Air Force Touts Success of Program Allowing Recruits to Meet Drill Instructors Before Shipping Out to Boot Camp

U.S. Air Force military training instructor speaks to new Air Force trainees
U.S. Air Force military training instructor provides a correction to a group of new Air Force trainees on proper drill movements at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Mar. 7, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Brian Boisvert)

The Air Force says a program allowing recruits to connect online with a drill instructor before arriving at basic military training is now being used across the country and has reduced the number of dropouts as the service faces a recruiting crisis.

The "Ask an MTI" -- or military training instructor -- program allows recruits, along with their recruiters, to connect with the airmen leading boot camp so they can ask questions about what lies ahead for them, ranging from what food is served to how they should physically prepare before shipping out, according to the service.

"The applicants feel more at ease and prepared," Tech. Sgt. Lacie Tadych, an enlisted accessions recruiter who recruits out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, said in an Air Force press release. "There has also been quite a bit of feedback from the recruiters regarding how much they are learning as well."

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The Ask an MTI program started out in 2021 as a grassroots effort, but within the last few months it has grown to "all 25 recruiting squadrons across the country," according to the Air Force.

The video calls begin with a 30-minute window where recruiters can be briefed on the latest updates and changes to boot camp. Then, recruits join the call for an hour to ask questions about what basic military training has in store for them.

"They benefit from hearing the answers to questions submitted by other recruits on topics they didn't even think to ask about," Tech. Sgt. Sarah Bento, a military training instructor and the 737th Training Group chief of protocol who manages the program, said in the press release.

The calls take place 25 times per quarter, once for each enlisted recruiting squadron, the press release said. On average, roughly five recruits join for each call.

Tadych, the 369th Recruiting Group's lead for the program, said in the press release that there has been a drop in the Delayed Entry Program discharge rate since they've been hosting the calls.

"They are in the DEP for a much longer period, and these calls have kept them motivated and excited," Tadych said.

The calls are also useful for informing recruiters and new recruits about changes to basic military training, which have been occurring for the past year.

This month, the service reorganized many of the existing classes that teach airmen and Guardians the basics of physical fitness, training and wellness throughout the seven and a half weeks of boot camp and instead began front-loading the first five days -- called "zero week" -- with that information.

Last year, the Air Force announced that it was getting rid of BEAST Week, the four-day deployed war exercise that had been a staple of the service's boot camp for the previous 16 years.

It was replaced by a new exercise called PACER FORGE, a lengthy acronym that stands for the Primary Agile Combat Employment Range, Forward Operations Readiness Generation Exercise.

The Ask an MTI program's growth comes as the Department of the Air Force works to make sure recruits can make it through basic military training amid one of the toughest recruiting environments in decades.

In fiscal 2023, which ended last month, the service missed its enlisted active-duty recruiting goals for the first time since 1999, getting only 24,100 of the enlisted airmen of the 26,877 it needed.

"We are cautiously optimistic, though, as we head into FY24," Leslie Brown, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Recruiting Service, told last month. "We've seen some positive trends, such as the positive growth of our DEP [delayed-entry program], which is double what it was this time last year.

"It's still lower than we want it to be, but we are continuing to see increases," she said.

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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