Blue Ropes - the value of strong leaders

  • Published
  • By Col. Anthony Lombardo and Master Sgt. Carlos Miramontes
  • 17th Training Group
Our Air Force is revered for its ability to project power on a global scale and execute operations at a tactical level worldwide. How? It's through the training and the leaders who make the foundational framework from which our Airmen launch their careers.

No one can dispute that our professional Airmen are successful because of invaluable, career-long mentoring; however, that success comes from solid groundwork laid by key personnel early in an Airman's career. Some of these personnel are called military training leaders.

An Airman's indoctrination into the Air Force begins with a rigorous eight and a half weeks of basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. This training is conducted by highly regarded professionals called military training instructors, better known as drill instructors. After completing BMT, our enlisted Airmen are transferred to technical training wings throughout the United States to begin their academic training specific to their Air Force Specialty Code. At these training wings, Airmen make their first contact with MTLs or "Blue Ropes" who guide them into the next phase of their careers.

The name "Blue Rope" comes from the distinctive blue braid or aiguillette worn on the MTL's left shoulder. This aiguillette has historical significance and denotes honor. Blue Ropes are the face of discipline, customs and courtesies, and the Air Force Core Values. Core values play a significant part in transitioning our Airmen into the expeditionary Air Force, and our MTLs throughout Air Education and Training Command are doing fabulous work!

Today's MTL has been through a great transformation since their beginning in 1973 when this valuable position was first deemed a worthy effort to resource. Originally the MTL was a Student Training Advisor until 1992. The STAs were combined with military training instructors for a couple of years and in 1991 the name changed to military training managers, or MTMs. It wasn't until 1998 that the current name of military training leader came about, and rightly so; these men and women are more than managers. The largest part of what our MTLs do is leading our Airmen in transitioning into a productive, healthy and inspired workforce.

MTL professionals pick up where drill instructors leave off. They volunteer to care for and nurture our new Airmen, and perform a multitude of leadership functions. They could be thought of as guides, counselors or even caregivers in the types of duties and activities they do, but more than anything, MTLs are LEADERS!

MTLs share the same responsibilities as other Air Force non-commissioned officers; however, they directly shoulder the responsibility of supervising our entry-level Airmen at each of the Air Force's technical training wings.

MTLs are the first active duty members new Airmen see when they wake up and the last they see at final formation. Some of their responsibilities include leading and monitoring physical conditioning, marching and supervising formations, conducting uniform and room inspections, counseling, mentoring and maintaining training records. They are selfless leaders who also instill a sense of discipline, well-being and quality of life for our Airmen. They lead with the purpose of creating a balanced Air Force lifestyle promoting mental and physical strength to prepare Airmen for the challenges of our Expeditionary Air Force.

With so much at stake, with so much responsibility, why do these NCOs and Senior NCOs choose the MTL specialty? Here's what a few of them said:

Staff Sgt. Richard Lingle, 312th Training Squadron MTL: "I'm setting up the future so that when I leave, I'll leave behind competent Airmen and NCOs that live the (Air Force) Core Values."

Tech. Sgt. Josh Cartwright, 312th TRS MTL: "I'm going to be working with these Airmen in the field. Every day I ask 'Are these the men and women I want to work with?'"

Staff Sgt. Derrell Speights, 315th Training Squadron MTL: "I saw very little discipline and bearing when I was in tech school. I knew the MTIs did their job in basic training but somewhere along the way, it was lost."

Tech. Sgt. Randal Brooks, 316th Training Squadron MTL: "I took this job to challenge myself. What better way to do that than to send quality Airmen into the force."

These select few have chosen a specialty which requires them to breed a mentality that isn't very popular among most young men and women within our society, a mentality of service before self. These MTLs are leading by example and making our new Airmen's first contact a memorable experience. This first contact is what sets us apart from other services and other nations.

For more information on MTL life or becoming an MTL, go to: