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BMT trainees complete last run on closing obstacle course

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) --

Air Force basic military trainees completed the last runs on the obstacle course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland before it closed Sept. 24.

A new course, called the Leadership Reaction Course was integrated into the Creating Leaders, Airmen, and Warriors (CLAW) mission, during Basic Expeditionary Airmen's Training Week (BEAST) at Lackland. It became fully operational Sept. 29.

"The obstacle course has a long history at the Air Force's basic military training," said Col. Michele Edmondson, the 737th Training Group and BMT commander. "It affords the trainee an opportunity to dig deep within themselves and realize they are stronger than they think. It builds their self-confidence as they proceed throughout the course. The CLAW builds on this by developing teamwork and leadership skills as well.

"The change is a new element in BMT's move from an eight-and-a-half-week program to a seven-and-a-half-week program and the transition from the obstacle course to the CLAW allows us to consolidate all like training during BEAST week," Edmondson said. "This frees up the eighth week for a transition week between graduation and technical training where new Airmen will be afforded the time to reflect and develop their core values."

The original obstacle course, built in November 1942, was approximately 1.5 miles long and of the 14 obstacles, the two water obstacles would close seasonally affecting the course’s length.

The new course is 1.3 miles and takes trainees approximately two and a half hours to complete. Previously, the trainees completed the obstacle course individually, but CLAW will require the Airmen to work together in teams.

"The CLAW is about completing the course as a team," Edmondson said. "It's a mission-oriented course where a team of 24 trainees complete a series of checkpoints to complete an objective.

"The CLAW course maintains the challenges of the obstacle course while adding in teamwork, communication and problem solving skills," Edmondson said. "The teamwork and leadership roles that will now be incorporated will challenge trainees and invoke thought in real-world battlefield scenarios."

The new course checkpoints include more than just physical goals, which is a difference compared to the original obstacle course.

"It requires the trainees to actually work together versus just being physically strong and motivated," added Tech. Sgt. Richard Harding, a 319th Training Support Squadron military training instructor and the NCO in charge of the obstacle course. "The new course adds many more scenarios which will require them to use skills like self-aid (and) buddy care, CPR, wingmanship and teamwork. They get to apply foundational expeditionary skills training like tactical formation movements, low and high crawling, basic defense, force protection conditions, and weapon fighting techniques. Basically, they will be applying everything they learned in BMT."

The differences in obstacles, however, weren't the only changes made to invoke real-world scenarios and simulate a deployed location.

"At the old course, the obstacles were completed without their (M-16 trainer) weapons," Harding elaborated. "Now, they run with their gear (Kevlar vest and helmet) and have their weapons so there is more real-life application."

According to the 737th TRG, there are currently no plans in place for the old obstacle course to be demolished or repurposed.