CAMP MURRAY, Wash. —
At the Washington Air National Guard’s 194th Wing here, the work of building airmen starts before basic military training, in student flight.
Student flight is where newly enlisted recruits spend drill weekends learning military customs and courtesies, rank structure, and other pertinent information to set them up for success at basic training. The program is led by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Austin, the force development superintendent for the 194th Wing and the student flight superintendent assigned to the 194th Force Support Squadron. After the recruiter, Austin is often a new enlistee’s first impression of the Air National Guard.
“To have the opportunity to shape and mold and mentor every new airman coming into the Wing — that is as powerful as it gets, so there is a lot of pride in that,” Austin said.
Austin has welcomed every new recruit to the wing for the past seven years. He estimates that he has guided 500 airmen through student flight during that time.
Student flight is the best program the Air National Guard has to offer, Austin said. It is also the highlight of his career, he added.
“When you can go home at night and realize the impact you have on the state, on the country, on the Air Force, I mean this wholeheartedly, it is the best job you could ask for in the Air Force,” Austin said.