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New recruits set up for success with 167th student flight program

Newly enlisted Airmen assigned to the 167th Student Flight participate in a group physical fitness session, Feb. 1, 2020. The student flight program prepares the wing's newest Airmen for U.S. Air Force basic training.

Newly enlisted Airmen assigned to the 167th Student Flight participate in a group physical fitness session, Feb. 1, 2020. The student flight program prepares the wing's newest Airmen for U.S. Air Force basic training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Newly enlisted Airmen assigned to the 167th Student Flight meet in the wing's dining facility, Feb. 1, 2020. The student flight program prepares the wing's newest Airmen for U.S. Air Force basic training.

Newly enlisted Airmen assigned to the 167th Student Flight meet in the wing's dining facility, Feb. 1, 2020. The student flight program prepares the wing's newest Airmen for U.S. Air Force basic training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Airman 1st Class Julianne Arnold, counts reps during a physical fitness session for the Airmen in the 167th Airlift Wing's student flight program, Feb. 1, 2020. The student flight program prepares the wing's newest Airmen for U.S. Air Force basic training.

Airman 1st Class Julianne Arnold, counts reps during a physical fitness session for the Airmen in the 167th Airlift Wing's student flight program, Feb. 1, 2020. The student flight program prepares the wing's newest Airmen for U.S. Air Force basic training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --

Chief Master Sgt. Robbie Gossard retired from the 167th Airlift Wing after a 30-plus year career here, but he wasn’t done serving.

The retired chief dons his uniform every drill weekend now and volunteers his time with the wing’s student flight.

The student flight is comprised of the newest members of the 167th. They are the Airmen awaiting their departure to basic training.

On average, Airmen spend four to six months in student flight depending on when school dates are available for their chosen career field.

The wing’s student flight materialized about the same time the Air Force updated its physical fitness program in 2010, explained Tech. Sgt. Glenn Housden the 167th AW retention manager. Housden enlisted in early 2009 as the student flight was just beginning to take shape.

Staff Sgt. Michael Frye, a 167th firefighter, was called in to assist with the physical fitness training of the student flight in 2009. Three years later, he was devoting his entire drill weekends to the student flight, eventually developing a structured curriculum, repeated quarterly, to prepare the Airmen for their upcoming training.

“I had a lot of flexibility with the program,” Frye said. “Initially when I took over I wanted to make the best possible Airman, preparing them for a 20-year career. But over time we saw that we were giving them a lot of information that they didn’t need and the true goal was to prep them for basic training‑period.”

Frye sought out feedback from Airmen after they returned from basic training to help mold the student flight curriculum.

“Their input was critical. We’d reshape the program based on that feedback,” he said.

Today, Airmen in student flight learn Air Force customs and courtesies, rank structure, weapons and aircraft familiarization, they get acquainted with the base and the locations of various offices, participate in physical fitness sessions and ensure their finances, personnel records, security clearances and medical needs are in order before going to training.

Despite starting every drill with a curriculum and schedule, Airmen in student flight are often requested to help out with special events on drill weekends, Frye said. “We called it ‘Semper Gumby’- forever flexible,” he joked.

Gossard said he has not changed much since taking charge of the student flight.

“[Frye] had a solid program, I’m just carrying on the legacy that he laid the foundation for,” Gossard said.

Recently, Gossard traveled to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for his son’s basic training graduation and connected with other 167AW unit members going through basic training.

“I was very impressed that they stepped up to the leadership roles that were afforded them in basic training,” Gossard said, noting several of them were acting as dorm chief and element leaders of their flights.

Airman 1st Class Julianne Arnold and Airman 1st Class Constance Phillips, both assigned to air transportation, completed basic training last summer. Though they had different approaches to basic training, they agreed that their experience in student flight prepared them well for basic training.

“I laid low for a lot of basic training, and I think that helped me personally because I’m a perfectionist- I don’t like being put out there, but I liked being recognized for my work,” Arnold said. About four weeks into her training she said the instructors took notice of her and pushed her into more leadership roles.

Phillips, however, didn’t prefer to lay low. “I think the more you put yourself out there the more opportunities you’re going to get. I just think that for 60 days, it’s worth it to be bold,” she said.

Arnold said having the opportunity to talk with Airmen who had just returned from basic training about their experiences was really helpful.

And now Arnold has been sharing her experience in basic training with current members of the student flight and assists with their physical fitness regimen when her schedule allows.

Master Sgt. Kevin Rhodes, 167th Airlift Wing recruiting supervisor, who is responsible for the new recruits, commended Frye and Gossard for their work with student flight but added that all unit members are responsible for the success of the newest Airmen.

“Some of them are going to be chief one day, some of them will be pilots one day, they could even be base commander one day,” Rhodes said. “Guide them, help them, put them at ease.”

Chief Master Sgt. Robbie Gossard retired from the 167th Airlift Wing after a 30-plus year career here, but he wasn’t done serving.

The retired chief dons his uniform every drill weekend now and volunteers his time with the wing’s student flight.

The student flight is comprised of the newest members of the 167th. They are the Airmen awaiting their departure to basic training.

On average, Airmen spend four to six months in student flight depending on when school dates are available for their chosen career field.

The wing’s student flight materialized about the same time the Air Force updated its physical fitness program in 2010, explained Tech. Sgt. Glenn Housden the 167th AW retention manager. Housden enlisted in early 2009 as the student flight was just beginning to take shape.

Staff Sgt. Michael Frye, a 167th firefighter, was called in to assist with the physical fitness training of the student flight in 2009. Three years later, he was devoting his entire drill weekends to the student flight, eventually developing a structured curriculum, repeated quarterly, to prepare the Airmen for their upcoming training.

“I had a lot of flexibility with the program,” Frye said. “Initially when I took over I wanted to make the best possible Airman, preparing them for a 20-year career. But over time we saw that we were giving them a lot of information that they didn’t need and the true goal was to prep them for basic training‑period.”

Frye sought out feedback from Airmen after they returned from basic training to help mold the student flight curriculum.

“Their input was critical. We’d reshape the program based on that feedback,” he said.

Today, Airmen in student flight learn Air Force customs and courtesies, rank structure, weapons and aircraft familiarization, they get acquainted with the base and the locations of various offices, participate in physical fitness sessions and ensure their finances, personnel records, security clearances and medical needs are in order before going to training.

Despite starting every drill with a curriculum and schedule, Airmen in student flight are often requested to help out with special events on drill weekends, Frye said. “We called it ‘Semper Gumby’- forever flexible,” he joked.

Gossard said he has not changed much since taking charge of the student flight.

“[Frye] had a solid program, I’m just carrying on the legacy that he laid the foundation for,” Gossard said.

Recently, Gossard traveled to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for his son’s basic training graduation and connected with other 167AW unit members going through basic training.

“I was very impressed that they stepped up to the leadership roles that were afforded them in basic training,” Gossard said, noting several of them were acting as dorm chief and element leaders of their flights.

Airman 1st Class Julianne Arnold and Airman 1st Class Constance Phillips, both assigned to air transportation, completed basic training last summer. Though they had different approaches to basic training, they agreed that their experience in student flight prepared them well for basic training.

“I laid low for a lot of basic training, and I think that helped me personally because I’m a perfectionist- I don’t like being put out there, but I liked being recognized for my work,” Arnold said. About four weeks into her training she said the instructors took notice of her and pushed her into more leadership roles.

Phillips, however, didn’t prefer to lay low. “I think the more you put yourself out there the more opportunities you’re going to get. I just think that for 60 days, it’s worth it to be bold,” she said.

Arnold said having the opportunity to talk with Airmen who had just returned from basic training about their experiences was really helpful.

And now Arnold has been sharing her experience in basic training with current members of the student flight and assists with their physical fitness regimen when her schedule allows.

Master Sgt. Kevin Rhodes, 167th Airlift Wing recruiting supervisor, who is responsible for the new recruits, commended Frye and Gossard for their work with student flight but added that all unit members are responsible for the success of the newest Airmen.

“Some of them are going to be chief one day, some of them will be pilots one day, they could even be base commander one day,” Rhodes said. “Guide them, help them, put them at ease.”