SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – COVID-19 can’t stop the military. It can try, but national security is 24/7 and basic military training, along with technical training at Sheppard AFB and other training installations, continues on its mission to provide trained Airmen to protect and defend the country.
On March 27, 2020, around 200 newly graduated BMT Airmen arrived from Lackland AFB, Texas, to Sheppard by plane for their technical training.
“Our mission within Air Education and Training Command has been deemed mission essential,” said Col. Kenyon Bell, 82nd Training Wing commander. “We are very proud of the fact that combat capability starts here.”
Due to COVID-19, AETC opted to transport the graduates by plane instead of the traditional bus ride to Sheppard. The reasoning behind the new mode of transportation was to reduce the amount of stops taken during the trip, thus reducing the chances to come into contact with COVID-19.
“Normally, they would have bus transport them from Lackland,” said Lt. Col. Greg Schulke, 80th Operations Support Squadron director of operations. “It’s usually six hours on the bus and the bus will have to stop for gas and bathroom breaks. Now we’re doing an airlift to mitigate exposure for COVID-19.”
Additional precautions have been taken at both Lackland and Sheppard to account for force health protection. For example once transported to Sheppard, each Airman was screened by a team from the 82nd Medical Group before being brought to their new squadrons.
Sheppard receives almost half of all BMT graduates for technical training, so its mission cannot be halted too much by the COVID-19 disease.
“The basic military training pipeline continues and we receive and graduate 44% of that pipeline on an annual basis,” Bell said. “So what we do here at Sheppard AFB is essential to the nation’s defense. BMT graduates will continue to come here for technical training and we’re still training folks and pushing them on to their follow-on training and follow-on bases.”
With COVID-19 still evolving and the Department of Defense monitoring for further developments, Sheppard officials will continue to make decisions to protect its military community and continue to successfully accomplish the mission of creating mission-ready Airmen for the Air Force.