BEAST kicks off offering application of skills like never before

  • Published
  • By Beverly Simas
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
The torturous crawl trainees here struggle to complete - uphill through cold, wet sand -may seem like a punishing exercise simply to be endured. However, for Air Force Basic Military Trainees it is part of a new five-day deployment exercise that better prepares them for their future. 

Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills and Training, known as BEAST, kicked off Dec. 15 for the first class of students in the new, expanded BMT program at Lackland Air Force Base. With a new emphasis on wingman support and exposure to what they may experience in a deployed hostile environment, BEAST offers something different for trainees. 

Before the expansion of BMT from six-and-a-half-weeks to eight-and-a-half-weeks the trainees spent little time actually applying the knowledge they were taught. "Basically the difference is in the application; before they only had two to three hours of application time, now they have three solid days of being hit with application," said Master Sgt. Brian Price, BMT protocol NCO. 

The extended course offers many new experiences for the trainees."They are going in for additional weapons training; for example, we've added an M-9 pistol training, we've added 12 hours of self-aid and buddy care so they can deal with a wounded warrior in the theatre, and we've added joint training so that they understand the part that they play with respect to the entire team,"  said Col. Edward Westermann, 737th Training Group commander and officer in charge of the BMT program. "The base complex is the centerpiece of that two-week expansion. It allows us to have a forward operating location for these young men and women to practice the skills they are learning." 

At the new BEAST site, trainees face a series of difficult exercise events under simulated, realistic, combat conditions."Our tent setup and our actual base setup is exactly the same as when I was deployed," Sergeant Price said. "So when they do deploy down range this is not going to be new to them. They are actually going to get explosive ordnance training and they are going to see all of that." 

The extended BMT and inclusion of BEAST appears to be making an impact on the trainees. Michael Thomas Summers Jr., a basic trainee said that at in this sixth week in training many of the trainees are familiar with each other and that helps promote the wingman concept."It is easy for us to motivate each other," he said. "When one of them is behind [you shout] 'come on, pick it up pick it up.' It is not like the first time you are out here and some stranger is telling you to hurry up." 

The instructors noted a difference as well."Now that they are coming out two weeks later into training they are much more mature.  The skills that they have learned have been fostered for more weeks at their training squadron so when they come out here they are basically able to run the camp themselves," said Staff Sgt. James Dillon, a field training instructor. "Before, we had to guide them along step by step. Here we just get them into camp, get them set up and [we] are hands off as much as possible to allow them to feel a sense of ownership and pride in the skills that they have learned." 

As this group of basic trainees graduate into their career fields and the next class embarks on its training all appear to agree that BEAST has brought them a new and better dimension to their service. Sergeant Price said,"This is basic military training no matter if they are an admin person or if they are security forces. This is going to better prepare them for situations when they are going to be in a deployed environment."