Air Force Journey

Sharing my journey through Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) and beyond.

PS

AF56 Personal Statement

There are a lot of opinions out there about what your personal statement should say.  One of my mentors who was a rated select a few years ago gave me the best advice I had ever heard, so I will pass it on to you:

Talk about your career, how you led, how you impacted the mission as a leader, and how your experiences and interactions with other officers/leaders inspired you to apply for officer training.  Follow up with your career goals (short and long term), and how being an officer would enable you to positively impact the mission.  If you can tie those things together, and make them specific to your AFSC choices, it says a lot.

Here are some points I would like to add:
  • Big picture.  I look at the Applicant Profile as a summary of your career presented in a way which is most effective for the board to receive.  This is from your own perspective and it is telling the board how effectively you can present yourself and your career.  I look at your commander’s recommendation as a translation of your record into the O-6 perspective of your record to your leadership and officership potential.  If the LOR talks to your character, what should your personal statement (PS) contribute?
  • Know your audience.  The board is a panel of one O-6 and two O-6s or O-6 selects, so you should write with the knowledge that the members have a much different perspective of life, they likely have a higher level of education than you, and they have been in the Air Force around 20 years so they know the game.  If you have the opportunity, spend as much time as possible with O-6s/O-5s you know so you can get a feel for who they are and how they think.  Have someone read your PS to see if you are writing at the level of someone with a graduate (at least undergraduate) degree, or at the level of someone with only a high school diploma.
  • Having a conversation with the board.  Your PS is your opportunity to have a conversation directly with the board.  Think of it like this.  The board has just looked over your BOT Applicant Profile and is somewhat familiar with your record and accomplishments.  Now they want to hear your story.  They want you to answer questions like what inspired you to apply?  What in your career has brought you to where you are today?  Are you a good potential squadron commander or just a good future SNCO?  Imagine this conversation in your head, speak from the heart, and put it down on paper.
  • It’s always about the mission.  Don’t overlook the mission.  Think of your entire career in the Air Force.  What is always important to commander’s?  The mission.  Have you ever directly impacted the mission or are you just going with the flow of the NCOs/leaders above you?  Talk about a time when you made an impact, how it made you feel, and how being an officer will help you do it more effectively.
  • You are not just a good NCO.  When the board reads your PS their impression should be that you would make an amazing officer candidate and not pushing your package forward would have a detrimental effect to the Air Force.  A lot of times when I read non-select packages 75% of the content is spent highlighting their career and accomplishments which are already in the BOT Applicant Profile.  After reading those, I get the impression “This person would make a really good SNCO in a few years, not 2d Lt.”
  • What is the difference between a SNCO and an officer?  Do you know?  Have you ever thought about it?  Reach out and ask the question.  Define the difference for yourself and it will naturally become part of who you are.  Then speak as that new person, not the old.  If you can frame your PS as someone who understands the difference it will add much more impact to your story.
  • The board doesn’t assign my AFSC, so why should I mention it?  Think of it like this.  Think of sitting at ALS graduation and listening to two speakers tell the the story of how they became an officer.  The first speaker tells you a story of how his father was a contractor for NASA at Cape Canaveral, and as a young child he would watch the space shuttles launch.  He explains the feeling of awe and wonder as it lifted off into space, and the rest of his life was framed around being involved in THAT mission.  The second speaker talks about how he was an NCO for ten years, he won lots of awards, and through the years one or two of his flight commander’s impressed him because they were effective leaders.  After ten years he was bored and he wanted more responsibility and leadership opportunities, so he decided to apply for OTS.  Which story was more inspirational?  This may or may not seem like a fair comparison, but I think there are a lot of applications that sound more like speaker 2 than speaker 1.  My main point is to tell your whole story, not just a snapshot of your story.  Even if you don’t mention your AFSC choices because you simply want to serve as a commissioned officer in any capacity, tell that story.  I know there is a story there and I know the board wants to hear it.
  • What did my application have that yours doesn’t?  It is hard to say, but I think board members get a common feeling from successful PSs.  Several of the successful PSs I have read left me overwhelmed with a sense of pride.  I understood the author was humble, proud to serve, and was truly ready for the officer level.  The individual understood the importance of the mission and saw the bigger picture.  I was left with a lingering feeling of “wow, this person gets it, and this person is ready.”  Here is an except from my PS:
    • “For the past 10 years, I had the privilege of receiving mentorship from numerous leaders, both enlisted and officer, which ignited the passion I have to take on the responsibilities and accountability of an Air Force officer.  When I reflect on those moments of mentorship, I conclude with confidence that I am ready to step up to the challenges ahead.  I am grateful for the incredible experiences, training, and the opportunities to contribute to the successful execution of Air Force missions.”
My story:
  • I began writing my PS very early in the process, mostly because my commander didn’t really want me to do anything until 2 months out.  My PS started very NCO heavy where I spent the whole time talking about myself.  My wife helped me re-write it with an educated pen, but it still sent the wrong message.  I really struggled with what message I needed to send until I spoke to my mentor who I referenced at the beginning of this post.
  • I literally re-wrote my PS around 12 times.  In the end I framed it like I did above, and talked about myself and my career from a reflective theory lens instead of simply I did this and I did that.  I led Airman and passed inspections became my experience in program management, standardization, inspection, and international relations.  Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do became my devotion to duty and innate desire to diversity my breadth of experience.
  • My PS was one huge block of text, no paragraphs.  I filled the entire space except white space at the end of every line ranging from 1/8″ to 1″ on the last line.
  • I really have to give credit to my mentors.  I knew what I wanted to say but they helped me say it in an effective, educated way.  Thank you.
  • My final draft wasn’t done until about four days from the deadline.  It was terrifying.
  • Post any questions you have, I am glad to help.

37 Comments

  1. Great stuff! especially the example from your PS. I'm having a fair bit of trouble writing my for rated and was wondering if you might be able to take a look.

  2. Thanks. Of course! You can email me at airforceotsguy@gmail.com

  3. Please keep writing more posts.

  4. I would love to, but I ran out of material. What would you like me to address? I am about to do a few post-selection updates and I plan to blog a basic outline of TFIT/TFOT (OTS).

  5. I hope you will keep sharing more posts.

  6. Thanks. I'm currently working on one about the Whole Person Concept. More to follow.

  7. That's really interesting post.

  8. I hope you will keep writing more informative posts.

  9. Thank you. I will try to keep posting relevant info. Feel free to post questions to my Q&A post into the future. The problem is as I continue to move forward with my training I will be more and more disconnected with the application process.

  10. It was quite tough for me where to go, but you actually made certain points more clear to me.

  11. I'm glad to help. If you have questions or want me to read a draft, feel free to email me. I will be starting OTS soon so I may not respond quickly until I graduate.

  12. That's very interesting post.

  13. I must say that good information.

  14. Very informative post.

  15. Thank you for putting this blog together. I am currently in the process of getting my package together for BOT. Without having any military experience how would you recommend I approach my Personal Statement? The reason I am looking at the Air Force is because I currently work for my family's business, in an office of 3, but I have always wanted to be apart of something larger than myself and to give back….Especially after 9.11, Paris and most recently here in CA, the San Bernardino shooting yesterday.

  16. Thank you for supporting my blog. I was deeply saddened to hear of all of the shootings. As far as I am concerned, we are at war. We are at war with anyone who supports a cause or individually thinks it is okay to open fire on innocent people. As far as your PS is concerned, just tell your story. If you share my concerns about the shootings, you have a desire from deep within you that is leading you to serve your country. Explain to the board what this desire is and where it comes from. Transition to what you do and how it can help the Air Force accomplish it's missions, and tie it all together by hammering in that that the Air Force is not complete without you. These are just three examples to get the ideas flowing. Feel free to email me at airforceotsguy@gmail.com if you want to chat back and forth.

  17. Hi I am curious did you thank the selection board at the end of your personal statement?

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Correction: No I was thought statements like that sounded cheesy. I talked about how fortunate I was to serve my country and defend our way of life.

  20. So I am currently putting a package together for the rated boards. Should I cater my PS to include my passion about becoming a pilot? Or should I cater it to as a leader in the air force still?

  21. Matthew Acheson

    Like many others, I thank you for making this blog. I am currently putting my package together and this blog has been extremely beneficial. I just finished my first draft of my PS. Would you mind reading over it and giving me some pointers?

  22. You should speak from the heart and let it happen. I think there is strength in talking about why the AF drew you in and called you to be a leader, then closing out with why you want to be a pilot. This is the approach I took on mine and I was happy with how it turned out. Regardless of what you say, I think it will have more of an impact if it comes from the heart.

  23. Sure, email it to me at airforceotsguy@gmail.com. I have been extremely busy over the past few weeks but I will do my best to provide timely comments.

  24. My big advice is not rush it. A professional personal statement can't be written in a few days or  even a couple of days.

  25. Hey I just wanted to let you know this blog has helped me greatly while putting my package together. If you have the time I would love to send you my PS and see what you think about it. I have another question I am a SrA with less than 4 years of service. So my question here is my application will not seem as great, when compared to a SSgt/TSgt's application. Do you think they take into consideration rank/time in service?

  26. I put a lot of info out there and don't always get a lot of comments back, so thank you for the feedback. I always appreciate hearing from my readers. Yes email me at airforceotsguy@gmail.com. Your application NEEDS to be just as great as every other applicant if not even more so. You will have less years in service on your duty experience but there is more to your story than just years in the AF. Send me your applicant profile as well and I can see if I can help you improve it.

  27. I just saw this message sorry about responding so late to it. I have a majority of it saved on my work computer so I will probably send it to you Tuesday or sometime the following week since I am on leave this week. I have my TBAS test on Tuesday so I can swing by work and send it to you.

  28. No problem at all. This is your application so I just want to do whatever I can to make it as strong as possible. Good luck on the TBAS, and enjoy your leave.

  29. Anonymous

    Good evening Sir,
    Happy Friday and thanks again for helping all of us out with your knowledge. Sir, may I please send you my package tomorrow so that you could review it for me?
    Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.
    Nck

  30. Sure, when do you need it back? This will be a busy weekend for me but I'll do my best. airforceotsguy@gmail.com

  31. Anonymous

    Good Morning,

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for putting this blog up. When I was filling out my app for the 16OT03 board, I was completely lost until I found this. I could figure out in general how to fill out the app but didn't have a lot of guidance on how to fill it out SUCCESSFULLY. I just wanted to pass along to you that I found out in May 2016 that I was accepted and am now waiting on my class date for OTS. I have passed along your blog to many people and it has helped them out as well. THANK YOU again. My personal statement and Letter of recommendation in specific benefitted greatly from your expertise.

    – SrA Rebecca Chamberlain

  32. Thank you for the comment! I am so glad that the information I put out there is useful to people. Congratulations on your selection! Yes, please continue to spread the word.

  33. I just wanted to say thank you for all of your insight to this process. I am truly thankful that I stumbled upon it because it really has helped me a lot. However, I am really struggling with the PS portion. I served four years in as security forces and am a week away from getting my MBA. I am just really struggling where to even start with my PS. Any thoughts or advice?

  34. Thank you for your support. I wrote my PS numerous times so I know what you are going through. Have you read all of my PS posts or just this one? The biggest question you want to answer in your PS is why you want to be an Air Force officer (not just any officer) and why it makes sense for the AF to select you. In other words, what do you have to bring to the table. I saw you sent me an email so I will reply more in depth there.

    http://journeytoairforceots.blogspot.com/search/label/PS

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