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Research Questions

  1. What are the characteristics of the technical and flying training environments?
  2. What content should be included in the technical and flying training survey, and how should it be tailored?
  3. When should the survey be administered?
  4. Who should participate in the survey?
  5. How should the survey be administered?
  6. What technical or human resource challenges might need to be addressed prior to implementation?
  7. How should the survey responses be analyzed and reported?

Initial skills training provides incoming officers and enlisted airmen with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to be awarded their Air Force occupational specialty. For many students, it is a developmental period during which they are transitioning into the responsibilities of adulthood, and they enter as the newest Air Force members at the lowest levels of the officer and enlisted hierarchies. They are seeking admission into career fields for which they must prove their capability, and, in some cases, they must compete for limited positions in their subspecialties. For these reasons, these technical training and flying training students may be particularly vulnerable to abuse and misconduct from one another and from those who have authority over them.

To help prevent potential abuse and misconduct during this vulnerable period, the commander of the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command (AETC) asked RAND researchers to adapt AETC's survey system for monitoring abuse and misconduct in Basic Military Training to extend it to the technical training and flying training environments. Data from the proposed survey system may also provide insights into potential cultural or systemic changes that could help reduce the occurrence of abuse and misconduct and increase reporting when it does occur.

This report provides background on the structure of these training environments, revisions to tailor the basic military training survey content to apply to students in these environments, survey pretest results, strategies to promote open and honest participation, and recommendations for future use.

Key Findings

  • Power imbalances and career influence over students in occupational training pipelines may increase the risk for abuse and misconduct.
  • Without confidentiality, the survey will lose its value in promoting visibility of behaviors that students are not willing to reveal through official reporting channels.

The survey system needs to address diverse occupational training pipelines

  • Pipeline length can range from a few weeks to more than a year.
  • Pipelines may require training at one, two, or several installations.
  • Some training is run by the other branches of the military.
  • Courses may have many students or only a few.
  • In some courses, newly enlisted airmen train alongside officers and/or enlisted airmen with greater tenure.

There are two primary options for survey administration

  • One option is administering the survey at a single point, capturing a snapshot of all technical training or flying training students at that time.
  • The second option is connecting the administration of the survey to the training pipeline itself (e.g., by surveying students at the end of the awarding course).
  • Both census (entire population) and sampling approaches have strengths and limitations.
  • The survey must ask students about specific behaviors to jog their memories and to avoid problems stemming from differing understandings of terms, such as "hazing" and "sexual harassment."
  • If not managed properly, differences in pipelines could lead to misleading comparisons of incident rates.
  • Software and computers will need to be updated to support a survey tailored to different types of students dispersed across a wide array of training locations.

Recommendations

Survey timing should be timely to avoid recall problems

  • Survey enlisted students at the end of their training pipelines or at approximately six months, whichever comes first.
  • Survey officers in undergraduate pilot training at the end of primary training and at the end of advanced training.
  • Prior to their exits, survey students who leave training without graduating.

All students should be invited and permitted to participate; however, participation should be voluntary

  • Ask flight commanders and chiefs to encourage participation.
  • Coordinate administration with other surveys to reduce survey fatigue.

Employ strategies to ease access and promote open and honest participation

  • Build survey time into student schedules.
  • Explore options for taking the survey on personal computers or devices.
  • Allow only students and a civilian survey administrator to be in the room during the survey.
  • Ensure that students stay for the full survey session to protect against pressures to rush through it.

A full-time civilian behavioral or social scientist with relevant expertise and resources should manage the survey analyses and reporting

  • Provide reports of survey results every six months to establish a stable baseline and then annually and as needed.
  • To protect confidentially, do not report separate results for any group with fewer than 10 individuals.
  • Present survey results in context; include information that may explain changes over time (e.g., policy changes, staffing changes).
  • Protect the unique contribution of the survey by not allowing it to be used as an investigative tool.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Part I

    Understanding Technical Training and Flying Training

    • Chapter Two

      Characteristics of the Technical Training Environment

    • Chapter Three

      Characteristics of the Flying Training Environment

  • Part II

    Adapting and Pretesting the Survey Content and Administration

    • Chapter Four

      Adapted and New Survey Content

    • Chapter Five

      Survey Pretest Methods

  • Part III

    Survey System Recommendations

    • Chapter Six

      When to Administer the Survey

    • Chapter Seven

      Who Should Participate in the Survey

    • Chapter Eight

      Confidentiality and Maximizing Survey Participation

    • Chapter Nine

      Technical and Human Resource Challenges to Resolve Before Implementing the Survey System

    • Chapter Ten

      Recommendations for Analyses and Reporting

    • Chapter Eleven

      Conclusion

  • Appendix A

    Air Force and DoD Surveys That Assess Misconduct

  • Appendix B

    Enlisted Occupational Specialties Available to Non-Prior Service Students

  • Appendix C

    Survey Instrument

  • Appendix D

    Responsible Comparisons of Survey Results

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the commander of the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and conducted by the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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