Student flight preps new recruits

  • Published
  • By SrA Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 127th Public Affairs
When thinking of a birthday, cake, balloons, and parties may come to mind, but what about shouting, pushups, and anxiety? For Natasha Gieraltowski, who leaves for Basic Military Training (BMT) on Feb. 17, her 25th birthday, the latter is what she expects. After eight and a half weeks of arduous training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, Gieraltowski will attend intelligence specialist technical school at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas.

Gieraltowski, who enlisted in the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in August 2008, has been drilling with the 127th Student Flight since September. Student Flight prepares new recruits for basic military training from the time of enlistment until the time they leave for BMT. They drill as trainees -- their title throughout BMT -- during regular Unit Training Assemblies of the 127th Wing and are paid at whatever grade in which they enlisted (E-1 to E-3). Created in 2007, the Student Flight at Selfridge has helped mold fresh recruits into Airmen.

Trainees must show up at 7:30 a.m. for the weekend duty and are usually punished with pushups if they are late. They carry two Excellence/Discrepancy Reports, better known as 341s, forms they will also have in BMT. Each trainee must wear a canteen belted around his or her waist, another BMT regulation. Trainees have a regular schedule that begins with reciting the Airman's Creed then singing the Air Force Song. Next, they exercise by doing pushups and sit-ups or running, if weather permits. After marching to and from the dining facility for lunch, they spend their afternoons attending training sessions teaching them everything from first aid to alcohol awareness to proper wear of the uniforms they will receive at BMT. Occasionally, trainees will be detailed to assist other units at the base, such as setting up for change of command ceremonies.

Because of her participation in Student Flight, which is strongly suggested but not required, Gieraltowski said she feels more confident about BMT. "I have definitely seen improvement in my run time and pushups," Gieraltowski said. She has also memorized the Airman's Creed, Air Force Song, Air Force Core Values, and the rank structure. With this knowledge, Gieraltowski said she believes she will have an upper hand in BMT. She very well might: in 2008, Student Flight's first full year, 100 percent of 127th Wing Airmen graduated from BMT and three were honor graduates.

127th Mission Support Group and Student Flight Commander Lt. Col. Anne Dutcher said the program was created to properly coordinate with recruits, prepare them for training and keep them interested in serving. 

"Before starting Student Flight, we lost 25 percent of our recruits before they left for BMT," Dutcher said. "Our first year was phenomenal, and the program is a success." Dutcher said the Student Flight staff, consisting of 127th Wing personnel from various units, is making a "how to" book for the next group of trainers. The staff currently consists of Master Sgt. Michelle Steele, Staff Sgt. Gordon Starks, Staff Sgt. Ted Szenda, and Senior Airman Glenn Belcher. Airmen who have graduated from BMT but are awaiting further technical training also work in Student Flight.

With her boyfriend currently in BMT and her boyfriend's father serving as an intelligence chief in the Guard, Gieraltowski had some positive influences encouraging her to enlist. While working in an automotive factory and attending St. Clair Community College, Gieraltowski saw Michigan's unstable economy and rising college tuition costs, which led her to seek new opportunities at Selfridge.

She said leaving for BMT fills her with mixed emotions.

"My biggest fear is failing, but I'm excited to get in shape and work with this wing," Gieraltowski said. BMT has recently increased in toughness and intensity; many challenges await Gieraltowski and her Student Flight comrades. Happy birthday, Gieraltowski, and good luck!