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Leading the next generation of AF medics

Staff Sgt. Joshua Ayers, 59th Training Group military training leader, gives an orientation briefing to new students April 14, 2016, on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 59th TRG welcomes an average of 80 new technical training students every week. The group was activated on Jan. 4, 2016, when the 59th Medical Wing assumed command of the group from the 37th Training Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis)

Staff Sgt. Joshua Ayers, a 59th Training Group military training leader, gives an orientation briefing to new students April 14, 2016, on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 59th TRG welcomes an average of 80 new technical training students every week. The group was activated on Jan. 4, 2016, when the 59th Medical Wing assumed command of the group from the 37th Training Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis)

Prior to class, Staff Sgt. Mark Visita, 59th Training Group military training leader, leads technical training students in singing the Air Force song and reciting the Airman’s Creed April 14, 2016, on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis)

Staff Sgt. Mark Visita, a 59th Training Group military training leader, leads technical training students in singing the Air Force song and reciting the Airman’s Creed before class on April 14, 2016, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (AFNS) -- It’s a little after 7:30 a.m. and the stampede has finally cleared the hallways. There’s a moment of silence, the first since arriving to work three hours prior. The five-story building is nearly desolate now, but a multitude of paperwork and tasks remain to be done before the 800-plus military students return from class in the afternoon.

Such is the life of a military training leader at the 59th Training Group, the Air Force component of the Defense Department’s Medical Education and Training Campus. The tri-service campus offers more than 50 medical programs, and graduates about 21,000 enlisted students annually.

MTLs provide administrative care and Air Force instruction to the second largest group of technical training students in the Air Education and Training Command -- the first group is security forces. Nearly all Air Force enlisted medics come through the unit. Some stay only a month, while others may be assigned here up to a year.

The group houses three squadrons with up to 1,200 Airmen from 16 different Air Force career specialties. Only 24 MTLs help run the unit, and they are responsible for the more than 5,500 Airmen who navigate the hallways every year.

“Most of us never had to supervise a large number of Airmen before, so coming here is a new challenge,” said Staff Sgt. Britni Hill, a MTL with the 59th TRG.

Hill, who was a security forces specialist before taking on the special duty assignment as an MTL, said this unique training setting is very different from her previous experience. The tri-service environment, Hill said, makes it important to instill military bearing, and customs and courtesies to the Airmen.

“Oftentimes, it’s necessary to explain why things differ between the services instead of just barking orders,” she said.

Another MTL, a native of the Philippines, said before his Air Force career began, he had to work hard to meet standards.

“I was in the delayed enlistment program for more than six months because I had to lose weight before going to basic training,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Visita. “Later, I dropped another 60 pounds. Since then, fitness has been a huge part of my life.”

Visita now leads physical training sessions and promotes exceeding the standards among the students.

“It’s a rewarding experience; I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Visita said. “But even when enforcing standards, it’s important to be aware of factors that might be causing someone to deviate. You have to be mindful that even as a disciplinary figure, you’re also the mentor.”

It’s not uncommon to be counseling someone when they mention that they are going through tough times, like the loss of a parent or sibling. Some may even be going through a divorce, he added.

It’s late in the afternoon now. Dozens of counseling sessions have been administered and stacks of paperwork have been completed. As the lights go off, other MTLs get ready for the night shift. At this 24-hour operation, there are always MTLs to tend to the next generation of warrior medics.

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