During Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT), training instructors (T.I.s) organize their flight within the first couple of days. As a new recruit, if you have shown signs of leadership or military knowledge (such as JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, or Boy Scout Eagle), the TI may select you to become the "Dorm Chief," or an "Element Leader." These are positions of some authority that act as assistants to the TI.
Leadership Positions During Basic Training
Sometimes, though not exclusively, T.I.'s will select older members of the flight for these leadership positions. Generally, older members have some leadership qualities learned through civilian employment, are generally more mature, and able to handle responsibility better than others under stress.
But this is not a hard and fast rule. The T.I. has full authority to select the Dorm Chief and Element Leaders using whatever criteria they wish. It's not unusual for the original choices not to work out, and the T.I. may make changes to the flight leadership after a period of observation.
Dorm Chiefs and Element Leaders
The Dorm Chief is the top leader of recruits in the flight. He or she is responsible for making sure that all orders, standard ops, and instructions are carried out correctly when the T.I.'s aren't around. You won't make many friends if you're selected as Dorm Chief, but you will learn about how to be an effective leader.
To assist the Dorm Chief in this enormous responsibility, the flight is divided into elements, and an element leader is put in charge of each. The Element Leaders report to the Dorm Chief and assist in assuring that members of the element comply with orders and instructions.
The bad news is that being a Dorm Chief or an Element Leader means that in addition to being responsible for things you do wrong, you have the added pleasure of being responsible for things that members of the flight (or your element) do wrong as well.
This is why real leadership skills will be important: Not only do you have to demonstrate to your superiors that you're capable, you have to show your subordinates that you're all part of a team.
The Flight Guideon
The T.I. will also choose a Flight Guideon. While not exactly a leadership position in that the Guideon doesn't have the authority to tell people what to do, it's a very important position nonetheless.
The Guideon carries the flight flag and marches in front of the flight. When the T.I. commands the flight to march to the left, it's the Guideon who turns first, and the other members of the flight align themselves on the Guideon.
One disadvantage to being the Guideon is that you have to carry the unit flag every time your flight marches somewhere (which is most of the time). The good news is that the Guideon really stands out from the crowd. Your parents, friends and loved ones will have no problem picking you out during the Airman's Run or graduation parade.