Released: 23 Sep 1998
Tech. Sgt. Janice Allen shows Officer Trainee Allison Black how to properly handle a ceremonial sabre during a graduation parade practice. (Photo by 1st Lt. Roger Burdette)
by 1st Lt. Roger Burdette
Air University Public Affairs
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- Tech. Sgt. Janice Allen has made grown people cry. She's also redirected wayward youth to paths of success and responsibility -- and made parents smile.
Thirteen of the 15 years Allen has worn Air Force blue, she's been a military training instructor: that imposing figure with the Smokey the Bear hat who greets new recruits -- usually like a tornado with an attitude -- when they arrive for Air Force basic training.
In 13 years, she's racked up a lot of honors, including her most recent: Allen has been named the Air Force Military Training Instructor of the Year.
This is the first time in the award's long history that an Officer Training School MTI -- not a basic training MTI -- has won, a spokeswoman at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, confirmed. But, Allen has done both.
Allen, 37, has also accumulated a lot of stories. "There's a million of them," the Dayton, Ohio, native said.
She remembers her basic training MTI: Staff Sgt. Woods. "I don't know her first name, because she never let us know. She was too awesome for us to even think about calling her by her first name," Allen said. "Her uniform was crisp. She was direct and to the point. She was on top of it all the time."
The MTI persona appealed to Allen. "I was very motivated by my TI, and I kept thinking, 'I'd like to do that.'"
She served as an Air Force carpenter for two years before applying for TI duty.
Early in her TI career, Allen faced a formidable challenge in a rebellious, 17-year -old "street urchin," as she called her. "Her parents had kicked her out because she was uncontrollable. She was horrible."
Facing a choice between living on the street or entering the military, the teen chose the Air Force.
Even though the new recruit removed herself from "the street," she brought a turf-war mentality with her to basic training. Within the first week, she formed and led a small band of women in her dorm. "She was just a little bitty thing, but she was definitely in charge," Allen recalled.
A few times, the group used violence to sway other women. Once, the defiant trainee created a weapon by inserting an orange into a sock; she used it to assault a woman who took too long in the shower.
Allen placed the teen in correctional custody for the weekend. "Basic training is hard, but correctional custody totally breaks you," Allen said. "You have to ask permission to go to the bathroom, to open the stall door, to sit -- everything."
By Monday morning, "She was very humble and very ready to train," Allen said.
But that's not all. "She ended up being my honor grad," Allen said. "Her parents took her back into their lives. They continue writing me to this day."
Today, the former "street urchin" is a technical sergeant working on a flight line. "She is a go-getter. I'm really proud of her," Allen said.
After nine years of TI duty at enlisted basic training, Allen moved to Officer Training School four years ago. She's one of five MTIs currently at OTS.
A few of her former basic trainees have had the "pleasure" of Allen's presence again, as officer trainees.
Allen recalled one in particular. When the officer trainee first arrived at OTS, she spotted Allen from a distance. In basic training, Allen had "recycled" the woman during the last week of training, forcing her to repeat part of basic training.
Facing Allen again was, apparently, a daunting prospect. "She said she sat in her car for a couple of hours and cried, saying, 'Oh God, what have I done to deserve this?'" said Allen.
The woman made it through Officer Training School successfully - this time without being recycled. "She'll be an awesome lieutenant," Allen said.
According to Allen's supervisor, Allen's success goes beyond her daily duties. "One of the first things I knew about Sergeant Allen is that she had so much energy and drive to do not only her job, but to always go above and beyond that," said Capt. Carrie Bausano. "Whether it's helping another squadron to make a process better, or coming in on weekends to help students prepare for a drill performance rating, she's really getting out there and impacting a lot of folks."
Allen also frequently leads community efforts. For example, she is credited with leading an effort to renovate a Montgomery boys and girls club, a project in which she acquired $40,000 worth of donated materials. She also tutored students with learning disabilities.
Allen and her fellow MTIs use their leadership skills to teach a new generation of Air Force leaders at OTS. "Our job here is not just to instill discipline like we do at Lackland. Our job here is to guide them into leadership roles rather than followership roles."
After 13 years as a military training instructor, and having had hundreds of new Air Force members pass under her shadow, Allen said that she's found her niche. "I love being an MTI. Some people are made for it, and I'm one of those people." (Courtesy of AETC News Service)