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Starting on the right foot with FTAC

  • Published
  • By Airman Sean Crowe
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs
October 1 marked the day my First Term Airmen's Center course began. I walked into the classroom, gawking at all the new faces and immediately asking others how they expected the course to be. Several times prior to starting I was told I needed to find a way to stay awake during class, so I began FTAC with very low expectations.

Other students were also forewarned of incredulously boring and tedious briefings. I did not let these ominous warnings deter me from going into a new situation with an optimistic demeanor however. A one-week class sounded like a cakewalk after spending six tough months in the training pipeline.

Tech. Sgt. April Ashjian, FTAC noncommissioned officer in charge, entered the room with a radiant smile that took me by surprise. She promptly introduced herself and gave the class some background information on herself, then continued to have all of the students introduce themselves. Students still seemed to feel slightly uncomfortable after introductions, but became relaxed as time progressed. Class began every morning with roll call at 7:20 a.m. and Ashjian asking everybody how they were and if anything interesting happened the night before.

The next six days were mostly briefings-ranging from the financial services to the safety. A few briefings were a struggle against my heavy eyelids; however, the majority of them were lively and interesting thanks to the various Airmen, NCO's and officers that turned boring subject matter interesting.

The most memorable briefing I received was on enlisted force structure given by Senior Master Sgt. Charles Bard, 21st Air Mobility Operations Squadron superintendant. The class was as informative as it was intriguing. I learned my rank-specific responsibilities as an Airman. Bard then regaled tales of being a junior-enlisted Airman with an amazing assignment in downtown Honolulu in an office with only four Airmen besides himself. The stories were of late nights, Corvettes and area defense council.

Staff Sgt. Carlton Anthony, 87th Air Base Wing Safety Office ground safety specialist, also gave a very intriguing briefing about driving conditions, risk management and local dangers. The class became more comfortable over time and it seemed as if everyone had become good friends. Anthony also topped the briefing with two boxes of cookies left on my desk which I discovered upon return to my duty section.

Ashjian made sure to get us out of the classroom throughout the week to keep the class from becoming stagnant. I saw the flightline, for the first time and boarded a KC-10 Extender. I lose sight of how I impact the mission from time to time as a public affairs specialist, so talking to the crews helped me put things into perspective.

The course ended with my class going through security forces augmentee training for two days.

Prior to the augmentee training, I had a negative impression of being a cop in the Air Force. I even refused to take a job in the Air Force as a cop. The training helped me realize that I had never seen the fun side of the security forces job. I enjoyed augmentee training thoroughly.

My class and I were very excited by the thought of learning how to handcuff and handle a unruly perpetrator instead of sitting in a classroom for hours.

Tech Sgt. James Chubb, 87th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of augmentee training, was a great instructor. Nothing in the class was more interesting than watching him manhandle a suspected perpetrator (this role was played by several Airmen).

My goal, with one brief exception, was achieved to stay awake through all FTAC slideshow presentations and long briefings, which in the end was completely worthwhile considering all the information and advice I received.

Future FTAC students shouldn't go into the course with a mindset that this is an awful, mandatory class. Airmen should embrace this learning opportunity and build professional relationships.

[Editor's note: Additional information on the security forces augmentee training given to the First Term Airmen's Center class can be foundhere.]