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AETC weaves core values into Air Force DNA: rethinking recruiting, training, education

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  • By Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

In 2012, the Air Education and Training Command launched an aggressive oversight initiative to protect Airmen in training following the discovery of unprofessional behavior within the basic military training environment.

Through this initiative, Air Force leaders help ensure better transparency and accountability and gather information necessary to proactively shape professional expectations for Airmen. The central body responsible for this new oversight authority is the Recruiting, Education and Training Oversight Council, one of three significant AETC initiatives since 2012, which help sustain a culture of mutual respect, strength of character and pride. The Profession of Arms Center of Excellence and Airmen's Week are also foundational components of shaping Airmen of character.

In 2013, the scope of RETOC was extended beyond BMT to the entire AETC enterprise, sparking an increased expectation and level of accountability for how the Air Force recruits, trains and educates Airmen. The RETOC, based out of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, but comprised of members throughout AETC, systematically analyzed the command's recruiting, technical training, flying trainingand education mission areas. This analysis formed the beginning of a continuous cycle of improvement designed to inspire Airmen and create a healthier organizational culture.

"Simply put, our goal is to produce technically competent Airmen well versed in our core values and rich heritage," said Gen. Robin Rand, the AETC commander.

"It's important our Airmen are being shown what 'right' looks like," Rand said. "The true health of an organization is measured by how it responds to adversity. Within AETC, we've taken and will continue to take proactive steps to shape positive change across the command as well as throughout the entire Air Force."

The RETOC provides a steady mechanism through which AETC can make continuous changes to correct and safeguard against potentially harmful conditions. It has already proven to be hugely successful as RETOC initiatives provided gains in essential support to military training instructors at BMT, including improved manning levels, morale and welfare, work hours, stress levels and family life. These initiatives are aimed at enhancing professional behavior, aligning workplace accountability with the Air Force core values of integrity, service and excellence, and providing world-class operations within an environment of dignity and respect.

As RETOC methodically expanded from analyzing BMT issues into a review of AETC's entire technical training portfolio, results showed improvements in a host of areas - the selection, development and training of instructors, higher visibility on instructor misconduct allegations, improved student professional mentorship, and better attention and understanding of student-on-student misconduct.

Following the technical training review, a team of experts was assembled to assess AETC's flying training culture. Team members conducted group discussions and interviews with more than 300 people at several AETC flying training installations, including instructor pilots, students, family members, commanders, chaplains, and inspector general offices. The groups examined topics ranging from abuse of authority to coercion, resourcing, student isolation and reporting channels. These observations led to 16 recommended improvements and changes to profession of arms training within AETC, all of which are now tracked and assessed by the RETOC body.

Next, the RETOC reviewed Air Force Recruiting Service operations across the U. S. This analysis yielded numerous actions to transform and consolidate recruiting units, eliminate one-person offices and improve oversight, effectiveness and quality of life for recruiters.

Currently, AETC is reviewing operations at the Air University at both its Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, campuses. The Air University provides professional military education and professional continuing education courses and programs aimed to ensure the proper balance of lessons in Airmanship, the art of war, leadership and the profession of arms, and meet specific professional development requirements.

"RETOC ensures that the lessons we teach on leadership and professionalism in our courses are practiced in our dealings with students and with one another," said Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, Air University commander. "Professionalism is as central to our developmental mission as warfighting -- it's just that important."

Born out of the momentum of the RETOC and devised as a way to connect professional development opportunities throughout the entirety of an Airman's career, the Profession of Arms Center of Excellence (PACE) was established in March 2015. The mission of the center is to thread professionalism, education and training throughout the ranks of all Airmen, inspiring integrity, service and excellence at the center of everything they do. The center provides leaders with tools that enhance a greater level of commitment, loyalty and trust within the Air Force's operational units. By fostering better leaders and cultivating stronger character within each Airman, the center aims to shape a common identity across the Air Force -- one based on core values and the unique requirements of the profession of arms.

Also in March 2015, the addition of Airmen's Week to BMT created a place to reinforce core values and character development for new enlisted Airmen. The week immediately following graduation from BMT provides the Air Force's newest warriors with focused, guided and interactive discussions and challenges. It serves to give Airmen the opportunity to examine their personal values and decision-making framework to better embrace the profound importance of what it means to be an American Airman. Airmen's Week focuses on the pride, commitment and loyalty required of Airmen and provides them an opportunity to more fully understand the immense personal responsibility required in the profession of arms.

The RETOC, Profession of Arms Center of Excellence and Airmen's Week are important new initiatives aimed at shaping better Airmen, and a better service and future. These initiatives underscore AETC's commitment to Air Force core values. These values serve as a compass for the command's journey, only possible through hard work and commitment.

"By focusing on sustained quality in manning, resources and leadership, we can help remove some of the institutional challenges that allow programs to slip below our Air Force values," Rand said. "The key to effective recruiting, education and training programs throughout AETC relies on the leadership of those responsible for accomplishing our mission, quality leaders shaping quality Airmen. Through the oversight of the RETOC, direct engagements with commanders, and a heightened expectation for superior leadership, AETC is shaping a better future for our Airmen and our Air Force."