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Attack the BEAST: Recruits undergoing basic military training at Lackland AFB, Tex., now have a new $28 million Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training course to undergo as part of the service's new longer—8.5-week—basic training program. The first group of prospective airmen entered the new training site Dec. 15. "I call this the centerpiece of 8.5 expansion," said Col. Edward Westermann, 737th Training Group commander at Lackland. He added, "It's going to be their operational readiness inspection to demonstrate that they can go to a forward deployed location and be able to execute the mission." The Air Force has been toughening its basic training for some time, including combat skills training like self-defense and buddy-care, adding a 36-hour expeditionary scenario in 1999. Now, however, recruits must successfully complete the week-long BEAST, which involves a series of increasingly difficult activities conducted in a simulated but realistic combat environment, before they can become airmen. Westermann said, "Ultimately, the bottom line will be when the combat commanders come back and tell us how successful we are in achieving a better prepared young man and young woman." (Lackland report by Mike Joseph) (Read Air Force Magazine's The Harder Line in Training)