One of the governing regulations for commissioning in the Air Force is Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2005, Officer Accessions. The latest version of this instruction was published on 2 August 2017.
I haven’t read the document in it’s entirety, but so far I have two comments regarding the latest release.
- THE MAXIMUM AGE WAS CHANGED TO 40! Previously, applicants had to be between the ages of 18 – 34. Now the maximum age has been changed to 40.
- AFOQT – I have been hearing rumors that they are going to add a score requirement of a combined Quantitative/Verbal score (For example, 150), but haven’t seen anything official. Per this AFI, the requirement appears unchanged. I am anxious to see the next TFOT guide.
All Air Force Instructions can be found at the Air Force E-Publishing web site. Click Here for the link and use the search box to find the AFI you want.
Click Here for the direct link to AFI 36-2005.
One of my followers sent me a link to a dropbox account his recruiter set up to help applicants with the application process. It includes PDFs of the files needed for the process and another PDF with instructions on how to fill out the forms. These may not be the same forms your recruiter will want you to use, but least of all it could give you some awareness of what the application process looks like on the civilian side.
Again, this is NOT my site. You ultimately need to talk to YOUR RECRUITER, and use whatever documents he or she gives you. This is for situational awareness only.
If you think OTS is the right path for you, you are in the right place. The next two things you should think about is if you are actually eligible to become an officer through OTS. Here is a basic list of criteria for applying to the program and becoming an officer. NOTE: This is general information and not necessarily the most current guidance in effect. Be sure you verify all requirements with the AFRS staff or your recruiter.
- Be between 18 and 34 years of age
- Have a bachelor’s degree
- Meet minimum AFOQT scores (currently 10 on quantitative/15 verbal)
- Meet minimum GPA requirements (currently 2.5 for rated/non-rated, no minimum GPA for technical programs)
Here are a list of non-waiverable requirements:
- U.S. citizen and do not hold dual citizenship
- Recommendation from your permanent unit commander for a commission
- Eligible for enlistment IAW applicable AFIs (see Questionnaire 1 for more details)
- Not being considered for involuntary discharge
- Not being under investigation for court-martial or civil court
- Not being on a control roster
- (Non-rated/non-flying) Able to graduate, meet a board and enter BOT and commission prior to 35
- (Rated/flying) Able to graduate, meet a board and enter BOT prior to the age of 29 and one month of age.
- Eligible for personnel security clearance
- Not being a conscientious objector who has reservations about the Oath of Office
- World-wide medically qualified without waivers to the fitness standards
- Meet tattoo standards as outlined in AFI 36-2903
- Never be convicted of a felony sexual assault, felony or disdemeanor crime of domestic violence
Here are a list of potentially waiverable requirements:
- Moral disqualifications (Article 15, law violations, financial bankruptcy/delinquent bills)
- Civil suit or criminal charges filed or pending
- Selected for retraining / assignment
- Currently attending a retraining course leading to award of an Air Force specialty
- Currently serving overseas and have not served more than 1/2 of your current OS tour
- Currently serving stateside, on a controlled tour, or entered active duty service commitment and have not completed 1 year TOS
- Currently serving OS and are within 9 months of your DEROS
- Less than 1 year of continuous active service in the Air Force as of commissioning program board convening date
- Ever held a commission as an officer or warrant officer in a regular or reserve component of the Armed Forces
- Ever been previously disenrolled from an officer training program
- Obtained enrollment in another commissioning program (ROTC and OTS/OCS)
- No drug or alcohol abuse problems
- Member of an ANG or reserve component
- Previously applied and withdrew application, or previous waiver disapproval
- Selected by USAFR to attend OTS
- Previously declined commission selection, or was involuntarily withdrawn
- Currently serving as on of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
- Received IEB/SRB and have not served at least half of the term of enlistment
- Meet minimum AFOQT/GPA scores
- (Rated) Minimum PCSM score of 10 pilot/RPA programs
- (Rated) Are you age 28 or older on the board convening date and can you complete the boarding process and enter a BOT class prior to age 29 and one month?
- (Non-rated) Are you age 33 or older on the board convening date and can complete the board process, enter BOT and commission prior to age 35
- Are you non-native English speaking applicant (potentially disqualifying)
- Finance Responsibility – Filed or declared bankrupt, had bills turned over to collection agency, had a repossession in the past 5 years, intentionally written bad checks, debt ratio that exceeds 40 percent.
- 180 days transpired since final disposition of previous application (as of 14 Apr 16 180 day wait period no longer in effect)
If you meet all requirements to apply, the next step is to determine what board you want to apply for. Refer to the “Schedule” tag at the top for the applicable Fiscal Year (FY). Here is a breakdown of the different types of boards:
- Rated – Rated boards include all of the flying career field such as pilot, CSO (navigator), Air Battle Manager, RPA, etc. If you apply for and are accepted for a rated board, you will serve in one of those rated positions.
- Non-rated – Non-rated positions are almost everything else in the Air Force. Some examples are finance, Security Forces, logistics, civil engineering, intel, Space Operations, etc. Medical fields are NOT part of the rated or non-rated board, they are completely separate.
- TDSP – TDSP is for technical degrees and technical/engineering career fields.
Determine which board you are interested in and take a look at the schedule. Once you determine your timeline it is time to dive into my “Application” pages. Also refer to my “Reference” pages for links to the current information pushed out by the AFRS staff. Good luck! Shoot me an email or post a comment if you have any questions.
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.
Whole Person Concept
- Be an effective contributor to your job (a.k.a. the mission)
- Be an active and involved citizen in your community (both on-base and off-base), and
- Continuously work on improving yourself (training, certifications, education, etc.)
The most important part of this trio is mission accomplishment. Like I started with, you want to be known for doing your job well first. Once you are the go-to guy at work, then you can commit some of your time to improving the rest of your image.
- Education (bachelors, masters, to include CLEPs)
- IT certifications such as CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, PMP, CISSP
- CPR or other medical first responder certifications/coureses
- Instructor courses
- CrossFit or other physical training instructor courses
If you meet all of the requirements to apply and you are serious about applying, meeting with your commander face-to-face at the beginning of the application process is essential (in my opinion). A lot of people don’t take the time to do this. Instead of meeting their commander at the beginning, they simply write the bullets, schedule the interview after the fact, and route the paperwork to their commander for signature. If you don’t meet your commander I think you are missing a huge opportunity to both improve your perspective as a leader and improve the overall consistency of your OTS application.
When I knew I wanted to apply for OTS, I talked to my commander’s secretary and asked her if he was available for a 15-30 minute appointment. I was at a small unit so this was very easy, but even if you are at a large unit it is not as hard as it seems. You should make sure your supervisor, NCOIC, or Flight Chief know your intentions and ask around until you find out who you need to talk to to “get on the commander’s calendar.” Follow protocol and don’t burn any bridges here but do what you need to do to meet your commander. Your justification can be that your application requires the commander’s recommendation so he or she should at least know who you are.
In preparation for the meeting you should know when all of the appropriate deadlines are and have a general idea of what type of paperwork will be required. Don’t stress about it too much because at this point your commander will not want to know the nitty gritty details. It will be more likely that he or she will want to get to know you, talk to you, and get a basic idea if you are worth his recommendation or not. Your objective for the first meeting should be to simply introduce yourself, inform the commander of your intentions, and ask for any general advice he or she has to offer. If you forget everything else, remember this is likely the first impression your commander has of you as you begin the application process but don’t psyche yourself out. Just be yourself and you will be fine.
Let your commander dictate the overall strategy for your application from the date you meet to the date you submit. Ask your commander’s opinion on how he or she wants to conduct the interview. Operate under the assumption that you and your supervisor, flight chief, or flight commander will be writing the bullets and your commander will only tweak them to make them his or hers. Ask for any advice on writing the essay. This is your time to both establish your level of professionalism and competence and obtain any advice you can use as you piece together your application.
I met with my commander in October or so, and my package was due in January. My initial appointment went very well. My commander gave me some really good pointers and gave me the perspective I needed to prepare myself for my application. I did a lot of growing from when I started to when I submitted, and the 15 minute appointment I had with my commander started it all.
In total I met with my commander twice. I did an initial meet and greet and a follow-up appointment to check in. At the follow-up I did up a quick word document with what paperwork the commander could expect to see from me (paperwork-wise) and he dictated the timeline. For most documents he wanted them endorsed within 30-45 days prior to submission. We also specifically decided how we were going to do the essay, interview, and the application itself. Here are the notes from both of my meetings meetings which really changed my perspective on leadership and the application process:
- The essay is your opportunity to have a conversation with the board. Speak from the heart and be honest.
- The commander’s recommendation is his (or her) opportunity to have a conversation with the commander’s peers on the board. It is his or her opportunity to convince the board why you are better than all other applicants.
- Q: Have you seen anything in previous applications that I should avoid? A: Yes, previous packages have said by tone the person is a great Tech Sergeant, not that person has the potential to be a great officer.
- You are not applying to be a Second Lieutenant, you are applying to be a future squadron commander.
- Commanders have a different perspective than others, including enlisted leaders. My takeaway was that I needed to somehow convince the board I share this perspective without necessarily saying it specifically in my essay.
- Q: How do you sing your own praises but not in an arrogant way? A: Use phrases like I have had the privilege to serve as this, I have had the honor to serve as that, or I have been told that. It is more about the tone of the package, not specifically about the language.
- Commander’s are generalists. They are asked to do anything, even if they are trained for it. They need to be able to be given a task way out in the left field and be able to perform superbly.
In addition to the above advice, the commander gave me a homework assignment. My assignment was to type a brief paper which answered the question, “Why do you want to be an officer?” My commander also talked me to send him 5-10 of my proudest accomplishments throughout my career. Both of these assignments caused me to do some soul searching and completely revolutionized my perspective of officer leadership.
During our second meeting I asked my commander how he wanted to do the interview and his answer was the above homework assignment. He told me we had basically already done the interview so I was very relieved I would not have to endure a formal reporting situation. I can’t promise this is how it will go for everyone, but I will point out this is just one way of many in which commander’s can accomplish their taskings for your application.
I had a huge problem getting all of my paperwork organized because I work in a secure office and my NIPRNet is locked down to an almost unusable level. Here is what I finally figured out:
- Microsoft OneDrive. I used this for my cloud storage because it is accessible from work (for me)! Having a centralized location for everything was essential.
- Hard Copies. Like I said in another post I printed the BOT Guide and had a 3-ring binder for all of my paperwork. This was tremendously helpful because it was much easier to reference a quick line in the BOT Guide Attachment 5 for example by hard copy instead of logging in and pulling up the PDF. I am an IT guy so this one surprised me, but for whatever reason hard copies were easier for me for this.
- Soft Copies. I downloaded everything I could get my hands on from the SharePoint. This was extremely useful because SharePoint tends to go down at the most inconvenient times (like when 600 people are trying to access the AD select instructions). I kept them in my OneDrive.
- TAB 1 – My applicant profile, copy of CC’s bullets, and Letter of Recommendation. This will become your “app” packet later (this will make more sense later). I put this up front because I personally believe this is what the board will see about you!
- TAB 2 – BOT Questionnaire’s 1 and 2, AFOQT scores, ABM/CSO score (yes this was needed for me even though I applied non-rated), transcript, AF Form 56, Career Data Brief (from vMPF), vMPF print out (individual, current duty, duty history, etc.) the entire print out, Commander’s Quality Force Review Memorandum, Derogatory Information Check Memorandum from AFPC, AF Form 422. This will become your “srce” packet.
- TAB 3 – All EPRs. This is your “epr” packet.
- TAB 4 – Decoration citations, awards not in EPRs. Only which are not in EPRs. I had a few awards not mentioned but I went ahead and uploaded all decoration citations because they added a lot of value to my package in my opinion. This was my “award” packet.
- TAB 5 – Hard copy of BOT Guide. I placed every attachment in it’s own page protector, each was stapled for easy reference.
- TAB 6 – Schedules. Both OTS board schedule and BOT schedule.
- TAB 7 – Supporting documentation not otherwise needed for the application. For example your MDG will likely require your commander to submit a memorandum to request the 422 update. This memo isn’t needed for your application, but is needed to obtain something needed for your application. I didn’t want to shred these so I kept them all together in this tab. Another example is the AAC 05 update memorandum.
I am a big picture person so I needed to understand the big picture of the application process before I could really dive in. Unfortunately, I had no-one to really help me out and I found it extremely overwhelming to figure it out myself. Hopefully this helps you like it would have helped me.
In general, this is what is required for the OTS application:
- Applicant Profile. Think of this as your resume. From what I have personally gathered, this is what the board actually sees so it needs to be perfect, and it needs to portray the message you want the board to hear about you.
- Letter of Recommendation. This is done by anyone in your chain of command but no higher than the senior rater (normally wing commander). I will do a separate post about this because there is a ton of information and misinformation out there about this.
- Complete AF Form 56, the formal application form. This is more of a formality than anything, but 100% accuracy is essential.
- Page 1 – personal information.
- Page 2 – aeronautical training, military service, legal/traffic violations.
- Page 3 – employment information and education.
- Page 4 – personal essay. A crucial part of your application.
- Page 5 – education records
- Page 6 – commander’s interview and recommendation page. This page will make or break you in my opinion.
- Interview with your commander. This can be either as formal or as informal as your commander desires.
- AFOQT. This is basically the ASVAB for officers. Take note the test was recently changed to a new revision (April 2015 I think).
- Bachelor’s degree!
- Medical clearance (AF Form 422). Your MDG has to clear you medically for commissioning.
- Local PIF Review (accomplished by your commander).
- Master PIF Review (accomplished by AFPC but requested by your commander).
- AAC 05 Update. This is an Assignment Limitation Code which simply tells AFPC that you have applied for OTS. This should not be done until very close to the application submission date.