Development Training Flight provides edge to Airmen

Development Training Flight trainees stretch on the new track in preparation for a physical fitness test on Feb. 8, 2013. The trainees here, attend one Unit Training Assembly per month to prepare for Basic Military Training by focusing on various areas, including, but not limited to, Air Force history, customs and courtesies, physical fitness and memory work. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan)

Development Training Flight trainees stretch on the new track in preparation for a physical fitness test on Feb. 8, 2013. The trainees here, attend one Unit Training Assembly per month to prepare for Basic Military Training by focusing on various areas, including, but not limited to, Air Force history, customs and courtesies, physical fitness and memory work. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Approximately 40 Airmen-trainees, most wearing sand-colored T-shirts, assemble in formation and stretch on the new running track here. The trainees are preparing to complete a 1.5-mile run as part of a four-year-old Air Force Reserve Command program called Development Training Flight.

The DTF program is designed to prepare trainees for Basic Military Training by focusing on several core topics, such as force development, the Air Force Creed, memory work, rank structure and Air Force history.

"The intent is to get them ready to go to Basic," said Master Sgt. Octavio Ortiz, program manager and 452nd Operational Support Squadron first sergeant, March ARB. "We want to help their transition from civilian life to become qualified Airmen."

Trainees participate in one Unit Training Assembly per month and attend on average of four DTF sessions before leaving for BMT, added Ortiz.

The average flight is composed of 40 to 50 trainees at any given time, and the daily routine includes morning briefings and drill, while physical training is saved for the afternoon, said Airman Justin Mora, Ophthalmology specialist, 752nd Medical Squadron, March ARB and DTF volunteer assistant.

He and other recent graduates of BMT provide their unique experience to set up trainees for success.

"I've been there and done that," said Mora. "I can tell them of my experience and this is what you should look out for and this is what you should prepare for."

An area of focus that the program aimed to address was the lack of trainees meeting basic physical fitness standards.

When March ARB initially participated in the program, in August 2010, the total cost absorbed by the AFRC, to replace a trainee who failed to graduate BMT, was approximately $4.6 million per year, or a 9.4 percent replacement rate, said Ortiz.

By 2012, and with the participation of 41 Reserve bases in the DFT program, that cost reduced to approximately $1 million per year, or a 4 percent replacement rate, said Ortiz. Further, since the inception of the program, March ARB has helped lead the AFRC with a handful of other bases in driving the change further.

"Since October of 2013, we have pushed more than 200 people. Of that amount only three washed out, and one (of those) was due to medical reasons," said Ortiz. "We have around a 1.6 percent replacement rate."

While acknowledging the significant progress seen, Ortiz stressed that drill and ceremony, Fit 2 Fight, and customs and courtesies were areas of further improvement for DFT members.

But even with growth opportunity, trainees communicated a confidence with their upcoming out-processing to BMT because of having participated in the DTF program.

"I think it's extremely helpful because we have the upper hand going into basic training and knowing what to expect," said Airman Basic Nicholas Garcia, a resident of Lake Elsinore, Calif., who is scheduled to attend BMT in April 2014.

Garcia and his twin brother, Airman Basic Matthew Garcia, also a resident of Lake Elsinore, and slated to attend BMT in April 2014, nods with approval at his brother's statement. Both quickly return to join formation near the track parking lot, on their way back to board a blue air force bus to their next DTF briefing of the day, and one step closer to BMT.