will begin concentrating on becoming warriors, right from day one.
In the past, much of the first couple of weeks of basic training were taken up by class-room studies in such areas as financial management, customs and courtesies, military law, and other such subjects. War-fighting skills, such as M-16 training, field tactics, and self-aid/buddy care weren't' covered until Warrior Week, during the 5th week of training. Additionally, M-16 training in Air Force Basic Training has been minimal. Recruits typically didn't handle an M-16 until "Warrior Week," receiving one day's worth of class room training, followed by a few hours on the firing range. At other times during basic, recruits would fake rubber M-16s, called "Rubber Duckies."
Rubber Duckies are no more. Now, each new recruit will be issued an M-16 replica on the very first day of training. The replica is exactly like the M-16 they will be expected to use in combat, except it won't fire. The replica is the same size, same weight, and has the exact same parts. The rifle-replica can be stripped and cleaned just like the real thing. It's an exact same replica, down to the small springs. To avoid confusing the replica with the real thing, the stocks on the replicas will be painted blue.
Recruits will begin instruction on the M-16 from day one, and will carry their "weapon" with them, throughout basic training. Recruits will have several chances (instead of just one, as under the previous system) to exhibit knowledge about safe weapons handling, identifying components, field stripping and cleaning the weapon, and carrying the weapon in formation and close order drill.
To free up more time for weapons training, the Air Force is changing it's long-standing basic training policy about folding T-shirts and underwear into little 6-inch squares. Instead, the Air Force will be adapting a Navy boot camp practice of rolling underwear up. Officials at Lackland estimate that eliminating the underwear folding classes and the folding time opens up 18 extra hours for weapons training.
Another significant change is moving "Warrior Week," where recruits "deploy" to a simulated forward-operating Air Base in a combat zone, from the 5th week to the 4th week of training. Additionally, the Airman's Coin, which was previously presented to each recruit upon completion of Warrior Week, won't be presented until a ceremony, shortly prior to graduation.
The new course-outline is designed so that the first half of basic training focuses primarily upon war-fighting skills and preparation for Warrior Week, and the final two weeks of basic training will focus on classroom instruction in areas such as financial management, customs and courtesies, military law, and Air Force history.
According to Chief Master Sergeant Steve Sergeant, superintendent of Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, these changes are just the start. In the future, the Air Force wants to add a 7th week to basic training. Unfortunately, because of funding, and the requirement to build additional facilities, the earliest this could happen is in 2008. Also under consideration is a new complex for Warrior Week.
The changes are a result of the Triennial Basic Training Review, which occurred in March.