MTIs shape tomorrow's Airmen

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- There's a commonality that unites the men and women who serve as the 737th Training Group's Military Training Instructors - service above self in transitioning the more than 35,000 civilians a year who enter Air Force Basic Military Training into Airmen.

It's an MTI's professionalism and commitment to Air Force core values in basic military training that molds those civilians into successful Airmen; role models to be followed and at the end of 8.5 weeks, often imitated.

Their effectiveness as leaders, teachers and mentors has changed lives and inspired Airmen for more than 60 years. Those attributes and mission objectives beyond just marching flights and teaching drill prompted the Air Force to quickly change from the original term in 1947 of "flight marchers" to "military training instructors."

It was the leadership, teaching, mentoring and recognition skills of an MTI that not only changed the life of Staff Sgt. Carmen DeLeon-Acosta but served as a catalyst to her Air Force career.

"My TI changed my life in a lot of ways, more personally I think," Sergeant DeLeon-Acosta said. "He was not only my mentor but someone in whose footsteps I wanted to follow."

Sergeant DeLeon-Acosta said her father left when she was a child, she had no relationship with her step-father or mother and was on her own at a young age.

It was her MTI who changed her perception that every man leaves their family and children.

"He changed that attitude in me," said Sergeant DeLeon-Acosta, now an MTI recruiter and a former instructor. "He showed me that not every man leaves (his family and children).

"I thought if my MTI could make me start talking to my father again and make my life better, I wanted to come back and do something similar.

And I have," she said.

"He changed my life. To this day we still talk (since entering BMT in February 2002). That's a long time to have someone in your life."

Master Sgt. Eric Gaona, MTI recruiting team flight chief, agreed that not only did his MTI change him, but his time as an instructor also served as a career springboard.

"I clearly remember the day when I came to basic training with no discipline and didn't know where I wanted to go in life," Sergeant Gaona said. "That man (now Chief Master Sgt. William Dambacher, his current supervisor) made a difference. He inspired me greatly."

Sergeant Gaona, an instructor from 1993-1997, returned to the MTI Corps in a supervisory role last April.

"I had an itch again to make a difference before I retire," he said, adding the intangibles of the special duty assignment had a huge impact on his career.

"There is no measure of how much you get from being an MTI," he said. "I came in 1993 as a senior airman. When I left and compared myself to other senior airmen, the difference was amazing.

"The (MTI) experience is invaluable. Supervisors single you out because you're more professional. Your career just takes off."

Staff Sgt. Scott Weimer said the skill set he developed as an MTI and MTI recruiter would be beneficial when he returns to the missile maintenance career field in April.

"It doesn't matter what rank you leave (the MTI Corps) as, you leave performing two stripes higher," Sergeant Weimer said. "The different people to deal with, the responsibility, time management, work ethic and counseling skills you develop as an MTI will make you an unparalleled asset to whatever job you're assigned."

For more information on the MTI Corps, contact the MTI recruiting office at DSN 312-473-1018.