Preparing for OTS – Military Pay, PCSing, Getting a Sponsor
A graduate from class 17-03 (Det 12) sent me the following updates about OTS. He made a few really good points that I never thought about spelling out specifically in the past:
- Military Pay: If you are a civilian it may take a while for your pay to start kicking in. It is easy to think this is an issue with the OTS staff but changes to military pay in general take a long time. If all goes well for an active duty person, you can see changes to your military pay in as little as three weeks, but for anyone it can take up to several months. I think one of the main reasons for this is because it has to first make it through AF-level personnel then it has to be submitted to DFAS which manages the pay for the entire DoD.
- Tip #1: If your pay is messed up or you aren’t getting paid at all, SPEAK UP. All leadership (OTS staff, operational AF, AETC training, etc.) acknowledges that not getting paid is a major, real issue. If you bring it up they will move mountains to help you out.
- Tip #2: Double check everything. Cross reference your base pay, BAS, and BAH with separate sources online. I’ll do a specific post on this later with links and a brief explanation of a pay statement (LES).
- Tip #3: If something doesn’t look right and you get paid a bunch of money you don’t think you are entitled to, DON’T SPEND THE MONEY! Once DFAS figures out the mistake they can straight up stop paying you until the debt is paid.
- PCS’ing to Your First Base: After you get orders (AF Form 899) it will include what is called a Report No Later Than Date (RNLTD). This date will almost always be a few days after OTS graduation, so you need to plan for things to move fast after you graduate. The DoD basically takes your graduation date then gives you “travel days” based on the number of miles it takes to drive to your first base. The calculation is something like 350 to 400 miles per day. If it takes you two days/600 miles to get to your first base, you will be authorized to take two travel days where the AF will pay you a little bit per mile and for lodging.
- In the operational Air Force they give you a RNLTD a month or two past when you will actually take leave. Finance calculates these travel days first then any extra days you take to get from A to B are charged as leave.
- Your RNLTD CAN BE CHANGED. You have to get approval from your gaining unit so you will have to dig and dig for phone numbers and ask someone at that unit. The process when I was there was for your Flight Commander to sign a memo request, your gaining unit to approve the memo, then the 24 TRS/CC or Det 12/CC to finally approve it. Once they approve it you give it back to personnel and they amend your orders in 3-4 days (at the fastest). Check with personnel on the specific process when you are there.
- In summary, unless you have everything in your car and you are ready to drive straight to your next base, if you want to take leave you may have to request a RNLTD extension.
- Finally, Your Gaining Base will not know you are coming: We are an electronic Air Force and everything personnel related is tracked in a database. This includes PCSing, your personnel records, assignments, etc. Because OTS is off cycle to the rest of the AF, and because they can’t load an officer assignment for an enlisted dude, your orders are cut by hand and manually produced on the AF Form 899.
- You as an OTS grad will bypass this normal electronic process, so you have to reach out and bridge this gap yourself.
- It is crucial you keep copies of your orders because unlike later in your career, you cannot log back in and just re-print them.
- Try to established the relationship with your first base as early as possible. Units are supposed to give you a sponsor to help you with your move. They will provide local info, tips, contacts for setting stuff up, getting you a temporary address, etc. Ask for them to assign you a sponsor because they won’t know you are coming.
Comments from the grad:
– They’re doing pretty different stuff between Det 12 and TRS 24 right now. In fact, the 24th is being unofficially called a “guinea pig” experiment right now as they’re cramming all of the material into even fewer weeks, but still keeping cadets for the standard amount of total time. For example, I believe last week they had their CWT #2, SPT #2, PFA, and a briefing all in the course of a standard week. So it seems like they’re trying to determine whether OTS can be further condensed. Also, we (Det 12) only had 4ish people sent home total, and they had already had 15 sent home by the time we graduated, and they still had a few weeks left.
– Our Det 12 class was the first one (according to staff) that was put 4 to a dorm room. It was pretty packed but we got used to it. Interestingly, this was also one of the first (or perhaps the only) class to have zero self eliminations. The staff is trying to figure out if there’s a connection between the two, but I don’t know what the future implications of this will be.
– I’d say around 20% of our class never received pay while at OTS. This might not be something to tell incoming students so that they don’t worry about it, but OTS has acknowledged that their finance department is in need of change.
– They’re getting rid of the ropes course this year. Bummer, because it’s really fun.
– AEF was only two days for us, as our class was too big. Two squadrons went out for Monday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon, the other two for Wed afternoon through Fri afternoon.
– Maybe just give a little note to non-priors especially that there is a very good chance they’ll be PCSing to their next duty station immediately after OTS. This is primarily for those cadets who might otherwise fly to OTS – I would have driven with my household goods from the Northwest for OTS if I had known that I would have a report date of 12 March after graduating 10 March.
– They’re getting rideof TFIT in the next yearish – I think you already knew this. [NOTE, this has been confirmed to start for class 17-07 (click here)].
– They’re looking at the possibility of offering online lessons prior to OTS so that there is less classroom/reading time and more application. I’m a big fan of this concept, but it’s not official yet and might not happen for some time, if at all. Leadership seemed to be on board with the idea of it though.
– Don’t hide stuff in laundry bags. They loved to check those.
Follow up comments from a recent 24 TRS grad:
I’m in 17-04, so I wanted to clarify and comment on the points from the 17-03 grad.