Arriving at OTS and Surviving TFIT
I arrived in the local Maxwell AFB area the day before my class start date. I was on active military orders so I was authorized the “government rate” for lodging for my entire drive from home. What this means for you is that it doesn’t matter how nice a hotel is, the maximum they are allowed to charge you is the government rate for that location. You can use your government travel card and worry about the bill after you graduate. Check the government rate at the link here and choose the nicest hotel in the area that will give you the rate. I did this the entire way on my three day drive and I was living like a king.
When I showed up I parked my car in the parking lot across from the dorms by the volleyball courts and jogged to the pad where all of the staff was. You will want to move with a “sense of urgency” but don’t kill yourself. I ended up with my full military duffle bag, a backpack, and a large garment bag. If I could do it again I probably would have brought my luggage with wheels. Don’t forget you can throw a lot of your stuff in ziplocks and squeeze out the air to give yourself more room.
Once I showed up I was given a packet of paperwork and we were told what to do and where to go. Just pay attention, ask questions if you are confused, and do as you are told. Like I said know your reporting statement and procedures because if you mess it up you will quickly be corrected.
Overall, TFIT is like basic training but at a much quicker pace. Once you are told how to do something you are expected to know it and not mess it up. Day 4 of TFIT felt like the equivalent of Week 4 of BMT. TFIT involves hammering in your military bearing and general OTS procedures and in-processing. It will not be fun, but once you get through TFIT the entire experience changes. It will get better and the staff will begin to let up over time.
There are two types of staff. There is the commissioned staff which will eventually act as your mentors. Most are Captains, but there are a few Majors. If you see a Lieutenant Colonel he or she is probably the Squadron Commander, so don’t make a bad impression. The other staff are the MTI’s. They are the ones with the smokey bear hats and you will see them most of the time during TFIT. MTIs are MTIs. They may loosen up a bit after several weeks but they are always MTIs. The MTIs make sure you keep your military bearing, know how to march, adhere to OTSMAN procedures, and know how to set up your dorm rooms.
I was in the 24 TRS and we had four student squadrons. The four squadrons were Squadron 1 (Goldhawks), Squadron 2 (Hoyas), Squadron 3 (Tigers), and Squadron 4 (Spartans). The Spartan squadron was recently reactivated due to the increase in class size. I was given a name tag and reflector belt on Day 1 and it corresponded with which squadron I was assigned to. The colors were gold, green, orange, and red, respectively.
Every squadron has a Student Squadron Commander (SS/CC) who is the member on the staff in charge of the squadron (Goldhawks, Hoyas, etc). When I was there all SS/CCs were Captains. As you approach TFOT you will be assigned a Flight Commander who is a Captain or Major on the commissioned staff. Once your flight is established you will do everything together as a flight and your Flight Commander (Flt/CC) will be the one you go to for all issues. Until it is all established, you will need to go direct with your SS/CC for all issues.
As TFIT progresses, your SS/CC may designate a temporary “One.” Their call sign was Hawk 1, Hoya 1, etc. The applicable One is the cadet who the SS/CC designates as their point of contact for all cadet issues. Instead of going straight to the SS/CC, you will check in with your One first. Once this happens the temporary cadet chain of command will begin to take shape. The formal cadet chain of command should be established when they do the first round of wing boards.
TFIT involved in-processing, learning drill and basic OTSMAN procedures, and a few classes. Once the Guard personnel arrive (when TFOT starts), you will have to do much of it all over again. The main reason you will want to learn drill is because there will be a pennant test shortly after TFOT starts. Having a pennant (the flag part of the guidon) allows your flight to march as a flight without a member of the staff, which has obvious benefits. This is also the first major milestone you will complete as a flight.
Here is some random information about TFIT or the OTS course in general:
– Wake up every day is at 0430 for accountability. You are supposed to be in your bed asleep or attempting to sleep between the hours of 2300 (11pm) to 0430, which means your lights should be off. I slept in PT gear and set my alarm for 0429 which gave me enough time to wake up, put my shoes on, and report outside right at 0430 for accountability.
– After accountability you should have time for personal hygiene or dorm maintenance. I showered at night unless I had PT the next morning to give myself more time for other stuff.
– I had one roommate but some people had two roommates. What this meant is two-three people per room were sharing showers/bathroom. If you had three, two people were sharing a closet and sink.
– Once you get back to your dorm after dinner you are basically in your safe haven. You are free to do whatever you need to do to prep for the next day. I would do my thing and try to get to sleep between 9:30 and 10:00, but often stayed up all the way to lights out.
– You can have your phone from Day 1 after Scheduled Military Training (SMT), which is after all events on the schedule are complete or after the dinner DP, whichever is later. I could have called home every day but only called home around twice per week due to course responsibilities.
– The internet worked well enough for me to Skype with my family 9/10 times. Sunday evening was the worst. Bottom line if it isn’t working it is because everyone else in the dorms is using the bandwidth.