The next step after you get ‘settled’ into your mission is to start building your own personal awareness of what your options are for commissioning. There are a number of programs available to enlisted Airmen. I wish I was an expert on them all, but my expertise is centered solely on Officer Training School. You can apply to OTS if you are within one year of completing your bachelor’s degree. If you are no-where close to that it may be worth exploring some of your other options. The base education center is your point of contact for assistance with understanding these programs.
Here is a link to the Air Force page which covers many (but not all) of your enlisted commissioning options. There are two very important options which are not on the list which I will discuss in detail below.
- LEAD Program
- Scholarships For Outstanding Airmen to ROTC (SOAR)
- Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program (ASCP)
- Professional Officer Course-Early Release Program (POC-ERP)
- Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program (NECP)
- Physician Assistant Training Program
- Officer Training School
- Senior Leadership Enlisted Commissioning Program (new)
The three commissioning methods for all Air Force officers are as follows. This basic understanding will help you decipher the different options listed above. All of the above programs will get you to one of the below programs, it will be your job to determine which path is best for you. The only exception would be the medical programs which commission through a different version of OTS (I think it is called Commissioned Officer Training or COT).
- U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) – The USAF Academy is in Colorado Springs, CO. It is the Air Force’s version of West Point or the Naval Academy in Annapolis. If accepted, the USAFA is your college and you will live and breathe the Air Force Academy environment for fours years. An academy education is well respected both in and out of the service so it can set you up for success with whatever path you choose. The USAFA program is four years.
- AF Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) – Instead of being immersed in the Air Force environment 24/7 there are colleges all over the country who have ROTC detachments. You will do your normal college for the majority of your time and throughout the week you will also have a ROTC class. All of your Air Force learning such as academics, drill, etc. will be centered around the class. I am sure there are extra-curricular requirements as well but you won’t be completely immersed in the environment like at USAFA. I think most ROTC programs are four years, but I heard it can be three depending on if you have prior education.
- Officer Training School (OTS) – If you are within one year of completing your bachelor’s degree you can apply for OTS both as a civilian or as an active duty Airman. After you have your degree you will attend the course and be commissioned at the end. Officer Training School is at Maxwell AFB, AL and the course is currently 9.5 weeks long.
Senior Leadership Enlisted Commissioning Program (SLECP) – The last program I want to address is a newer program called Senior Leadership Enlisted Commissioning Program (SLECP). This is a program where each MAJCOM commander has the authority to select one enlisted Airman each year for selection to OTS. I am not sure what the selection criteria will be because every MAJCOM will be different. The way this probably works (I am speculating) is each year the MAJCOM commander will send out a call for nominations to subordinate commanders, and in turn there will be a process for subordinate commanders to identify potential selectees for this program. Unfortunately I am not familiar with any of the timelines or requirements so you will have to see if there is anything on the airforceots forums. Shoot me an email if you can’t find any information.
I wasn’t sure how deep to go with this post and in the end I decided not to try to explain every different enlisted commission program such as SOAR, LEAD, etc. It can be very confusing so if you have any questions at all or have no idea what your options are, just shoot me an email and we will try to figure it out together.