Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, will be reduced by one week to a 7 1/2-week curriculum while leaders adjust the program amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, officials announced Tuesday.
The move will aid in protecting new recruits, as well as "Military Training Instructors, other active-duty members, civilians and contractors that support the mission," Air Education and Training Command (AETC) said in a news release.
Officials are also working to reschedule recruit accessions into BMT to better filter trainees through the pipeline at a time when increased social distancing is a necessity, according to the release.
Last month, AETC announced it had suspended family-attended graduation events to keep visitors off base. Since then, graduations have been live-streamed on video and social media pages.
Related: Army Will Stop Taking New Recruits at Basic Training for 2 Weeks
Officials announced the latest updated graduation schedule. Exact times for the graduation ceremonies will be posted the week of, on the USAF Basic Military Training Facebook page:
- April 9: Flights 257 through 286
- April 16: From 320th Training Squadron (TRS), Flights 287 through 302
- April 23: From 323rd TRS, Flights 303 through 318
- April 30: From 331st TRS, Flights 333 through 348
- May 7: From 324th TRS, Flights 349 through 362
- May 14: From 737 Training Support Squadron, Flights 363 through 376
The change follows the decision of BMT leadership to begin using Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, as an alternate site for basic training.
The "proof of concept" trial began Tuesday, with 60 new recruits sent to Keesler, while 400 remain at Lackland, AETC spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez recently told Military.com
Overall class sizes have been whittled down to 460 due to social distancing requirements; previously, groups of 650 to 800 prospective airmen would arrive at Lackland each week.
By using Keesler, instructors and leaders have eliminated "the secondary need to transport BMT graduates to a follow-on technical training location while meeting the COVID-19 requirements," Gonzalez said.
"Keesler is home to the 81st Training Wing, where members train, develop and inspire premier warfighters in training for more than 160 career field specialty training courses, in addition to eight operating locations in the continental United States," she said.
A trainee slated for those fields will already be in place, she explained. "By limiting the need to ship a trainee from BMT to technical training, we are limiting the possible exposure to COVID-19."
AETC said the new process will remain in place for the next 180 days, but it's not intended to be a long-term option.
"We will use Keesler for as long as the current global pandemic demands that we do so or until we receive direction from the Department of the Air Force," Gonzalez said in an email.
The change resets BMT to its length a few years ago. In 2018, BMT was expanded to add an extra week to the curriculum in an effort to align more closely with then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' heightened focus on readiness and lethality, and to mentor the next generation of leaders.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.
Read more: Acting Navy Secretary Offers to Resign Amid Growing Backlash: Reports