NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 26, 2006

When a group of U.S. Air Force commanders visited Iraq two years ago, they made some disturbing observations as they watched enlisted airmen working in the war zone: Many lacked basic combat skills and instincts. Some didn't know how to handle and load their weapons. A few even had their guns taken away as a safety precaution.

Within months, the high command mandated an overhaul of Air Force basic military training -- the most dramatic changes in 60 years in the training's tone and curriculum, say officials:

  • Chief among them is a new, time-consuming emphasis on "warrior ethos," making every airmen capable of self defense in a service with a reputation for being removed from the front lines. The 38,000 trainees per year now spend less time learning to fold T-shirts so they can spend more time learning to wage war.
  • The vast majority of trainees -- 93 percent -- successfully complete basic training, and 84 percent do so on time in 6 1/2 weeks, the shortest basic training among the services. But with so much new instruction being crammed into the curriculum, next year the training will be stretched to 8 1/2 weeks.
  • The typical training day starts at 4:45 a.m. and ends about 9 p.m., after traditional drills like marching, classroom instruction and field exercises. There is a decreasing amount of time for "airmanship" skills, including T-shirt folding.

37th Training Wing commander Col. Gina Grosse says her goal is to change the mind-set of the airman graduating from basic training. "What we want is an airman who understands that they are in a profession of arms."

Source: John W. Gonzalez, "Not-So-Basic-Training: With airmen dying in combat, trainees embrace a 'warrior ethos' to improve survival chances," Houston Chronicle, April 24, 2006.


Browse more articles on Government Issues