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NEWS | May 28, 2014

Air National Guard member molds future Airmen

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Eichaker National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., May 27, 2014 - The Air Force basic military training instructor is vital to the development of making future airmen, and the Air National Guard plays a relevant role in that process.

Air National Guard members who apply and are accepted carry out a four-year assignment as an MTI before returning to their home units.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Maria Escobar is one of those Guard members. She left her human resources specialist job at the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, to begin her MTI tour at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, in 2010.

Escobar said her own basic training experiences encouraged her to pursue her current path, which has taken her back to where it all began for her. "My military training instructor inspired me to become an MTI," Escobar said. "She was a great leader and mentor and she exemplified what a true airman needed to be."

Escobar said her experiences of being on the 102nd Intelligence Wing honor guard, along with working in personnel, have had a positive effect on her MTI assignment. Although the two duties might not seem conducive to being an MTI, she said, the honor guard gave her training in drill movements, while her personnel job contributed to successful record keeping - two essential skills when working with trainees.

"I also wanted to give back to the Air Force," she said. "I love to teach and mentor," adding that as an MTI, she is able to accomplish both.

Despite the long hours and grueling schedule MTIs face every day, the responsibility of transforming civilian trainees to airmen can be exceptionally rewarding. "The changes are amazing, and it is not only noticeable by the instructors, but also their families," Escobar said, adding that her biggest reward from being an MTI is the pride she feels in turning young civilians into airmen.

With almost four years of MTI duty on her resume, Escobar reflected on what she called one of her most treasured moments: giving trainees their graduation coins during their basic training graduation retreat ceremony.

"The retreat ceremony is when they get promoted to Airmen," she said. "I [know] at that moment that the Airmen standing there (are) a representation of all the hard work and dedication that we achieved as a team." Escobar said that while serving as an MTI, she also served on a special team to evaluate other basic training squadrons for compliance, which in turn gave her a larger understanding of Air Force policies and procedures.

She said this has advanced her career and provided more opportunities at her home unit.

"Due to my current assignment as an MTI, it helped me get a new job at the 102nd IW as an inspector general assistant," she said.

And those she works with have no doubt she'll succeed in her new position.

"Staff Sergeant Escobar is truly a consummate professional and outstanding (noncommissioned officer)," said Air Force Master Sgt. Troy Moore, Escobar's supervisor at the 737th Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. "She is considered one of the elite among the instructor force, and she is also a leader among other MTIs."

Moore added that Escobar's crowning achievement while assigned to basic military training was when she received her master military training instructor distinction and earned the right to don the blue rope on her uniform.

"(The) Blue rope is a master military training instructor who is considered the 'best of the best' of the MTI corps, and so is Staff Sergeant Escobar," Moore said.