Training never stops at the 104th Fighter Wing
By Master Sgt. Lindsey Sarah Watson-Kirwin, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 16, 2020
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --
Every career field in the Air National Guard is demonstrating its ability to adapt and willingness to be flexible with the current COVID-19 environment, even from members who have not yet been to basic military training or technical school yet.
Master Sgt. Heather Cekovsky is the formal schools manager and the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the student flight at the 104th Fighter Wing. She has been guiding both programs through this time of change.
Student flight is where non-prior service members are assigned after they enlist and are awaiting dates for basic military training and subsequently their technical training.
“The willingness of the non-prior service members to rise to the occasion has been phenomenal,” said Cekovsky. “Whether it is with being flexible with changing school guidance or observing current personal protective equipment guidance and other restrictions.”
Cekovsky ensures new members are prepared for BMT and introduces them to the Airmen in their shop on base.
“My reason for coming to the career field was explicitly to build a robust student flight program to arm them with ample knowledge,” said Cekovsky.
While in student flight, new members work on their physical fitness, study ranks, military culture, and learn about the 104FW, Air National Guard and the Air Force to prepare them for basic military training and their future success at a follow-on technical school.
“One of the biggest challenges in a virtual environment has been not having the face-to-face time with the student flight members,” said Cekovsky. “I have been logging into the student flight Facebook group constantly to keep them informed and help them.”
Cekovsky attains training dates for student flight members and other Airmen attending formal schools to help them transition from student flight or their squadron and out the door to BMT or technical school.
“With formal schools, the challenge has been the constantly changing guidelines and requires constant vigilance,” said Cekovsky.
There are several different formal schools out there for initial technical training and advanced skill level training at different bases, many with different prerequisites. Cekovsky tracks all of the various schools and their requirements to keep members informed and get them to their required training as quickly as possible.
Cekovsky works along with Senior Master Sgt. Tricia Goodreau, 104FW Education and Training superintendent, to look after all of the training needs for the 104FW Airmen.
“Senior Master Sgt. Tricia Goodreau is my superintendent and my ability to be successful is a direct reflection of her trust and faith in me to be successful and competent and creates an atmosphere where I flourish,” said Cekovsky.
Goodreau oversees all training and education requirements for the 104FW.
“Master Sgt. Cekovsky’s innovation and devotion to the success of each and every student flight member is evident by a zero percent return rate due to the member not being prepared to tackle BMT,” said Goodreau. “She has developed a social media group to maintain communication and a student flight handbook that informs and prepares our new enlistees every step of the way, not only for BMT and Individual Skills Training but for their entire careers.”
Although the requirements and processes have been in constant flux over the past month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cekovsky has remained focused on her mission, and the ultimate mission of the 104FW.
“Our mission right now is keep the training pipeline open, deliver our trainees safely and healthy to BMT and IST, and ultimately deliver mission capable Airman to our wing,” said Goudreau.