PHOTO air force bmt

BMT: Student Leaders

Opportunities to grow in your leadership or show off your leadership skills abound at BMT.  Each flight has a number of positions available that need to be filled.  Your MTI will scout out prospective individuals in your flight to fill these slots.  If you’re interested in stepping up to the plate, it helps to discuss your previous experience in leadership roles when questioned by your MTI.  Like anything else, showing those skills goes further than just merely talking about them.  

Element leaders air force basic training include the following roles:

Dorm Chief
The DC is considered next in the Chain of Command after the MTI.  They are expected to execute the MTIs commands and act as the MTI when they are not around.  They facilitate communication between flight members and the MTI.  There’s actually a list of duties, approximately 17 or so, that you’ll have to memorize as a DC to spit back out when directed during a drill inspection when competing for Warrior Flight. DCS is responsible for four-element leaders, who assist them in managing approximately 50ish trainees.  Accountability is a huge responsibility of a DC, as I’ve mentioned before.

The performance of the flight, as seen by supervisors and superiors, falls onto the shoulders of the MTI.  If they’re not pleased, the DC will be the first to hear about it.  I did a lot of pushups as a result of the actions of others.  The DC is the first one to get chewed out by any MTI if the flight is acting out, whether you’re in the dorm or out in the squadron.  You’ve a very visible target.  Around week four, you’ll receive a name tag that says “DORM CHIEF” to be worn on your ABUs.  You’re expected to model the best that the flight has to offer, as your performance reflects positively or poorly upon your MTI.  You’re also a very vocal presence.  It is your job to size the flight (organize them from tallest to shortest), as well as to command the flight when needed.  I’ve also mentioned before that I was typically one of the last ones to do anything – eat, go to sleep, leave the dorm, etc.  I had to make sure everyone was accounted for at all times.

Speaking of a vocal presence, one of my duties was to prepare the flight for instruction when we were in the classroom.  I would approach the front of the room, execute an about-face, and take one step forward at a time, snapping my face to the direction of my flight.  I would inspect each row and make corrections based upon how trainees were sitting.  When I reached the end, I would about-face and prepare to be recognized by the instructor.  Once recognized, I would say:

“Sir/Ma’am, trainee Carpenter reports as ordered.  Speak.
Sir/Ma’am, Flight 494 is prepared for instruction.  Place your flight at ease.
Flight 494, AT EASE.”
photo air force basic training
One of my favorite responsibilities was in the chow hall.  There is always a DC at the front of the chow hall, near the entrance.  It is their job to ensure that everyone entering the chow hall is dressed appropriately and meeting regulations.  I would verbally correct hair that was out of regulation, shoelaces untucked, uniforms that weren’t smoothed, pockets unbuttoned, etc.  I would also have other trainees approach me that needed to cut in line.  Everything is very scripted, so they had to request permission appropriately in order to pass.  It sounds fun and not too difficult, but again, you have MTIs walking in and out of the chow hall, so I had to be on my game and expect to be approached.  We had our own “changing of the guard” if a new flight entered, as the new DC would take your place.  The script was rough:

“Sir/Ma’am, trainee Carpenter reports as ordered.
I’m here to relieve you of your Dorm Chief duties and responsibilities.
Do you have any messages for me?
Join your flight.”
As it was told to me, once an MTI was solidified in his decision to make you the DC, he allowed you to start sitting at the DC table in the chow hall.  This table allowed you to view your entire flight during the meal, that way you could reprimand anyone for bad behaviors back in the dorm later.  This table also positioned you directly in front of the “Snake Pit,” where the MTIs sat for meals.  It was not uncommon to have them make comments directed toward you, or to call you over during your meal.
As a DC you’ll be reminded constantly that you’re not here to make friends.  Trainees aren’t going to like you most of the time.  You’ll need to remain fair and non-preferential in your treatment of others.  That being said, while I made a number of friends through BMT, I didn’t have that one BFF that many of my other females seemed to acquire throughout the process.  It’s lonely at the top, get used to it.  The positive side is that you’ll get to develop a richer relationship with your MTI beyond the normal trainee.  My MTI valued my opinion and eventually, I was able to speak freely with him and act more comfortably when I was around him, which is atypical for other trainees.  Being a DC is a stressful job, and these perks help you breathe a little easier, especially in the end.  I still have a great relationship with my MTI and value him as a mentor.
One of the shining moments as a DC is commanding the flight during Retreat, the coining ceremony after which trainees can officially be referred to as Airmen.  The video below features yours truly, front and center during Retreat.
air force bmt

Element Leaders

Element Leaders are the workhorses of the student leadership team, and I’ll be the first person to admit that. The DC receives commands from the MTI, and then delegates responsibilities to their ELs.  When I first started out, I tried to do much of the workload on my own.  Eventually, I had a better understanding of how the system was supposed to work, and I relinquished control to my ELs.  I tried to do my best to empower them, and back them up when they were keeping their elements in line.  The dorms are organized by elements, and each EL sleeps at the head of each element.  There were approximately thirteen trainees in each element.  I was instructed by my MTI that trainees shouldn’t be coming to me directly with issues and problems – they needed to utilize the chain of command, and go to their ELs first, then the EL would come to me.  ELs are saints, they really are.  They dealt with all sorts of BS, cleaned up, and redid night displays when sloppy trainees had neglected their work to go to bed early and got little credit for their work.  I am thankful that I had such an amazing ELs to help keep our flight running smoothly.
ELs march in front of the flight, as pictured below.  Due to this position, their marching has to be on point.  If the ELs are poor marchers, it’s going to negatively affect the rest of the flight, and make it difficult to follow.  When it came time to important drill inspections and practices, the ELs shouldered much of the burden (aside from the guidon bearer), as they set the spacing for the rest of the flight.  If we were to perform a complicated move, they would have to know how to execute it first, and do so perfectly.
ELs also wear name badges on their ABUs that say “ELEMENT LEADER,” so, like the DC, they stick out and are expected to act professionally and exercise good military bearing at all times.

When meeting in the day room with our MTI, the ELs and the DC sit on the side, apart from the rest of the flight.  At the end of the night, I used to have meetings with my ELs.  We would discuss the day, concerns about trainees, and write up our nightly summaries for our MTI to read the next morning.  It was a good time to unwind with my student leaders, and many leaders conduct these meetings in the flight office.  [You’ll soon learn that sitting in a comfortable office chair or on a couch is a luxury.]

air force bmt

Guidon Bearer and A-Flight Guide

While these positions aren’t necessarily considered formal student leaders, they hold an essential, visible role for the flight.  In the flight pictured above and in my own flight, the A-Flight Guide and the Guidon Bearer both shared guidon responsibilities.  During “normal” marching (versus Parade, pictured above), the guidon bearer stands in the position being held by the A-Flight Guide.  The guidon refers to the blue “flag” you see pictured above, which bears the name of the wing and the squadron.  Whenever the flight is marching, they are being led by the guidon bearer.  The guidon bearer controls the speed and stride length of the entire flight.  They have to be excellent marchers.  They also develop some impressive right arm muscles over the course of 8.5 weeks.  Every time an MTI gives a preparatory command, the guidon bearer must hoist that guidon off the ground.  Any hesitation and the MTI will correct the guidon bearer.  It wasn’t uncommon for us to hear, “Guidon bearer, wake up, respond to the preparatory command!”  Don’t you dare misplace the guidon if you’re the GB either?  We had a few incidents in our squadron where a trainee switched their guidon with one belonging to another dorm, or worse yet when a trainee left the guidon at the mini-mall all the way down the street.  The big event in a GB’s experience at BMT comes at Parade, pictured on this page.  The GB’s talents are showcased at this moment, and their upper body strength is tested.

Student leaders are not set in stone at BMT.  If they cross the line or are negligent in their duties, an MTI will fire them, and it happened often.  I was fortunate enough to remain DC from start to finish.  The only time I was “replaced” was when my MTI wanted to prove a point to a trainee who was starting to point fingers and blame others for her own shortcomings.  She didn’t last long, to say the least, although I was enjoying being “Jane Doe Trainee” for those few hours.  🙂  I watched a number of Dorm Chiefs get fired, as new ones would show up to accountability in the evening.  I remember a new DC, very nervous and anxious, telling me that she was going to step down, that she didn’t think she could do this.  Uh, not an option, sweetheart!  I saw another DC get fired for mistreating her flight members and bringing food back into the dorm. 

Another perk student leaders enjoy is the number of points they earn toward honor grad status.  Important duties and responsibilities in the flight lend themselves toward points, including student leaders, the BEAST monitor, etc.  I was lead to believe that if I was fired from my position as DC, I would automatically disqualify myself from honor grad status.  Whether that’s true or not, I can’t confirm at this time.  As a DC, I earned 4 points, which is the highest number of points you can get for your role/duty in the flight.

Let me know if you have any questions about student leadership at BMT.  BMT is a challenging experience on its own, and while being a student leader definitely ups the stress level, the rewards pay off in the end.

I’m a 31 year old Navy sister, Army wife - Air Force wife to a prior service Marine/Soldier, and an Air Force Reservist. I am a happy wife and mother. My husband switched branches and joined me in the Air Force Reserve. We look forward to a future of dual military service!


  • Tarynsaid

    Wow…. I love reading these posts! You get so in depth that I actually feel like I'm there. PS: Loved the video!

  • Erinsaid

    Thanks! I love doing them for that purpose. There's so much to tell, there's no way I could do it justice in a single post. I love how crispy sharp I look in the video. 🙂

  • thurstonsaid

    Hi I was wondering what makes them decide who becomes a student leader? I like a challenge and it sounds like fun! Haha

  • Erinsaid

    @Thurston – It's a gut feeling for your MTI. Most of them have learned to judge/size people up from their first impression. Be contientious of how you conduct yourself in front of your MTI. Try to conduct yourself as professionally as possible. When you're working those first few days, be verbal in your motivation of others, delegate/direct, and always partner up with another trainee when working – don't wait to be told to partner up. If/when your MTI asks you about your experience, talk up any leadership experience you may have in your job/volunteering/church/etc, regardless of how insignificant they may seem. Good luck Thurston, when do you leave?

  • thurstonsaid

    Well I actually haven't signed yet but I'm talking to a recruiter. As I'm sure you can tell I'm very excited! I've been reading all your blogs they are very resourceful I've been doing a lot of research and running and push ups and I've memorized the Airman's Creed. Thanks for all the help and for answering my question it helps a lot!

  • Erinsaid

    Good for you – motivation is a huge factor as to whether or not you'll be successful at BMT. Keep me posted as you continue on your journey!

  • Erinsaid

    I'm a few minutes away from a new post about chow. Any requests as to what I should discuss next? I want to cater to you, the reader(s).

  • thurstonsaid

    Well maybe something about like the physical aspect of BMT. Like the beast and taking apart the guns stuff like that you know what I mean?

  • Therachrissaid

    After reading this I want to aim for DC! I know it will be tough but thats what makes it exciting.

  • Cynthia Bracerosaid

    Hi…I should be going to BAsic in Jan 2013….. A Fellow Facebooker/airman sent me the link to your site because I am 32 years old and she said I;d probably be considered for student leader…

  • Jacqueline Cartersaid

    Hi, I'm a junior in high and I plan to go into BMT right after I graduate. I never actually considered the military until my brother became a United States Marine. Originally I was planning on the Marine Corps as well but I grew to love the airforce 🙂 I've actually been put in quite a bit of leadership positions and would love to be awarded the position of DC although I will admit I hold back sometimes and I'm worried that part of me will come out due to the unfamiliar environment :/ What do you suggest to do to get noticed more at BMT?

  • Erinsaid

    @Jacqueline Carter – The best way to get noticed is to take initiative as soon as you get there. Be a wingman to others during tasks those first few days, focus on your communication, treat everyone fairly, and work efficiently and you'll be noticed! Good luck to you! You've got tons of time to hone your leadership abilities!

  • Erinsaid

    @Jacqueline Carter – The best way to get noticed is to take initiative as soon as you get there. Be a wingman to others during tasks those first few days, focus on your communication, treat everyone fairly, and work efficiently and you'll be noticed! Good luck to you! You've got tons of time to hone your leadership abilities!

  • Lauren Stonesaid

    Thank you for posting! This is such an informative blog! I passed the DLAB so as soon as this month's jobs drop, and my linguist position is secured, I will know exactly when I leave! My goal in attending BMT is to get as much as possible out of the experience, and I definitely take rules serious (don't care about being everyone's best buddy) so I would love the chance to be the DC. As I already expect my flight to be at the top of our game! Lol After instructing Tae Kwon Do for 5 years, I feel more than prepared. Any additional tips for standing out to be chosen for DC? My family has been in the military every generation since the American Revolution and both my father and grandfather were honor graduates so I want to stand out and be a leader as well!

  • AF DC Momsaid

    My son left for BMT Nov 11. He was selected as the Dorm Chief for his flight. We just got bits and pieces from him about the responsibility of that position. Your first hand experience was so helpful! He is hanging in there so far. Thanks so much, Erin!

  • Erinsaid

    @Lauren Stone – Your MTI may very well ask you all who's had leadership experience. Otherwise, your actions speak louder. Definitely treat everyone with respect, working efficiently and always moving with a sense of [email protected] DC Mom – Glad to help! It's a great role, I loved my time as DC!

  • Lauren Stonesaid

    Yes ma'am! Thanks again for all the information! It seems zero week is all about simple instructions and working as a team:) I keep referring people to look at your blog because of how well the content is presented! Congrats AF DC Mom! You are gonna be one proud mom at graduation! 🙂

  • Erinsaid

    @Lauren Stone – Glad to help! 🙂 Zero week is an awkward mess of adjustment, I'll say that! Thanks for recommending my site to others!

  • Jacqueline Cartersaid

    I've commented before and I know it's been a while but things at home got crazy so I haven't been able to thank you! But I am happy to say I'm in contact with a recruiter and am scheduled to take the ASVAB this summer! I'm pretty excited 🙂

  • Erinsaid

    @Jacqueline Carter – You're welcome! Best of luck to you – you have tons of time to study and prepare!