One of my regular BMT readers asked me the other day, “In between all of the yelling and demanding, do they actually teach/show you how to do all this stuff in BMT?” Fear not, readers! I may paint a dismal picture some days, but as I told this reader, they actually do want you to succeed! With everything that I’ve been writing lately, apparently I’m due for a more positive post. It’s time to let you all in on some secrets that won’t become clear to you until the end of BMT, if at all. You know, the stuff the MTIs don’t want you to know…
Now, if you’re a permanent party Airman already, you may be wondering why I’m letting all of these outsiders in on the goods. Ultimately, everyone is going to learn the hard way. Everyone will tell you that BMT is a “mind game,” that they’re trying to “break you down to build you back up,” blah, blah, blah. I’m not knocking it, it’s true. You may know that going into BMT, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to experience it and live under that stress. I can tell you everything there is to know about BMT, but taking and applying that knowledge is up to you and a host of other factors that’ll affect you (stress, fatigue, hunger, hydration, etc).
Let’s get to the secrets already, so you can feel better about this adventure you’re undertaking…
1. Your MTI likes you. Mhmm. They know who you are, too. It may take them a week to get your name straightened out, but they know who you are and they like you. When your MTI is meeting with your student leaders, they’ll discuss trainees and while your MTI may not praise you to your face, he/she is praising you when your name comes up. If you’re trying your hardest, volunteering, and always working with a sense of urgency, your MTI knows it. They just won’t let you know that you’re doing well, because they want you to constantly be questioning your performance and striving to do better. The only exception to this rule is if you’re constantly being written up, receiving 341s, question their authority, etc. Then your MTI probably doesn’t like you, because you’re a dirt bag.
2. Your MTI cares about your emotional well-being. They may ride you, blast you, and constantly make an example of you, but if you’re having a genuine emotional issue, they want to hear about it and consult with you. If it’s something that’s very personal in nature, they can do a closed-door meeting in the flight office, as long as your DC or another trainee is present. As intimidating as it is to report to an office and ask to speak with your MTI when you’re already an emotional wreck, please do it. If you’re struggling with something that your MTI needs to be aware of – reach out to him/her. If you or another trainee you know of is contemplating suicide, tell your MTI (or any MTI) immediately. I say this because it happens; stress affects people differently. Your MTI will lose the “attitude” if you need to have a heart-to-heart, because your emotional well-being matters.
3. Don’t sweat the 341s. The MTIs will try to intimidate you with threats of pulling your 341, and some may actually do it. Signing it may feel official too, and you might think you’re in for it at that point. Ultimately, until your MTI inputs the comment into the computer, reads it back to you, has you key in a pin number, has a witness key in a pin number, it’s not official. It’s not being counted against you until it’s in the computer. If you get a 341 pulled by another MTI, notify yours as soon as you can. Your MTI will appreciate if you’re straightforward with him/her, and can admit your own fault. You may find that because of this honesty and integrity, they don’t process that 341 in the computer, especially if it was a minor infraction.
4. Recycling is a Last Resort. They’re going to threatened it up and down. They’re going to talk about the “time machine” and you going back to an earlier WOT, for failing to progress in your training or for disciplinary reasons. You’ll live in fear of being recycled, up until the very end. News flash – they don’t want to recycle you any more than you want to be recycled. We had one trainee that was recycled, and our MTI agonized over it. I got the impression that he had never recycled anyone before. Think from a business standpoint for a minute – if you have a trainee that’s being held back, it represents a greater financial burden on the Air Force, since they’re having to feed and lodge you for that added time. You’re potentially taking up the space of another trainee, and emptying a slot at tech school. When it finally came down to it, the section supervisor called me and my entire student leader team into his office. Suddenly, the tune changed from this trainee failing to demonstrate progress in her training to us failing her as a leadership team. We were made to feel guilty for not being better wingmen. They want you to succeed, they don’t want you to fail. While some recycled trainees deserve it, some MTIs see recycling as a reflection of their own failure. They’ve failed to educate the trainees entrusted to them. A healthy fear of recycling is good, but don’t let it rule your BMT experience. If I leave you with one message from this post it’s that you can do this. If you’re motivated, if you’re driven, and if you’re committed to the process, you will become an Airman. You never forget your MTI for a reason. Being an MTI is like being a teacher – the paychecks don’t justify the long hours. That’s not why they do it. MTIs assume that role because they want to make a difference. They want to improve the quality of Airmen coming into the Air Force. Your MTI wants you to succeed. It’s not always going to seem like they’re on your team, but they are. Put your faith in the process, give it your all, and you’ll come out on top.