Military Training Instructors (MTIs)
Once you step off the bus after arrival, you’ll meet your Military Training Instructors. MTI’s for short. Sometimes also known simply as TI’s. You will soon learn that you will call them “sir” or “ma’am”.
Your flight will probably have a Training Instructor and an Assistant Training Instructor, at a minimum. Basic training is, in my opinion, 80% mental and 20% physical. MTI’s are masters of messing with your mind.
In the Air Force, during basic training, you’ll be required to address noncommissioned officers (NCOs) — especially MTI’s — as “Sir,” or “Ma’am.” There are not enough commissioned officers around basic training for you to practice on, so the MTI’s “allow” you to practice this etiquette on them. Once you leave basic training, your technical school instructors will be quick to inform you that, as they are NCOs, they “work for a living,” and you do not call them “sir” or “ma’am.” However, in basic training, you should call everyone who outranks you (which is pretty much everyone) as “sir” or “ma’am.”
Before leaving home, you’ll want to make sure you do not stand out in your personal appearance. When you meet your Training Instructor for the first time, trust me — you’ll not want him or her to remember you for your long hair, earrings (male), mustache, or pants that are four sizes too big. Ladies, while you will not be required to cut your hair for basic, you will be required to keep it off of your collar at all times when in uniform. I strongly recommend that you consider cutting your hair short enough so it doesn’t have to be put up.
The very first thing you will discover is that regardless of how tough you may be, your MTI is going to be the biggest (even if they are 4’11) , meanest thing you’ve met in your life. You’ll soon realize that your MTI does not like you, doesn’t like your friends, and absolutely hates your family. MTI’s do not use profanity (at least, they’re not supposed to), nor will they “put hands” on you. But, they are very, very good at yelling.
The second thing you’ll discover about basic training is that nobody in your flight can do anything at all right. Everything you do during the first couple of days will be wrong. You’ll stand wrong, you’ll walk wrong, you’ll talk wrong, you’ll look wrong, and possibly even breathe wrong. This is all part of the BMT process. Remember, I said BMT is 80% mental. Don’t let it get to you. If you are lucky, you will not be singled out by you MTI. If you are lucky enough not be to getting his/her attention, the last thing you will want to do is to smile, snicker or do something else as one of your fellow trainees are getting ripped into. MTI’s seem to be issued eyes in the back of their head and if you get caught doing something you are not supposed to, be prepared to feel the wrath.
Keep in mind that MTI’s hate the word, “yeah.” They also hate the word “nope,” and “un-uh.” They especially hate any sentence that doesn’t begin or end with the word, “sir,” or “ma’am.”
MTI’s are also notoriously hard-of-hearing. No matter how loud you say “Yes Sir!,” or “No Ma’am!” your MTI will probably tell you to speak up. Because of their hearing problem, the MTI will probably assume that you are similarly inflicted and will make a special effort to speak loudly — right next to your ear. Moving, or showing any evidence of discomfort is considered to be impolite and will be commented upon, in a loud manner, of course.
Before long, it will dawn on you that somewhere between the welcome center and your dormitory; someone stole your first name. You’ll probably never hear your first name throughout your entire time in basic. For your time there, everyone (MTI’s, flight mates, etc.) will be addressing you by your last name. If a MTI doesn’t know your last name, he/she will call you “trainee,” or “recruit.”
Your MTI will likely spend most of the time on the first evening you’re together, between meeting you, and lights out, by introducing you to some of his/her favorite MTI games.
With any luck, you’ll have arrived at BMT in the evening, and this “first day” won’t last very long. Depending on how much time the MTI has to kill before lights out, you may wind up learning some of these games. I will not go into all the details, but the games often involve doing something over and over again. You may be told to pick something up and then put it down, over and over. You may be told to go to the drill pad and once you are there, to go back to your dormitory, and then do it over and over again. The time may be used to educate you on basic training protocols like reporting statements. Whatever games are played, you will probably find it very frustrating, tiring and loud. Remember, BMT is 80% mental…
In all seriousness, the Air Force Military Training Instructors are highly trained and have, in my opinion, one of the most important jobs in the Air Force… transforming young men and women from civilians into airmen.
On a personal note, after I completed BMT, I went to the Security Police (now known as Security Forces) Technical School, which is also located on Lackland AFB. One day, a few weeks after I graduated, I was at a shoppette (like a small convenience store) on base and I happened to run into my former MTI. He remembered me when he saw me and came up to talk to me. Instinctively, I prepared myself to get yelled at for doing something wrong. I was very surprised when the first words to come out of his mouth, in a “normal” volume, was “How are you doing? How is tech school treating you?” The conversation was short, but it was refreshing to see the more human side of my MTI. Lesson learned… MTI’s are human and they take a great deal of pride in their work. The MTIs have a code; a code that they take very seriously:
Military Training Instructor Code
The training instructor hat that I wear is a symbol of honor, integrity, and excellence in military deportment.
My job is one of the most important in the Air Force and I will spare no effort to properly prepare young men and women for military duty.
I am dedicated to the principles of fairness, firmness, and honesty in my dealings with those entrusted to my charge.
I am pledged to strive for perfection and reject mediocrity both in my personal behavior and in the performance of those for whom I am responsible.
I am an Air Force Military Training Instructor.