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Air Force officials begin extended Basic Military Training

A basic trainee provides defensive cover during the tactical assault course Oct. 29 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The tactical assault course tests their defensive tactics and communication skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

A basic trainee provides defensive cover during the tactical assault course Oct. 29 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The tactical assault course tests their defensive tactics and communication skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- The first group of Air Force recruits to experience expanded Basic Military Training arrived Nov. 4 to Lackland Air Force Base.

These new recruits are the first to face the challenge of an additional 14 days of training from 6.5 to 8.5 weeks.

The added time will be used to enhance and reinforce BMT's current war skills training.

"I'm excited about it," said Col. Edward Westermann, the 737th Training Group commander. "I think our (military training instructors) are excited about it. We get to be a part of that historic transformation. This is something that 20 years from now, when we're no longer in uniform, we can talk about how we played a part in that change at BMT."

The extension of BMT was approved by the Air Force in early 2006, and replaces a program that has been in place since the 1960s. Adding two weeks was a consideration in the mid-1970s but was set aside due to funding issues.

"It will enhance the capabilities of these young men and women that we are sending into the Air Force," Colonel Westermann said. "The important thing is we know the current strategic environment that we're in, and we know the challenges these young men and women are going to face over the course of their career. We are going to better prepare them to meet the challenges of the future."

The physical facility additions, such as the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training course at the Lackland Training Annex, are not the only changes to occur. Class time was added, instructors were retrained and courses such as CPR training have been weaved into the 8.5-week schedule.

"This is a long-term investment that the Air Force is making," the group commander said. "It is incumbent upon us as an organization to validate that investment."

The expanded training comes at a time when the Air Force is looking to grow. As many as 4,000 more recruits are expected to pass through Lackland's gates during fiscal 2009, increasing the yearly average to 39,000 recruits.

"The Air Force Recruiting Service foresees no problems at all in meeting the recruiting goal," Colonel Westermann said. "With the enhanced warrior skills, this is why young men and women want to join the military today. We are prepared to execute for that increase. We're ready to go."