AF Basic Military Training – Did you know?

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, has been described as "The Gateway to the Air Force" since November 1942 (prior to the inception of the U.S. AF in 1947), when the first group of enlisted Air Corps personnel trained there.

Only when manpower requirements increased during the Berlin Airlift and during the Korean and Vietnam Wars did the AF find it necessary to conduct Basic Military Training elsewhere.

The length of the BMT program has bounced everywhere from about two days to about 13 weeks based on world events and mission requirements, with the first 20 years of its existence seeing the most flux.

During the Korean War buildup in 1950, BMT dropped from four to two weeks. Very little training was going on except for processing and uniform issue. The entire mathematics portion was deleted.

Then in January and February 1951, the two-week program was reduced to processing alone -- a matter of days. Airmen had to make up their training at follow-on locations. By March of that year, it shot back up to eight weeks. BMT went to six weeks in 1964 and changed again to eight weeks in 2008.

As the length of BMT fluxed, so did the nature of the world. For many of the Airmen who joined after Vietnam and before Desert Storm, deployments were unheard of unless they were in an ops career field. But since Desert Storm and especially since 9/11, that culture has changed. The Airmen who sign up today understand they will deploy and they will more than likely learn about jobs that were previously considered responsibilities of the U.S. Army.

Dating back to 1942, BMT for enlisted Airmen has been conducted at the following locations at one time or another:
- Lackland AFB, Texas (1942 – Present)
- Sheppard AFB, Texas (1950 – 1952)
o Provided recruit training from Aug. 26, 1950, during the Korean War
- Sampson AFB, New York (1950 – 1956)
o Provided additional recruit training until shortly after the Korean War ended
- Parks AFB, California (August 1950 – 1957)
o Provided additional recruit training until shortly after the Korean War ended
- Keesler Field, Mississippi (1955 – 1964)
o Training occurred at Keesler due to the inception of a two-phase BMT program that had Airmen spend the first six weeks at Lackland and finish up BMT at their follow-on tech training site
- Amarillo AFB, Texas (1966 – 1968)
o Crowded conditions and a meningitis outbreak caused Lackland to shift some basic trainees here between Feb. 17, 1966 – Dec. 11, 1968
As well as at some overseas locations:
- Sonthofen AB, Germany (1951 – 1952)
o 187 men trained at Sonthofen, Germany
o Burg Sonthofen had originally been constructed as a school known as the Adolf Hitler Schule to train youthful candidates for positions of leadership within the Nazi Party
- RAF Sealand, Wales, UK (1952 – 1953)
o A total of 278 recruits passed through RAF Sealand
- Panama (Early 1950s; approx. 1950 – 1951)
o Most trainees were dependents of “Canal Zone” American Citizens
- Philippines (Early 1950s; approx. 1953)
o BMT was conducted for only three-five classes and most trainees were native residents of the Philippines

Having come up in the U.S. AF under the premise that Lackland AFB is and always has been the gateway to USAF BMT operations, I never pondered that BMT may have been conducted elsewhere. That all changed and I became quite curious after reading a few social media posts and published articles that referenced BMT being conducted elsewhere.

After researching the material for this article, I reached out to many fellow chiefs (both active and retired) and found most were under the same assumption as I was; that Lackland AFB was the end all, be all of where USAF BMT had been conducted. That being the case, I felt it important to share the information I gleaned through a little research, in order to help educate others on an additional part of their U.S. AF heritage that is often not referenced.