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New Guardsmen get a head start on basic training

Master Sgt. Gilbert Alcaraz, a former Military Training Instructor, inspects Airman First Class Aaron Clavero for a close shave during a student flight formation. Intense preparation here at the 162nd Fighter Wing prepares recruits for the rigors of basic training and technical school. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Deiree Twombly)

Master Sgt. Gilbert Alcaraz, a former Military Training Instructor, inspects Airman First Class Aaron Clavero for a close shave during a student flight formation. Intense preparation here at the 162nd Fighter Wing prepares recruits for the rigors of basic training and technical school. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Deiree Twombly)

Airman First Class Kendrick Spears sounds off while counting his pushups behind the 162nd Fighter Wing’s recruiting office. Recruiters here ensure new Guardsmen are prepared to pass the Air Force physical fitness test before reporting to basic training. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Deiree Twombly)

Airman First Class Kendrick Spears sounds off while counting his pushups behind the 162nd Fighter Wing’s recruiting office. Recruiters here ensure new Guardsmen are prepared to pass the Air Force physical fitness test before reporting to basic training. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Deiree Twombly)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Every drill weekend in the 162nd Fighter Wing's recruiting office an important duty is carried out. Guardsmen dedicated to recruiting Arizona's finest young men and women are hard at work preparing the unit's newest members for successful military careers.

Currently, thirteen new Guardsmen make up the wing's student flight. Their tasks are planned and tailored to prepare them for the demands of basic training and technical school.

Student flight members are easily identified by their unique uniforms. "They wear a black shirts, blue jeans and an issued hat and belt," said Master Sgt. Brian Jones, Air National Guard recruiter. "They don't wear the Air Force uniform until they go to basic training."

On Saturdays, they meet at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base track to work out with recruiters. Emphasis is placed on physical training and team building activities. They then return to the recruiting office to perform administrative duties, eat lunch and then report to their duty sections to begin learning job skills.

Sundays begin with physical training evaluations where students are held to Air Force basic training standards. "We run with them, motivate them and get them out of their comfort zone. Our goal is to try to create a basic training atmosphere while they are here for drill weekend," said Master Sgt. Jeff Schultz, Air National Guard recruiter.

Sunday is also the day they come face to face with a former Military Training Instructor, Master Sgt. Gilbert Alcaraz. Sergeant Alcaraz is a member of the 162nd Headquarters Squadron and volunteers his expertise in drill and ceremonies. He spends up to an hour and a half with the students giving them a small taste of what training instructors at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, will expect.

The training environment created by recruiters has the students eager to begin formal training.

Airman 1st Class Ashley Cnossen enlisted in August and will soon be assigned to the jet propulsions shop. "I start technical training in February or March and I'm really excited about it," said Cnossen.

Airman Basic Vanessa Ferreira enlisted in June. She is a Tucson native and no stranger to the 162nd Fighter Wing. Her father and uncle, Joseph and Daniel Ferreira, are current members of the wing, and her grandfather was also a member. "I joined the guard to take advantage of the education benefits," said Ferreira, a student at Pima Community College. She expects to report to basic training in March 2009.

When recruits enlist, they immediately become servicemembers. "They are issued ID cards and are paid for drill weekends," said Sergeant Schultz.

The student flight program has recruiters here wearing many hats. Administrative tasks, fitness schedules and other duties are rotated among them. "It's never the same weekend twice for us," said Sergeant Schultz.

The 162nd Fighter Wing's student flight program is lauded by many instructors at basic and technical training schools as a benchmark for all Guard recruiting. Many students go on to become element leaders and win awards for their performance while in training.