RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Every enlisted member in the Air Force has had an encounter -- or two -- with a military training instructor during his or her career.
This elite group is recognized by the neatly pressed, nearly flawless uniforms they wear; the confidence heard in their voices when they speak; and primarily the "Smoky the Bear" hats -- the Air Force's navy blue campaign hats.
Perhaps it's the hat, but whatever it is, MTIs have a way of capturing a member's attention and earning their respect almost immediately.
Staff Sgt. Beth Peura, a MTI with the 331st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, entered the Air Force in 1985 because she wanted to serve her country. She has since added to her sense of service a desire to influence the Air Force from its very foundation. "This was something I always wanted to do," said Peura. "I started as a medical service specialist at places like Little Rock AFB, Ark., and Wilford Hall Medical Center, but I wanted to help instruct the new airmen entering the Air Force."
Tech. Sgt. Ken Williams, also a MTI with the 331st, entered the Air Force in 1984 for different reasons. He said he started college after graduation, but lacked the maturity he needed. "My sister was in the Air Force," said Williams. "I was familiar with the Air Force through her, so I came in to get the discipline I wanted. I worked inventory for the supply squadron at Dyess AFB, Texas, but I wanted a challenge, and being a MTI provided it."
All MTI candidates must complete a thorough 14-week MTI school, which contains approximately 11 weeks on-the-job training and three weeks of academic instruction before supervising flights. MTIs are taught counseling techniques, how to instruct marching drill, dormitory standards, proper customs and courtesies, and appearance expected of Air Force people, and how to apply core values.
"What we learned in the school was important," said Peura. "But, what we've learned in the squadron in invaluable. A lot of what you learn comes from doing. Your first flight is always a learning experience."
Williams said one key to being a successful MTI is not having a hardened personality. Although respect for authority is a main objective, MTIs must be flexible in adapting to many different situations that occur during the early days of training.
"Airmen will make mistakes when they arrive because they're nervous," said Williams. "MTIs let them make the first mistake, then take the necessary steps to train them in the tasks required for completion of basic training."
"By the end of their six weeks, the trainees are just starting to figure out where they fit into the mission. Generally, Air Force recruits are getting smarter and more mature all the time," said Peura.
The most important thing, according to Williams, when considering MTI duty as a job for the next four years is attitude. "You have to have confidence, initiative, maturity and discipline," Williams said. "You have to know the job needs to get done, no matter how much time it takes."
"You have to be the cream of the crop," added Peura.
"MTI duty reaps solid rewards for the strongly independent, career minded and highly motivated professional NCO who wants to have a hand in molding tomorrow's Air Force," said Chief Master Sgt. Tony Spaulding, 737th Training Group's basic military training superintendent.
"We expect excellence in appearance, training, behavior and overall attitude," the chief said. "But we don't just throw you to the lions -- we provide you with the tools -- excellent training and guidance throughout your tour. Within a very short time, you'll find yourself marching tall and proud as you associate with one of the most elite groups of people in our force -- the MTI corps."
Training instructors receive up to $220 per month in special duty assignment pay. They get additional cash clothing allowances to upgrade uniforms and free laundry and dry cleaning services.
Airmen in the ranks of senior airman through master sergeant with less than 16 years total active service and two years time on station may apply through their military personnel flight. For more information on MTI duty, contact Spaulding at DSN 473-2782 or Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gill, AETC Special Duty Assignments Section, at DSN 487-6614.
(Courtesy of AETC News Service. Mr. Wayne Bryant, Lackland Public Affairs, contributed to this report.)