D&TF prepares recruits for military service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tyler Bolken
  • 944th Fighter Wing
When a young man or woman opts to enlist in military service, they may face many questions. What will this mean for my life? Will I be able to handle this? Am I alone in this? How can I best prepare for one of the biggest commitments of my life?

In order to assist the young men and women in Arizona who enlist in the Air Force Reserve, in 2012, the 944th Fighter Wing implemented a training program for enlistees to commit themselves before shipping to Basic Military Training.

This program is called the Development and Training Flight. One of the first trainees back in 2013 was Tech. Sgt. Crystal Au of Mesa, Ariz. Coming full circle, Au now runs the program as the D&TF chief, which she has been doing since 2017.

“I am the trainees’ one stop shop,” said Au. “I check them into the program, train them before they ship, and handle all of their administrative needs until they return from training and officially check into their unit.”

Au said when she came through, there were only about eight trainees including herself. It has now grown to more than 40.

In addition, to being their primary trainer until they ship to BMT, Au is basically their liaison throughout their entire training process, she explained.

Depending on an enlistee’s job and school availability, the average enlistee spends 7 to 8 months in the D&TF, said Au. During this time they focus on foundational Air Force knowledge, basic drill movements, rank structure, customs and courtesies, and what it means to be an Airman.

“There used to be a high turnover rate due to delayed times waiting for basic military training or technical training school, new enlistees would opt to not stick with it,” said Au.

The enlistees are paid for this training, which is one weekend a month, and it gets them in the rhythm of what their Air Force Reserve career will require of them.

“It is good for them to find this out well before the Air Force has invested even more in sending them to their basic and technical training,” said Au.

With the growth of the program over the years, other Airman have jumped in to assist Au.

“I knew a couple of the people in the program so I came out one weekend to see what it was about,” said Staff Sgt. Devante Williams, 56th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance supply.

Williams is active duty Air Force and volunteers his time during unit training assembly weekends to help out.

Williams said he noticed Au was basically running the program by herself and he decided to ask her if he could help out.

“I like to be able to help mentor these trainees, teach them about the Air Force, and really just have fun,” said Williams.

Au said she also has former military training instructors come out and assist some weekends.

“That really gives them a hands on experience with what they will see at BMT,” said Au. “It is usually an eye opener.”

Having been in this position for a couple of years now, Au said her favorite part is seeing the trainees come back from their training as brand new Airmen.

“They have their military haircuts, their uniform, they are talking a little bit different, and walking a little bit different,” said Au. “That is the most rewarding part of this role for me.”