The Air Force Military Training Instructor (MTI) Ribbon was established by Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters on December 7, 1998
and was intended to recognize Airmen who served a full tour of duty as instructors with 737th Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, which also home to the Military Training Instructor School.
Since its founding in 1947, the Air Force has relied heavily upon volunteers to serve as Military Training Instructors, with a significant number of them coming from the E-5, or Staff Sergeant, pay grade. But the service does not hesitate to select enlisted personnel to serve as MTIs if the need arises. In 2003, for instance, nonvoluntary selection for MTI service was implemented because there simply weren’t enough MTIs to handle the number of recruits entering the service, many of whom signed up to contribute in the Global War on Terror.
Ten years later, in 2013, the Air Force began carefully selecting Technical Sergeants (E-6) and Master Sergeants (E-7) to serve tours of duty as MTI, prompted by troubling reports of misconduct a few instructors at Lackland. A substantial number of those punished for improper behavior were Staff Sergeants, which led to Air Force to change its philosophy regarding the acceptance of MTI volunteers from that pay grade, saying that acceptance of E-5 applicants would be “by exception.”
Prior to 1994, an MTI tour of duty was three years; when the MTI Ribbon was introduced, it had been reduced to twelve months. The ribbon is presented to Airmen when they graduate from MTI School for temporary weary; permanent wear is authorized after they successfully complete at least one tour of duty. (Note that the commander of the 737th Training Group may waive this time-of-service requirement if a candidate is forced to end a tour early for a valid reason.)
In 2014, the Air Force changed the way it would recognize Airmen who served tours of duty as MTIs, eliminating the MTI Ribbon and replacing it with the newly established Air Force Special Duty Ribbon