OTS military training instructors help shape next generation of officers

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael Voss
  • Air University Public Affairs
Dating back to September 1947, U.S. Air Force military training instructors have represented one of the most visible special-duty career fields in the service.

From the original group of "Flight Marchers" to today's MTIs, the need to train new Airmen has remained constant.

Today, 500 Airmen in the grades of staff sergeant through master sergeant work tirelessly planning, organizing and directing basic and initial military training for 35,000 new recruits each year at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

Though not as large in number as their counterparts at Lackland, nine MTIs head to work each morning at the Air Force Officer Training School on Maxwell AFB, where they train the more than 1,000 officer trainees who receive their commissions from the school annually.

MTIs started reporting for duty at Maxwell in 1993 after the school moved from Lackland's Medina Annex to Maxwell as part of the then-Air Force chief of staff's vision to align all officer education and training under Air University. OTS is part of the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development.

"The level of responsibility and self-discipline required to do this job is very high," said MTI Tech. Sgt. Paul Baisden. "MTIs here are not dealing with basic trainees who may have just graduated from high school; we're dealing with officer trainees who have graduated college and some of them have prior enlisted service."

Baisden, like all MTIs at OTS, has experienced first-hand the difference between being an MTI at basic training and OTS. Because of the unique demands at OTS, the MTIs here have gone through a rigorous screening process, and before applying as an instructor, each applicant is required to complete a three-year tour at Lackland. Baisden has worn the MTI hat for eight years, three of which have been at Maxwell.

"Here, you're also dealing with commissioned staff a lot more often than you would if you were at Lackland, so the interaction between the officer and the enlisted staffs is very involved," he said.

The road to becoming an MTI will deter some from applying for the special duty, but becoming an OTS instructor is a process that few of those who are MTIs will attempt. MTI training is eight weeks , followed by a 90-day certification period, during which a trainee will become fully qualified on 121 tasks and evaluated on teaching drill.

"The application process for OTS MTI duty is very selective. There were more than 40 applicants recently, and only four were hired," said Tech. Sgt. Chi Yi, MTI.

For Baisden, his dream of becoming an MTI started long before he ever wore the hat.

"I went to high school in Texas, and I was in Air Force Junior ROTC," he said. "Being so close to San Antonio, we would take trips to Lackland all the time. I would see the guys with the big hats walking around training young Airmen, and that made me want to be one of them."

For most officer trainees, this will be the first time they've interacted with enlisted members.

"MTIs try to provide them with the enlisted perspective as much as possible. We teach them that we're all Airmen, and we need to take care of each other regardless of rank," said Baisden. "We tell them that they need to seek out their NCOs at their first duty stations because they have been around and they are a wealth of leadership and knowledge that will be invaluable."

OTS also commissions Guard and Reserve officers, so the impact MTIs have on officer trainees also extends to outside the gates and into the civilian workplace, Baisden said.

"We are the first example of what an NCO should be," said MTI Master Sgt. Anthony S. Key. "Being an OTS MTI is more about relationship building between officers and NCOs." Key, a former civil engineer, has been a MTI 13 years.

For the OTS MTIs, having influenced both potential senior enlisted and officer leaders is gratifying.

"There is a definite reward that comes full circle as an OTS military training instructor, because we went from directly affecting the enlisted at Lackland, to now directly affecting the officer corps, as well," said Master Sgt. Antonio Holmes. "The biggest honor is being asked to give the officer trainee their first salute."

(Staff Sgt. Sandra Percival contributed to this article.)