37th TRW commander's mission: Making a positive difference

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs
The new 37th Training Wing commander's number one goal is straightforward: to train and develop the best joint force leaders possible and sustain international partnerships.

His vision for the wing, like his top priority, is just as direct.

"The vision is simple: To be the training standard of excellence for the Department of Defense," said Col. Trent Edwards, who assumed command of the 37th TRW at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, June 20.

"We are a joint organization. We train Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard," Edwards said. "The training standard of excellence for the Department of Defense means people across the DOD can look at our training operations and say, 'They've got a great model. Maybe we should ask Lackland how they do business and what training models they use so we can be that same standard of excellence.'"

The sheer physical size of the wing surprised him, Edwards said, including the 10 geographically separated units spread across the country as well as the diversity of missions and their impact on the Air Force and across the DOD.

Under his command are the 737th Training Group, which provides basic military training for all enlisted recruits in the Air Force, Reserve and Guard; the 37th TRG, the largest technical training group in the Air Force, which trains over 35 Air Force Specialty Codes; the 937th TRG, the largest medical training group in the Air Force, which trains Air Force and Navy medics; the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, which provides technical and military education training to 21 Latin American partner nations; the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, which trains international personnel to communicate in English and to instruct English language programs in over 120 countries; and the Air Advisory Academy, which educates and trains warrior diplomats to assess, train advise, assist and equip U.S. partner nations.

"What an incredible operation," Edwards said. "I had no idea what the 37th Training Wing encompassed. Sometimes you just think basic military training, but it's so much more.

"We have three groups, two academies and one center, but each of those is unique and each has a mission that contributes to our national defense. It's humbling to wake up every morning and realize you're responsible for a mission that has this type of impact across the Air Force. We're responsible for taking care of America's sons and daughters. That's important to me."

Edwards added that reality set in the first time he sat in his grandstand seat as wing commander, reviewing a BMT graduation parade. As he looked across the parade grounds at the young men and women about to become America's newest Airmen, he thought about the accountability and honor that came with the job.

"I am responsible for this -- and for leading a team that does this every single week," Edwards said. "I had to pinch myself. Was I dreaming or is this real?

"The reality is that it's a very humbling responsibility, and I'm humbled Gen. Rand (Gen. Robin Rand, commander, Air Education and Training Command) has entrusted me with this wing. It's about making a positive difference; it's about leaving it just a little better than you found it; it's about bringing the team together so we accomplish the vision, mission and goals together."

Before coming to JBSA-Lackland, Edwards was commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama. One of the organizations hosted by the 42nd ABW was Air University, which includes the Community College of the Air Force and Officer Training School.

Realizing the relationship between the 42nd ABW and the 37th TRW - technical training students can earn CCAF credits and former BMT military training instructors work at OTS - helped connect the dots, he said.

"Understanding the full context of Air University's mission gave me a better appreciation for what we do here at Lackland," Edwards said.

A native of Kittery, Maine, Edwards attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University at Greensboro on a track scholarship. But a knee injury while home on Christmas break as a freshman ended his track career.

After losing his track scholarship, his father asked him to consider joining the A&T Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. Edwards did and he graduated in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. In 1996, he earned a master's degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma.

What if he hadn't injured his knee and lost his scholarship?

"I think I would have been fine doing something," he said. "I don't know what it would have been, but I think this is my calling. I really enjoy helping people and organizations move forward to achieve their goals. That gives me the greatest joy."

Edwards added his financial background as a comptroller at the squadron, wing and major command levels along with his experience as a Congressional legislative liaison allow him to focus on other objectives, as well.

"Understanding how the money works gives me a level of comfort," he said. "I will oversee and make sure we're executing those dollars, have the right processes, ask the right questions and get the right return on our investment.

"I don't have to ask a lot of questions. I just have to ask the right questions because I'm very familiar with the financial reports and the processes."

Edwards said he wants to help BMT and the MTI Corps move forward from the misconduct uncovered in 2012.

"We're not perfect but there are a lot of incredibly dedicated and awesome people here and I want to tell their story," he said. "I want people to know the commitment of the MTIs and the MTLs (technical training military training leaders), the podium instructors and the permanent party on base. They're dedicated to making this entire mission a success."

He noted he also has been impressed by the wing's team of senior leaders and senior NCOs.

"It's interesting, as we're building the team dynamics, to see each person's personality and strengths," he said. "I can really see 12 months from now how we're going to elevate the wing to a new, higher level with the talent and leadership capability of this team.

"That's not just the commanders - that includes the chiefs, superintendents and our senior enlisted force. They are very much a part of the vision - to be the training standard of excellence for the Department of Defense."