‘Blue Ropes’ leave an impression on new Airmen|
Posted 8/21/2012 Updated 8/21/2012
by Staff Sergeant Rachelle Elsea
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/21/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A U.S. Air Force Military Training Leader is a noncommissioned officer with the specific duty of transitioning non-prior service Airmen into the military lifestyle.
The MTLs main responsibility is to continue training Airmen, in addition to what they have already learned in Basic Military Training. Within approximately 42 technical schools Air Force-wide, are 345 MTL's, two of which are housed right here at Detachment 204.
Staff Sgt. Ronald Rowe, native of Mobile, Ala., and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Wade, native of Franklin, N.C., are solely responsible for the technical students who come to Tyndall to complete their training in the F-22 Raptor crew chief career field. Before coming to Tyndall, the students spend six months at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
Their five weeks spent at Tyndall are the culmination of their training.
For Sergeant Rowe, his decision to take on this four year special duty assignment came from his desire to help young Airmen succeed.
"I have always had a passion for kids," said Sergeant Rowe, who originally served as an aerial porter. "With the MTL job, it was an opportunity to get hands-on with the new Airmen coming into the Air Force. Being in the Air Force and seeing the lack of discipline from young Airmen, I knew I wanted to help."
Sergeant Wade's interests were similar.
"This job has given me an invaluable experience of being a supervisor to first-term Airmen," said Sergeant Wade, a former transportation Airman. "I really wanted to see what the training was like on this side. You always want to make things better. So, I wanted to get here, get to know these Airmen and hopefully, put out a good product for the Air Force."
As an MTL, it's not a nine-to-five job.
"We are here at 5:30 a.m., when their physical training starts, and we don't leave until around 6 p.m., sometimes later," said Sergeant Wade. "It just depends on what issues Airman have throughout the day."
Sergeant Rowe said while the students is at school, they handle the administrative side of their work.
"We work sponsor issues for them, we work work order issues, we work financial issues, we work travel management office issues, we work any personal issues that are going on at home, and we work on getting them involved with the right agencies to make them successful for whatever they are trying to do," said Sergeant Rowe.
Once the students return from school at the end of the day, the MTLs make it a number one priority to check in with them.
"We begin our day with the students and we end our day with the students," said Sergeant Rowe. "In the afternoon we talk with them about their day, asking them how everything went, and if they had any issues. There is always an open invitation to our office for any conversations about personal problems."
This policy allows the students to respect the MTL as leaders and as people.
"You can tell they are willing to be there for you," said Airman 1st Class Nick Mendoza, native of El Paso, Texas. "They are very open and not hard to approach. You can really tell that they care about you."
Sergeant Wade said the best part of the job is watching their transition.
"When they first get here they are 'green' with working with the jets," said Sergeant Wade. "You get to see that look of awe on their face, watching an F-22 fly around for the first time. Then, they graduate and you get to see it transfer to pride because they were able to accomplish what they had set out to do."
For Sergeant Rowe, it is hearing about how the Airmen carry themselves at their first assignment.
"Just last week we had a conversation with a base, where some of our graduated Airmen went, and they were telling us that they were doing very well," said Sergeant Rowe. "There was even an Airman who had made Senior Airman Below-the-Zone, an early promotion to E-4."
But, the job has its ups and downs.
"Our job isn't all smiles," said Sergeant Rowe. "There are students that have to receive disciplinary actions. We had one student who was on the verge of getting kicked-out. We sat him down a lot and talked with him and he had a complete turnaround."
Getting the students on the same page, can also prove challenging.
"The hardest part of this job is being able to talk with each Airman and get them on that path that you want them to go on," said Sergeant Wade. "They all have different goals that they want to reach in the Air Force and trying to get them to understand that the Air Force is bigger than just them can be some of the hardest stuff that we have to deal with."
The detachment is the only enlisted technical school on Tyndall, which proves to be an advantage for the MTLs and students.
"Tyndall has been a really great host for us," said Sergeant Wade. "All the organizations we have had to visit, work really well with us. They help us get these Airmen what they need even though they are not officially stationed here. They treat the Airman as one of their own."
With permanent party being here, they are a lot more helpful because they understand that this is training and they want to put forth that best face for the Airman too, he added.
It also helps for the acclimation from training to the operational Air Force.
"I think it is better for the Airmen as well," said Sergeant Rowe. "I went to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for my technical school and we were surrounded by nothing but other technical schools. When we got to our first base, it was nothing like our training base. Whereas, here, they are pretty much living how they will be at their base. It's a great transition."
Overall, the job of an MTL is demanding and rewarding, but does not go unnoticed.
"I couldn't do their job for four years," said Airman 1st Class Zachary Black, a Det. 204 student. "They definitely make a lot of sacrifices and that is something I really admire them for."