I get a lot of questions about Personal Statements (PS) so I decided it is time to do another post. I believe your PS is your best chance to make an impact on the board. The PS should not be a bland recap of your career experience or qualifications because the board is going to get this from your OTS applicant profile. IMO your goal for the PS should be to tell the board a personal story about how you were inspired to apply to become and officer in the United States Air Force. It should be so captivating it must be read to the end, and reading it should fill the board member with emotion and move them to tears. If you do not do this (or attempt to do this), I think you are missing a huge opportunity to catch the board’s attention. Over this past year I have ran this blog I have probably read two or three PSs which met my own personal criteria for this, so it is possible. If there are any selects out there who would like to contribute their PS to my blog, I would love to post it.
I am not sure what criteria recruiters are pushing out there for civilian applicants, but active duty applicants are required to fit their entire PS into a form called the Air Force Form 56 (AF56). This form (like many other AF Forms) is an “xfdl” file which requires specific software to open. The software is designed for windows but I have heard it is possible to use it on Mac, it can just be a little buggy. Instructions for obtaining the software and form:
- Proceed to the Air Force E-Publishing web site. This is the official master archive for all Air Force forms and publications, so it should already be your best friend. I always get to it by Googling “af epubs” but here is the link: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/.
- Once the software is loaded you can open the form. To download the AF56, from the main page type “af56” in the search block.
The PS block is on page 4. For the AD side we are to write the PS in this block and copy/paste it onto the OTS applicant profile. The xfdl forms are a little quirky with spacing but you will figure it out.
The official label as listed on the AF56 for your PS is as follows:
- WHAT ARE YOUR OBJECTIVES AND REASONS FOR DESIRING AN AIR FORCE COMMISSION? (Include what you have to offer the Air Force. Confine comments to this space. Attachments ARE NOT authorized) (MUST BE TYPED).
The approximate length for the form is 450 words, but your results may vary.
I am not or have never been a member of the OTS board, but I have written (with the help of my mentors) a PS and have been selected for OTS. As the owner of this blog, I have also reviewed the PSs of many of my readers who have and have not been selected. I believe can see the difference between an effective and not-so-effective PS. Here are some of my own personal opinions and advice which you can consider as you author your PS and decide what is best for you.
- I personally believe you should tell your story. Why do you want to become an officer in the United States Air Force? Why an officer and not enlisted?
- What inspired you to apply to serve your country as an officer? Why the Air Force and not another branch?
- If you know or have known Air Force officers, what about them has inspired you to want to follow in their footsteps?
- Avoid overusing quotes. It good to show you are educated but I believe relying too much on quotes can remove a personal aspect to your PS.
- Try to avoid rehashing your career or experience. Speak from the heart, not the mind.
- Demonstrate you are educated through your writing. Keep your ideas clear and concise, use an expanded vocabulary, but still be yourself. Don’t use big words just to use big words, use big words because they are your words.
- What does it mean to accomplish an Air Force mission, and how can you contribute to the accomplishment of these missions?
- Instead of telling the board what the Air Force Core Values or mission are (trust me, they know), tell a personal story about how one or more of the core values has deeply impacted your life.
- Consider telling the board about one of the most valuable leadership lessons you have learned in your life.
- Tell the board about how much of an honor it would be to serve your country. Capture the feeling of pride and service, not the verbiage.
- If you don’t have a story I mentioned above, tell the board any story about a life or career lesson you have learned.
- ‘Perspective‘ is key. Show the board you not only know where you are, but you know where you are going and how where you are going aligns with the future needs of the Air Force.
Tying it Together
The PS, along with your entire application, should flow, not be a disjointed discombobulation of catch phrases or concepts. After the board reads your PS or reviews your application they should know who you are as a person, what makes you tick, and that you will be the perfect addition to the Air Force. Put your heart into it, re-write it as many times as it takes, have some English majors and Field Grade Officers review it, and let it happen.