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MTL, student leader teams continue training despite COVID-19

97th Training Squadron Military Training Leaders

From left, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Young, a 97th Training Squadron (TRS) Military Training Leader (MTL), Airman 1st Class Christen Mills, the 97th TRS dorm chief, and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Songe, the 97th TRS MTL flight chief, pose for a photo at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, April 30, 2020. During the past few months of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the 97th TRS MTL team continued to work closely with the student leader team to continue forwarding Mobility’s Hometown training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

As facility changes continue to occur across the 97th Air Mobility Wing due to the Coronavirus pandemic, one thing has remained constant for 97th Training Squadron military training leaders: guiding the Air Force’s newest Airmen from technical training to the operational Air Force. 

The 97th TRS MTL team wears blue ropes to represent their position. Tech. Sgt. Matthew Songe, Tech. Sgt. Kylee Galang and Staff Sgt. Zachary Young are responsible for providing Airmen in training the tools needed to become efficient at their job. They accomplish this alongside their student leader team, which is composed of hand-picked Airmen who assist students with communication, mentorship during training and by being wingmen to rely on. 

Songe said the leadership teams have adjusted well to new challenges imposed on them due to the Coronavirus threat. 

“One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced throughout the past few months is placing our new students in medical monitoring and rearranging the living spaces [in the dorms] in order to facilitate this properly,” said Songe. “It has been a big challenge, but I think we have had a lot of successes including growing our dormitory capacity by 60 percent in order to provide us with the flexibility we need to manage this situation.”

Young agreed that relying on their partnership with their student leaders helped training to continue during COVID-19. 

“Throughout this whole process, we have been working as a team and covering each other's back when one of us wasn't able to come in,” said Young. “Although teleworking kept us away from the Airmen in training more than usual, the team-work aspect of the situation has worked out very effectively. The student leaders have been the key in all this because when we are not here, they are constantly here to fill in our shoes and take care of the Airmen.”

According to Airman 1st Class Christen Mills, the 97th TRS dorm chief, some of biggest adjustments the 97th TRS made in the past months included creating more space for Airmen in training to practice social distancing, putting in extra time to keep morale and camaraderie up and adjusting to the MTLs’ teleworking status.

“It is definitely interesting going from seeing your MTL every day to only seeing them a few times a week [because of teleworking],” said Mills. “Adjusting to teleworking and learning how to communicate effectively was a challenge for our student leader team, but we have been able to work as a team with the other student leaders to keep the 130 Airmen in training up to date on what is happening across the base.”

Despite the challenges faced during the COVID-9 mitigation efforts, the 97th TRS MTL and student leadership team utilized trust, teamwork and communication in pursuing the training mission while taking precautions to keep mobility Airmen healthy. 

“There is no such thing as an average day for an MTL,” said Songe. “Our biggest focus is taking care of our Airmen. From making sure they have comfortable living areas to a focused training environment, our mission as MTL’s is to make sure our Airmen that are now in training soon become highly proficient and professional warfighters.”