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Airmen in Training make connections at Operation Destination

  • Published
  • By Julie Svoboda
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

The 82nd Training Wing recently created and implemented Operation Destination, an event designed to give Airmen in Training a head start making connections and getting insider information about their first duty station. During the events, AiTs learn about the major commands and meet fellow Airmen who are headed to the same first duty station in a relaxed environment.

The idea behind Operation Destination came from the 82nd TRW Command Team, who aimed to increase readiness and resilience by decreasing anxiety caused by the unknown.

“This is a great way for our AiTs to learn more about the MAJCOM they will be assigned to and more importantly, link them with other Airmen that they will be stationed with,” said Chief Master Sgt. Rey Schultz, Command Chief of the 82nd TRW. “This way they have established connections and friendships that will smooth the transition to their first duty station.”

Senior Master Sgt. Jasmine Jones, Superintendent for Military Training, agrees. She was part of the group that built on that concept to develop Operation Destination. One of the key elements of the program is it groups AiTs by duty station instead of schoolhouse, broadening the field of potential connections.

“Airmen were showing up to their first duty station, and they were, in a sense alone,” said Jones. “They may have known a few classmates here at tech school, but they didn't know anybody else when they got there. So, this is a way for us to get them linked up with other folks around the base who are going to that same base that they're going to. For instance, an Airman here at the 362nd Training Squadron may never speak to an Airman that's in the 365th Training Squadron. Now they can meet each other and when they get to, say, Lakenheath, they can find a familiar face. This helps them build those relationships early on and gives them somebody they can talk to along the way before they get there.”

AiTs get an additional bonus of interacting with commanders, chiefs and others who support the event. She encourages all permanent party Airmen to show up and lend their experiences and expertise. 

“We've had a great showing from leadership,” said Jones. “It's amazing to see the leadership come out and engage with the Airmen. They talk to military training leaders all the time. When they can see commanders out there, they enjoy it. They'll come up and talk to anybody who wants to talk to them.”

Maj. W. Frank Larkins, 82nd Training Support Squadron Commander, attends the events and sees the value in the interactions fostered there.

“Permanent Party Airmen participation is the secret sauce to Operation Destination’s success,” he said. “It is a safe space designed for sharing personal experiences and fielding questions of the various MAJCOMs.  These shared experiences are the key ingredients for AiT readiness.  Therefore, I highly encourage our permanent party Airmen to support Operation Destination’s efforts in sharpening the tip of our tech training’s spear -- ready, relevant, and resilient AiTs.”

Col. Sarah Evans, 82nd Medical Group Commander, is another frequent presence at Operation Destination. She enjoys seeing the anticipation of the Airmen as they wait for their bases and names to appear on the screen and watching them create connections that will carry through to the next stage in their Air Force careers. Equally fulfilling, though, is to show new Airmen that Team Sheppard is invested in them and their success.

“I love paying forward what was given to me early in my career,” she said. “For me, representation matters.  Our Team Sheppard students should see us out there supporting them in what they do and celebrate with them as well.  Let them know they matter, and we care about them and are here for support when needed.”

Operation Destination is scheduled for Fridays at 1530 at the Afterburner.