Former Waynedale resident Tony Vining, like most men and women who have survived the trials and tribulations of Basic Military Training, left Lackland Air Force Base with a certain awe and respect, and more than just a little fear of the larger-than-life drill sergeant who tormented him for 30 training days. But, unlike most of his peers, Staff Sergeant Vining is looking forward to repeating the experience-over and over for the next 4 years.
Vining, son of Paul and Pat Vining, Roanoke, has returned to the place where his military life began, this time with a vastly different result. He has been trained to be the Air Force’s equivalent of an Army drill sergeant, at the Air Force Military Training Instructor School there.
A fourteen-year Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve veteran, Vining must now prove he can effectively teach Air Force policy, conduct, character and rules of personal appearance to basic trainees. The performance objectives include military drill, dormitory instruction, lecture presentation, control of a marching flight, command voice, the obstacle course and physical conditioning.
“I’ve always been fascinated with Basic Training. It is mentally, physically and emotionally challenging-all at once.” Vining said, “There is nothing like Basic Training, and I wanted to return to be a part of it.”
“I always strive to be the best at whatever task I undertake and the MTI course was no different for me,” he said. “You can’t be mediocre and take on this job, you have to stay on your toes and be the best. 450 Airmen per year will look up to me for guidance to start their careers, and I felt I could provide the model they needed, so I applied, and after 2 interviews and records reviews, I was accepted to the school.”
Every hour of the 14-week curriculum is focused on one purpose – giving Vining and his 16 classmates the training needed to turn a civilian into an airman in six short weeks of basic training.
Vining attended the course from September through January, and the course included him being a ‘team member’ for a flight of trainees. Vining was an instructor with Honor Flight 098, of the 324th Training Squadron. “It was quite an honor to be named an honor flight. Only 1 of the 18 flights that week was an honor flight, and it is rare that a student MTI receives the honor.”
The title “Honor Flight” is reserved for those flights who work together at being the best in everything they do, and requires total dedication of the trainees, and instructors. ‑”It wasn’t surprising, since we had a great team” Vining Said “But it took hard work on the Trainee’s part to make it.”
Very soon, Vining’s role will change from student to teacher. Vining will be returning to Lackland AFB for the next 4 years, wearing the ever-remembered Campaign Cap of the Military Training Instructor.
Every six weeks, he will face 48 new recruits who must be molded into airmen. Just as the MTI trainers are pushing their students to find the perfect balance between physical performance and mental sharpness, Vining will demand the same of anxious recruits who must pass by him to enter the Air Force.