Phase program gets new changes

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Air Education and Training Command put into effect its new changes to the phase program at the beginning of this year. The new changes are designed to allow Air Force technical school students to enjoy more freedom and responsibility, but unlike other Airmen across the command, student Airmen from the 17th Training Group will have the opportunity to take advantage of another phase change unique to Goodfellow.

"The recent changes only affected the actual phases. It does, however, allow us to introduce a new concept into the mix we in the 17th Training Wing refer to as "Phase Graduation," Master Sgt. Jose Greene, 17th Training Group superintendent of military training said.

"The phase program is designed to be a tool to help new Airmen transition to the Air Force way of life," Master Sgt. Jose Greene added.

The old program consisted of four phases in which non-prior service Airmen were gradually awarded more privileges like wearing civilian clothes, operating their own private vehicle and traveling off base as they positively progressed through their training in tech school.

For 17 TRG Airmen, the new version of the phase program changed from four phases to three, allowing Airmen to gain more privileges and responsibilities much earlier.

For example, Airmen would routinely reach the highest level of the phase program, Phase 4, at 91 days. They now have the opportunity to enter their final phase 36 days after beginning technical training.

More than 2,500 NPS Airmen from the 17 TRG will be affected by new phase changes.

"Most of the program changes have little impact on the majority of the student population. Other than the aforementioned earlier privileges and responsibilities, "Phase Graduation" will be the biggest change to the program," said Master Sgt. Greene.

"Phase Graduation" will have the largest impact on the 311th Training Squadron, one of the training groups geographically separated unit at Presidio of Monterey, Calif., where more than half of their 1,500 plus population may be eligible to be removed from the phase program. Here at Goodfellow only about 130 or so Airmen will become phase graduates initially.

The 17 TRG Command Section has been heavily involved in this process since the onset.
The changes (including graduation) to the phase program were a constant topic of discussion at regular staff meetings, phase-specific meetings and conferences which involved GSU commanders and/or MTLs (military training leaders).

Students were also initially involved in the process before the changes ever came down from AETC.

"My office conducted a survey of over 1,000 NPS Airmen to get a feel for how they would like to see the program change and how they felt about the idea of phase graduation," added Master Sgt. Greene.

The 17 TRG is responsible for some of the longest technical training schools in AETC and many of our NPS Airmen were in the phase program for over two years. We (17 TRG) developed a program to help advance that transition for some of the students attending these longer tech schools.

During a visit by Maj. Gen. Michael Gould, 2nd Air Force commander, in May 2006, the 17 TRG had the opportunity to share their ideas on the phase program with him.

"The input from that meeting and data from some of the other training groups prompted the general to call for a 2 AF Phase Summit at Keesler Air Force Base in August, 2006. Col. Scott George, the 17 TRG commander, sold the idea of phase graduation to the other group commanders, and AETC 2nd AF decided that they'd let us try it. Although the change to the phase program offers phase graduation to every training wing, we are currently the only unit who has implemented it," said Master Sgt. Greene.

When asked if the 17 TRG had any concerns about giving NPS Airmen too much freedom too soon, and what if any actions would the unit's take in disciplining Airmen found violating the new program, Master Sgt. Greene responded with the following.

"The job of an MTL is to ensure that Airmen are sent out ready for what today's Air Force has in store for them. This includes rapid deployment, accomplishing more with less, and having more responsibility sooner in their careers.

Discipline and corrective actions are geared with that focus in mind. Therefore, the more responsibility a young, new Airman has, the more crucial it is for him or her to understand the importance of that responsibility.

Airmen in the phase program will be handled much in the same manner as they always have. Phase Graduation, on the other hand, now gives MTLs the opportunity to see how Airmen will react in an environment similar to their first duty station. Therefore, any discipline or corrective action may take on similarities to that of a permanent party Airman.
"Let me reemphasize, I do not expect to see an increase in disciplinary issues among our phase graduates because they would not have reached the phase-graduate level if they had disciplinary problems," he added.

While some people may have some concerns about giving Airmen more freedom and privileges sooner than before, Airmen seem to be embracing the changes.

"I like the new changes to the phase program. I like the fact of knowing that I will have the chance to earn more privileges and enjoy things like going off base with friends and having extended curfew hours," said Airman Britney Williamson, a military intelligence student with the 316th Training Squadron here.

"I think these new changes will help many of us relieve some of the daily stress from our classes and other duties," Airman Williamson added.

Student Airmen may have other questions and concerns about the new phase program.

"The MTLs are always the experts on the phase program. My office is constantly in contact with the MTLs at 2nd AF to decipher interpretation issues. Between the squadron MTLs and the ones in my office, if we do not have the answer, we will get it," said Master Sgt. Greene.

"The 17 TRG has been given the chance to show all of AETC how great our Airmen really are. Future modifications to the entire phase program could rest on how our Airmen handle the changes we have made today. Our Airmen have been given an awesome responsibility, and it is imperative that they develop and show their maturity," Master Sgt. Greene concluded.