12/6/2012 – JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) — Airmen placed on hold in the 324th Training Squadron here are benefiting from a new program established earlier this year.
Typically, Airmen in a hold status have already completed basic training and are awaiting orders or assignment to technical school. There may be medical reasons for a hold status according to squadron leaders, but other factors may also result in assignment to the 324th TRS.
The new Holdover Airmen Development Program, focuses on personal and professional development; giving Airmen in a hold status options to further their careers.
The program has already been successful. Airmen interested in broadening their educational goals accumulated more than 1,000 credit hours to date by using their time to study for, and taking, College Level Entrance Program tests.
Several community service projects in and around base were completed by Airmen in the program. Holdover Airmen also organized a drill team with the aim to compete in the quarterly 37th Training Group drill down competition, and established two “rope programs”: the chaplain-based White Ropes and an Airman Leadership program of study.
“We understand when holdover Airmen come to the 324th TRS, this is the last place they want to be,” said Lt. Col. Paul Lips, 324th TRS commander. “We wanted them to utilize their time here to grow and develop as Airmen so they could reach their maximum potential.”
While staying at basic training for an extended period of time may seem to be a daunting proposition for most Airmen, the Squadron staff focusing on using the extra time productively.
“We wanted to develop a sense of belonging and worth for those Airmen,” said Master Sgt. Ricardo Chavez, a 433rd TRS master military training instructor assigned to the 324th TRS, who developed the program. “Our goal was to create an environment (similar to) technical training school, but with the restrictions of being in a BMT squadron, because they do live around trainees.”
In the dormitory, they follow the same guidelines as expected of a basic trainee, Chavez explained, adding that holdover Airmen do have exclusive areas in the dorm, including a day room, lounge, access to personal electronics, and computers for studying.
Since the program simulates a technical school environment, Airmen also earn transitional credits.
“We worked hard to get the transition program established so they would get credit for their time in holdover,” Lips said. “That’s been a huge morale boost for them and we’re getting positive feedback from the tech training schools about the Airmen who have been through our program.”
Senior Master Sgt. David Milne, 324th TRS superintendent, said the program has turned an obstacle into an opportunity for holdover Airmen assigned to the squadron.
“We needed to make them feel like they were Airmen,” Milne said. “They had already marched down the bomb run and graduated from basic training. That’s why we wanted this program to mirror tech training so when they arrived at their tech training squadron, they would be an asset.”
In addition to simulating a technical training environment, Chavez said two military training leaders; Master Sgt. Robert Thurman and Tech. Sgt. Joseph Green; mentor, guide and manage the holdover Airmen.
Green said their roles as MTLs help with the transition from the controlled environment of BMT to a technical-training atmosphere.
He said one charge is to develop the holdover Airmen, who also have weekly professional development briefings with senior leaders, into professional Airmen.
“We’ve instilled tech-training programs and empowered them to run (those) programs alongside NCOs,” Green said. “We get them out of a trainee mentality so they can start thinking like Airmen. They are very hard working and very motivated.”
Airman 1st Class Jenny Duenas was one of the longest-tenured Airmen in the program. An Air Force reserve recruit from Guam, Duenas had been on hold for medical reasons since graduating BMT nearly five months ago.
“I didn’t want to go home until I had tried everything I could to stay in the Air Force,” Duenas said.
She took advantage of her time in the holdover program to work her way through the leadership rope program, earning the top rank of “red rope.”
The leadership program includes the colors green, yellow and red ropes. Earning a red rope signifies Duenas is in a position of leadership for the holdover Airmen.
“I absolutely benefited from the program,” Duenas said. “It enhanced my leadership skills, and I feel like I helped a lot of Airmen who came through here.
“The program definitely makes Airmen better and I think they are more prepared on a professional level. A lot of Airmen I’ve heard from who transitioned from here to tech school are very grateful for they’re time here.”
Lips said the Airmen have taken it upon themselves to raise the standard.
“The motivation and excitement levels of the Airmen are through the roof,” he said. “The Airmen in the program have created a culture of excellence here, and now they bring those new holdover Airmen into that culture.”
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