Keesler Expecting More Students

The training program at Keesler Air Force base is getting ready for a lot more students.

General Michael Peterson says at least a thousand more airmen will be coming to the Biloxi base in the next four months.

The general says some space may be a bit tight initially, but the base welcomes the increase in  students.

Keesler has long been known for its exceptional electronics training. But much of the growth is coming in other training areas.

"That's why we changed it, because through repetition you can actually learn," said the instructor in the advanced comptroller class.

Students kept busy counting Turkish currency. The finance program is among the newest at Keesler. While the Air Force may conjure up images of planes and pilots, they also need good accountants.

"We'll have everything from the brand new basic graduate out of Lackland Air Force base and we'll also have the staff officer and we'll have civilians who'll come through and learn to do all levels of the financial management of the Air Force," said Mark Cobin.

A training lab is designed to mimic an Air Force finance office. Students practice with make believe customers and real computer hook ups.

"They can log onto the system, the financial systems, they can do customer service with them. Everything is just like they'd see when they get out in the field," said Cobin.

General Michael Peterson says the overall Air Force is forty percent smaller than it was before Desert Storm. Keesler is about to grow because of it's training excellence.

"What I do see is focusing the activities of our people in uniform into the kind of specialties that we train right here at Keesler Air Force base. And I think that's why there's a growth here. And maybe not growth elsewhere," explained the commander.

More students means other expansion on base to accommodate their needs. New dormitories are in the works.

"We have seven now and we're looking for a few more in the near future. How many more, I'm not really sure of. I know we have another dorm, number eight that's coming up in the next year or two," said Mack McCarthy.

General Peterson sees tremendous potential for future growth at Keesler. The Biloxi base is among the Air Force's "centers of excellence".

It stands to benefit as the Air Force continues to consolidate many of its missions, including training.