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‘Tornado warning:’ First-Term Airmen Center calms the storm

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hinsey
  • NCO-in-charge, First Term Airman Center
When I was in Basic Military Training, our training instructor liked practicing "tornado drills." During the drill, all trainees would flood out of the dorms, fall into formation on the drill pad and wait for the "all clear" signal. Upon receiving the clear sign, we would work our way back to the dorms, up the stair well (ensuring we held the hand rail) and into the dorm we entered. Instantly, we were hit with the realization of what a tornado drill was actually for.

The drill was not meant for a tornado outside the dorms, but the one inside wearing a campaign hat. That whirling cyclone of a training instructor wreaked absolute havoc on our wall lockers, beds and every square inch of the dorms, including fingerprints on the water fountains.

This catastrophic event is symbolic of the first year in the Air Force for many of the individuals I knew. Like many, the first step is BMT, then technical school and, finally, moving to a new area. Upon arriving at the first duty location, the tornado only seems to amplify its chaos.

That first term Airman is required to move to an area that they had never desired to visit on vacation and now they have to live there for several years. They must find a place to live, whether in the dorms or other means, then report to a squadron where they do not know anyone and begin working to accomplish a mission much greater than themselves.

The First Term Airman Center was developed as a means to calm the storm and chaos of an Airman's first year in service. Upon reporting to FTAC, the staff strives to ensure damage control is accomplished for any events that took place during the transition from technical school to arriving in the classroom.

FTAC's mission here is to introduce, transition and infuse an operational mindset, ensuring sustainment of mission success. In order for us to ensure this happens, we provide 26 separate briefings to these Airmen. Some of the instruction provided is a recap and enforcement of the lessons introduced in BMT. This includes uniform inspections, enlisted force structure and several combuter-based training courses.

Another opportunity Airmen are afforded is the chance to speak with Col. Greg Tims, 90th Missile Wing commander; or Col. Scott Fox, 90th MW vice commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Marty Anderson, 90th MW command chief. What better way to understand our mission as 90th MW personnel than to hear it from the wing commander? Adding to that, lesson Chief Anderson does an exceptional job of focusing on the enlisted perspective to mission accomplishment in our wing.

One last focus for the new Airmen is to ensure they are set up for success, not only in the work center but personally. The Airman & Family Readiness Center provides an exceptional lesson on financial management. This lesson provides insight into vehicle purchasing, retirement planning and basic budget considerations.

Two lessons I have learned are that a tornado is very happy in a trailer park, and so are training instructors in an empty dorm. Both of these storms are great at wrecking havoc; however, it should not be devastating to an Airman's career or first duty station.

The success of these Airmen will be reflected in the long term success of F. E. Warren and the Air Force. During the course I challenge the Airmen with the thought, "Let your satisfactory performance be considered excellent by others, then strive for excellence by your standard."

Each Airman has weathered the storm of the first year. Fortunately for the first term Airmen of today, they are given a shelter to help protect and quide them through their first duty station.