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Posts from the ‘OTS’ Category


TFOT Course Change Rumors

This may be old news by now, but a reader sent me this a few weeks ago.  He was a 17-05 graduate who wanted to share what he had heard regarding the TFOT course changes.
Class 17-07 and 17-08, I am eagerly awaiting to hear of any major changes!

  • No more TFIT – just the 8-week TFOT course.  The indoctrination phase will be shortened to only a couple days.  They will rely on the prior enlisted members to help the non-priors get up to speed.
  • There are now about 40 hours of CBTs to replace the courses that were removed from the syllabus.  Completing the CBTs is a prerequisite to attending TFOT.  The good news:  incoming cadets can test out of many of these CBTs.  This should save prior enlisted members a lot of time.  (Admin note:  I have heard the testing out tests are no joke, so take them seriously!  – airforceotsguy)
  • There will actually be two more classroom days.  I believe this will be achieved by moving things around in the schedule and by removing some of the non-classroom material.  For example, my class 17-05 had 5 days of Combatives, while class 17-06 had 3 days; I can’t verify this will be the case for all future classes, but my assumption is this will be the types of changes made.  Additionally, we had a lot of free time (OPS APT) at the end of our course.  I think some of those days could be restructured to provide more classroom time.  Again, this is speculation on my part.
  • There will be substantially more Graded Leadership Positions (GLPs).  We had 2 GLPs when I went through, but I’ve heard the new curriculum will call for somewhere around 4-6.  I’m not sure where all of them are coming from, but I believe some of the additional duties will become GLPs.  For example, there was discussion of the Academic Monitor becoming a GLP because they do a lot of work and that responsibility continues throughout the course.

TFOT Pre-Requisite Course – Wings

From the inbox:

Many people are having trouble updating their profile for the TFOT prerequisite site.  The home page has a broken link to verify personal information.  Here is a workaround:



Military Pay

Everyone in the Air Force, and the DoD for that matter, is paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).  Once you join the Air Force someone will set you up with a “myPay” account page on the DFAS web site.  You can use myPay to manage almost anything finance related (e.g., download your W-2 tax forms, change how you claim on your W-4, set up allotments which are automatic transfers from your paycheck to separate bank accounts, or view your pay stubs.)

The first one you are likely concerned with is your military pay stub, which we call a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES.)  There are a lot of other sites out there which explain how to view your LES, so I am just going to focus on how you can use the internet to calculate your military pay once you commission.

The LES is divided into three main financial sections; Entitlements, Deductions, Allotments, and Summary.  Here is a breakdown of each:


Your entitlements are what the military owes or pays you.  There are two main types of entitlements, Base Pay and Allowances.  The main difference between the two is base pay is taxable, allowances are not.  This is a huge unseen benefit of being in the military.

My LES is composed of the following entitlements:

  • Base Pay
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
  • Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)

Base Pay

Base Pay is a publicly available number anyone can reference on the web.  Click Here for the link to the DFAS site which has all of the military pay tables from 1949 to the present.  To find your base pay, find your Time in Service (TIS) in Years at the top of the chart.  If you are a non-prior at OTS, I assume your TIS starts the day you begin OTS, so your TIS will be “2 or less.”  Next, find your pay grade and you will see your “Base Pay.”

The day you start OTS you will be a Staff Sergeant, which is pay grade E-5.  The day you commission you will be separated as a Staff Sergeant and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, O-1.  Prior enlisted officers (over three or four years TIS, I can’t remember), can qualify for O-1E which is a slightly higher rate.

The 2017 base pay for an O-1, 2 or less TIS is:  $3,034.80 per month (taxable).

Pay Table

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)

The military pays us a standard rate per month for food.   The military doesn’t control how you spend this money, so you could technically spend $100 on rice and beans for the entire month and pocket the rest, but this is the allowance you are given.  Every time I search for an official site for this I always find a different site.  When I did the search today, the .gov site actually had the wrong number (it wasn’t updated since 2014).  Nonetheless, here is the site which matches what I get for BAS.

The BAS is the same rate for the entire year, one rate for officers and one rate for enlisted.  Here is the site:

The 2017 BAS for officers is:  $253.63 per month (non-taxable).

I honestly can’t remember how this works while in OTS.  I think you get BAS but since you have the chow hall available for each meal you eat they deduct it from your pay in the form of “Meal Deductions” under the deductions category.

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)

The military also gives us an allowance for housing.  This rate is calculated by zip code, pay grade, and whether or not you have dependents.  In the Air Force if you are single, you have no dependents.  If you are married you have one dependent; you are the sponsor and your spouse is your dependent.  If you are married and have two kids you have three dependents; you are the sponsor, your wife and kids are the dependents.  The “with dependent” rate is the same regardless if you have one or seven dependents.

While in OTS as a non-prior you will not get BAH because you will be housed in the dorms.  After OTS, your BAH will kick in once you arrive at your first duty station.  For some, your first duty station is your first operational base, for others your first duty station is your tech school.  It depends on your tech school length.

Here is the link to my post about how to tell if your tech school is a PCS or TDY:

If you are a non-prior with dependents my understanding for how this works is unclear, so this is only an educated guess.  If you have dependents, your BAH may kick in for the zip code where your dependents are located once you start OTS.  If that is the case you will get that rate until you check in to your next base.  Ask the Facebook Forum for more details on this, the people there are “closer” to the issue and therefore more “in the know.”

Click Here for the official site for BAH.

The BAH for an O-1 at Tinker AFB, OK, without dependents is currently:  $1,140.00 per month (non-taxable).  I picked Tinker AFB because I think it is one of the lowest BAH rates.

Entitlements Summary

Here is the summary of what a O-1 entitlements as of June 2017.

  • Base Pay $3,034.80 per month
  • BAS $253.63 per month
  • BAH (Tinker AFB) $1,140.00 per month


I don’t really know how the government knows what to take out for taxes (does anyone?)  I am just going to give you guys hard numbers and you can use them to make an educated guess for yourself.

  • Entitlements
    • BASE PAY:  $4,533.90
  • Deductions
    • FEDERAL TAXES:  $291.74
    • FICA-SOC SECURITY:  $281.10
    • FICA-MEDICARE:  $65.74
    • SGLI:  $29.00
    • SGLI FAM/SPOUSE:  $6.50

Here is what I know about these:

  • SGLI is life insurance.  I pay $29.00 per month for $400,000 of coverage.
  • SGLI Family/Spouse is life insurance for my family.  I think it is $100,000 for my wife and $10,000 for my kids, something like that.
  • Roth TSP:  Through myPay you can set up a portion of your base pay to go straight to your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  TSP is similar to a civilian 401K.
  • Mid Month Pay:  Given all of your entitlements, deductions, and allotments, the government calculates about half of this and pays you 1/2 on the 15th and 1/2 on the 1st.  The “mid month pay” is what they pay you on the 15th.


Through myPay you can have some of your check go into one account and some of your money go into another account.  Your primary account is going to be the one for your primary pay, allotments are for wherever else you want your money.  I have my pay deposited in my checking account but I set up a $1,000 for a separate savings account.  The $1,000 will show up in this section as “DISCRETIONARY ALT.”

The only other thing on my Allotments category is TRICARE DENTAL which costs me $28.87.


If my base pay was $6,000 and I had $1,000 in deductions and allotments, the government would owe me $5,000 per month.  The military will divide this in two and pay me $2,500 on the 15th and $2,500 on the 1st.  The mid-month-pay in deductions is the former, the End of Month Pay is the latter.

After OTS you should be entitled to “Dislocation Allowance” or “Clothing Allowance”  (ask me if you have no idea what these are), and these will show up as an additional line in your “Entitlements.”  For that month you will get paid more so your mid-month-pay may or may not be the same.  A lot of times they won’t adjust your mid-month pay but they will “catch up” what they owe you at the end of the month.  Sometimes they will over-estimate your mid-month pay then correct it for the End of Month.  Sometimes, they will mess up your pay then add a $389.17 deduction to your next paycheck.  Bottom line, pay attention to make sure that what they are doing makes sense.  If it doesn’t, ASK FINANCE.  If you don’t, they will probably never know that something is wrong until 9 months later when they realize you were overpaid by $8,000.  If you don’t pay attention you won’t notice something is wrong until you don’t get paychecks for two months because they are re-couping the cost.  This sounds crazy, but this actually happens.

Additional Resources:

Here is a site I found which spells out how to read an actual military LES:


TFOT Class Videos

Prior to OTS I actually refused to watch a lot of videos because I was partially in denial that I had to go through this stressful, life-changing event.  After I completed the program, I realized how valuable the experience was and I cherish the memories and lessons I learned there.

Class videos are a great way to capture the experience, but it honestly means so much more to those in that class than outsiders looking in.  Regardless, it is our opportunity to share a piece of the experience with the graduates, so I encourage you to watch these videos.

I plan to work backwards and link as many videos as I can, but here is the most recent ones I found.

Class 17-05 (2 Jun 2017) –

Class 17-04 (24 Mar 2017) –

Class 17-02 (18 Nov 2016) –

Class 16-08 (9 Sep 2016) –

Class 16-07 (17 Jun 2016) –

Class 16-05 (8 Mar 2016) –

Class 16-03 (18 Dec 2015) –

Class 16-02 (11 Dec 2015) –


OTS Prep Advice – June 2017

Here is some advice from a recent OTS grad:

Since some of you will be leaving for OTS not long from now, and some of you will be completely new to the military, please allow me to share a few tips.

First and foremost…. Learn your reporting statements from the OTSMAN.  If you only study a single thing before you go, it should be your reporting statements.  Know what reporting statement to use when you initiate the conversation vs when an OTS faculty member initiates it.  This will make asking questions (and you WILL have questions) a far less painful experience in that first week.

Second….. Be cool.  Non-priors had a harder time with this since all priors learned in basic….  They WILL be looking to cause you to panic, they WILL try to stress you out, to scare you, just to see how you react under pressure.  They can’t simulate life or death decision type pressure, so they’ll use the only thing they can….  Which is screaming at you and stressing you out.  They want to see how you handle it, how you react.  They’ll be looking to see if you crack under it, or if you operate well under pressure.  When they scream at you, and try to scare you….  do not let them see you stress.  In the military, we call this maintaining your “military bearing”.  You may find yourself getting screamed at by 4 angry MTIs.  They aren’t angry.  They are professionals doing a job.  They want to stress you out, and they want to cause stress in the other cadets watching…  thinking…  “I don’t want that to be me”.  Don’t react, don’t flinch, and they’ll quickly realize they aren’t going to crack you.  They’ll move on, and you may or may not notice that those MTIs no longer try that mess on you again (or to much less extent)…  since they know you won’t crack.

The day you show up to OTS….  you will report in civilian clothes.  If you want to avoid being the first example of the situation I described above…..  Wear a polo shirt, tucked in, pants, and have your shoelaces tucked in.  If not, their will be a nice MTI there, who will see you walking from the parking lot a few hundred feet away, and be kind enough to describe such rules to you at the top of his or her lungs.

Non-priors…..  don’t button the top button of your ABUs.  Just don’t.  Also, if you are bringing uniforms with you (vs buying them there) make sure you have the correct blues hat.  It’ll have a silver braid.  If you have one without the silver braid, or even worse…..  it has a solid white line (a general’s cap) then you have the wrong one.  Saw both of these happen in my class.

The OTSMAN governs every activity in OTS.  That’s actually a great thing.  You can go there knowing all the rules.  Read into the rules.  If it says lights on is no earlier than 0430 and lights out is no later than 1100……  it means just that.  If you do not have anything scheduled that day, you can get up as late as 6am (rare) or go to bed as early as 7pm (rare).  At first, your class will be afraid to make decisions that make your lives easier, but eventually the class will learn that if it doesn’t break any rules, you can make your lives much better.  Just remember to make such decisions AS A CLASS.

While there, EVERYTHING will be standardized.  Whether the zipper on your camelback is up or down, will be standardized across all 200 people in your class.  What pocket you put your HAWK in will be standardized the same way.  If 199 people get it right, but 1 doesn’t…..  you have failed to standardize…  and you and your leadership all the way to the student wing commander, will be held accountable.

See above.  Some of you will be student wing staff (squadron, group, and wing commanders).  You will be responsible for setting and enforcing the standards above.  Communication is critical, so make it as easy as possible.  Do not write yourselves into corners by making stupid rules.  If you created the rule, and its so stupid that people screw it up all the time…..  guess who gets to answer to both your classmates (who you screwed) and the OTS faculty (who wants to know why your classmates aren’t following your rules)?  You.

Shower.  It’s sad that I have to say this, but shower.  Yes, there will be occasions where you have less than 5 minutes to shower and get into uniform after PT.  Guess what tho?  That’s 5 minutes to get that nasty stank off so you don’t have to go the rest of your day smelling like a burlap sack of smashed assholes.

Go there able to CRUSH the PT test.  If you are worried about failing the PT test when you get there, you are behind the power curve.  Fail that first PT test and you (most likely) will be kicked out.  They did give people who BARELY failed (1 situp, etc) another chance, but we did lose people to PT that first week of my class.

Do not lie, cheat, or steal.  Woe unto the person that does.  If you think you won’t get caught by the faculty…..  Just remember that there are 200 other people who aren’t going to be willing to lose their career by helping you keep your secret.

Don’t do anything stupid on cellphones or computers.  There are cameras everywhere, from the classrooms to the hallways in the dorms.  There was a guy who got kicked out for being on the Chive.  In the auditorium, there are giant windows behind you that OTS faculty sit behind just watching for people doing stupid stuff on their computers or cellphones.


Is Tech School a PCS or TDY?

This is another one of those questions where the answer is literally going to depend on what AFSC you are selected for.  In general, after you complete OTS you will either Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to your first base then go Temporary Duty (TDY) to tech school, or you will PCS to your tech school and get a first base assignment while you are there (some AFSC’s call the night you get your assignment “drop night.”)

Here is the general differences between a PCS and TDY:

  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS) – This is a more permanent arrangement.  You are actually stationed at that base so you will get paid to have your own place (unless they make you stay in dorms).
    • “Basic Allowance for Housing” or BAH is added to your pay for that duty location.  Click Here to see the site which lists the BAH rate for all locations.
    • In some cases at training bases you can also choose to live on base in which they will give you a house to live in on base but you will forfeit your BAH.
    • A military version of “zillow” or “trulia” called “AHRN” can help you weed through a lot of the marketing when searching for a house to buy or rent.  It is designed to help military members connect directly with realtors or property managers, and you can view pictures or descriptions of specific properties available.  Click Here for the link.
  • Temporary Duty (TDY) – Going TDY somewhere means you are just visiting that base.  In this case while you are there you will get paid “per-diem” for that location.  Per-diem includes an amount of daily money which goes toward food (again unless there is food available for free on base) and an amount of daily money allotted for lodging in an on or off base hotel.
    • Click Here to see the site which will tell you how much they pay you per night for hotels.  NOTE:  The rate they charge you really doesn’t matter to you because the government establishes a rate for that location, and the hotel is going to charge you that max rate.  Basically the money goes straight from the government to the hotel, you are just the middle man.
    • In most cases if you are TDY for a class (i.e., tech school) they will require you live on base first unless they don’t have availability.  If they don’t have availability, they will authorize you to stay off-base and give you a “non-availability letter” for your records.  Keep this because it will be required when you file your travel voucher.
    • Click Here for the web site with contact information for the on-base hotels.  They also list the rates, but similar to above the rates do not really matter to you because the government is going to pay you at that rate for lodging regardless.

Air Force Education and Training Course Announcements (ETCA)

To get the official answer on the course length for your tech school, you need to go to the Air Force Education and Training Course Announcements (ETCA) web site.  Unfortunately, this site is restricted to those with .mil access only (someone with a military ID card logging in on a .mil computer).  I am personally surprised by the number of people who don’t know about this site.  Each Course Announcement will provide details about the location of that course, the course length in Training Days, and specific logistical details students should know prior to arrival, and any other details needed for while they are there.  This is all extremely valuable information.

The one thing the ETCA site doesn’t really have is the exact class dates associated with a specific course.  The people who have direct access to this information are Unit Training Managers, which are Air Force personnel who specialize in managing training for entire Air Force units.  I think they have a separate database or site they can use to see all of the class start and end dates associated with a specific course, usually for the entire Fiscal Year.

Is my class a PCS or TDY?

Now that you know how to find the course information, the key detail which helps you determine this answer is the course length.  If a tech school course is less than 20 weeks, you are going to PCS to your first base and go TDY to your tech school.  If your tech school course is 20 weeks or more in length, you are going to PCS to your tech school directly from OTS.  There are likely exceptions to this rule, but this is generally how it is going to work.  Here is why.

The Air Force Instruction (AFI) on assignments specifically answers this question.  As of May 26, 2017, this is how the AFI is written.  I encourage you to go to the Air Force e-Publishing site and read it for yourself.  Click Here for the e-Publishing web site and search for AFI 36-2110, Assignments.  (Just search 36-2110 in the search box).

AFI 36-2110, Assignments (Downloaded May 26, 2017)

Paragraph 4.6. Determining TDY or PCS to Attend a Course of Instruction. The following applies when an Airman is to attend a course of instruction. The JFTR, Volume 1, U2146 establishes that when an Airman is to attend a course (or courses) of instruction of less than 20 calendar weeks, then attendance will be in TDY status (use the duration of the course(s) as shown in Air Force Education and Training Course Announcements (ETCA) ( at any one location, or total duration of courses when attending two or more courses at the same location). (EXCEPTION: Assign enlisted Airmen graduating from basic training to school in PCS status if assigning them directly to a technical school regardless of the course length.) The length of TDY must not exceed the number of calendar days from the course reporting date to the final graduation date as shown in the quota allocation, plus all allowable travel time. Conversely, when an Airman will attend a course (or courses) at one location and the official length of the course(s) is 20 weeks or more, then the Airman will attend in PCS status. When an Airman’s attendance status is TDY, but he or she remains at a location for 20 weeks or more (for example, if an Airman is required to repeat a block of training), the original attendance status of TDY based on the course length is not changed from TDY to PCS. Similarly, when an Airman’s attendance status is PCS based on the course length and he or she completes the course (or is eliminated) in less than 20 weeks, the original attendance status of PCS is not changed to TDY. Upon determining attendance will be in a TDY status, then see paragraph 2.26.5, Table 4.1, and paragraph 4.6 below.


Will the Air Force Help You Move?

It took me about a year of doing this blog to realize how difficult it is for civilians to transition from civilian life to commissioned officer.  Under perfect circumstances, your entire life is on hold until results come out because it is one of the most drastic life changes I can think of.  Throw in delayed board dates, miscommunication with recruiters, or medical complications, and I can see why this blog is as popular as it is!  Please, continue to ask me tons of questions so I can keep this blog relevant.

As I alluded to in my previous post, things happen very quickly after OTS.  The first thing you have to worry about is how you are going to get from OTS at Maxwell AFB, AL to wherever your first base will be.  In the last post, I talked about entitlements and provided a brief glimpse of how the military views travel days and Permanent Changes of Station (PCSing).  In this post, I want to focus on our entitlement of the government helping us move our stuff.  When the Air Force asks us to move the Air Force will hire moving companies to pack up our entire house free of charge, move it from one location to another, and unpack it at the new location.

Disclaimer:  I am not 100% of how this works for civilians, so please let me know if any of this is inaccurate or misses the heart of the concern.

Normal Permanent Changes of Station (PCSs)

For a normal PCS you will normally find out where your first base will be about six months from when you would depart.  This is getting an “assignment.”  About 60 days prior to your departure, you will get “orders” which is the actual AF Form 899 which authorizes or ‘orders’ you to move from one location to another.  Once you get your orders you can start actually making travel arrangements such as setting up TMO.

TMO stands for Traffic Management Office, but it has evolved into a term which describes the process of the military picking up all of your stuff and moving it from one location to another.  Technically, I think the term TMO is gone and it has been transitioned to the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office (JPPSO), but it seems like both are still used interchangeably.

About three days prior to graduation you will probably have a briefing at OTS describing this process.  In general, TMO is divided into the following categories:

  • Household Goods – the majority of your shipment.  TMO will arrange for a local moving contractor to show up at your house and literally pack everything in your house up and put them in shipping crates.  Washing machines, dryers, beds, dressers, couches, it all can go.  Timing will vary, but in general expect for it to take two months for them to get your stuff from A to B.
  • Unaccompanied Baggage – You can arrange to have TMO pick up a smaller shipment which will arrive much quicker, I think closer to six weeks.  This cannot contain major furniture but can include air mattresses, silverware, a few pots or pans, sheets, or clothes.  Again I think they say six weeks but it can be faster.

Moving After OTS

I have hesitated with making a post on this because everyone’s situation will look completely different.  In my mind here are a few ways you can make this move work:

  • Drive to OTS with everything you own, and don’t worry about TMO.  If you choose this option I think you can set up a TMO shipment from your parents house or from a storage unit once you are fully established and settled at your first base.
  • Drive or fly to OTS with the bare minimum, and leave the rest of your stuff at home or in a storage unit.  Once you graduate you can have a TMO Household Goods or Unaccompanied Baggage pickup set up for your delivery at your first base.  In this case you may be able to use a Power of Attorney to allow your family members to sign for the pickup when you are ready.  In this case it would probably be best to have what stuff will go in which shipment pre-arranged with your family members.
  • Drive or fly to OTS with the bare minimum, and plan to fly back home after OTS to move.  This option would be hard to coordinate because it can take time to setup the pickups.  Additionally, you may not have a lot of time after OTS and before you have to sign in to your first base.

Weight Allowance

I should probably mention that there is a weight limit for what you can ship for free through these entitlements, but in most cases it is more than enough.  The JTR currently establishes the weight allowance for O-1’s at 12,000 lbs with dependents, 10,000 lbs without dependents.  Click Here for the source documentation.


Government Travel – Getting to Your First Base

Things move very quickly after you graduate OTS.  Once you get your orders the first thing you want to do is go line by line to make sure everything is accurate.  You will want to make sure it says where you are PCSing from (Probably Maxwell AFB) and where you are PCSing to (your first base).  The thing that is really important is your Report No Later Than Date (RNLTD).  This is the date by which you must be signed in to your next base.

For the sake of discussion we will say your OTS graduation date is 1 December.  The Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) is the governing document which dictates travel entitlements for Air Force travel (in addition to all other services).  For a PCS, we are currently given one travel day per each 350 miles of travel.  If your first base is Wright Patterson AFB which is roughly 618 miles away, you would have two travel days (618 miles / 350 miles = 1.77 days).

Here is a link to the Defense Travel site Frequently Asked Questions:  Click Here

In this case, this is likely how your timeline may look.  AFPC may give you a RNLTD of 4 December.

  • 1 December – Graduation
  • 2 December – Travel Day #1
  • 3 December – Travel Day #2
  • 4 December – RNLTD

In my case, I wanted to have a little more time to travel since I was driving to my first base with my family (including small children).  Luckily while I was in OTS I was able to request a RNLTD extension.  The general process was to get approval from your Flight Commander, your gaining unit at your first base, then routing the paperwork through the Det 12/24 TRS Commander for signature.  Once complete you route the paperwork through the personnelists at OTS (in the PAC counter) and they will submit it to AFPC for final approval.  If approved (sometimes it isn’t), the personnelists at OTS will give you ammended orders with a new date.  The PAC counter at OTS is the overall point of contact for this entire process.

For the sake of discussion, your RNLTD gave you plenty of time or your extension was approved.  The only thing you need to worry about is getting to your first base by that date.  If you only have two authorized travel days but take longer, any additional days will be charged as leave.  This is all done after the fact when you file your travel voucher; you don’t need prior approval.  As a general rule just keep all of your receipts because it will help you file your voucher when you get to your first base.

Here is how it could look if you take leave en-route.

  • 1 December – Graduation
  • 2 December – Travel Day #1
  • 3 December – Travel Day #2
  • 4 December – Leave
  • 5 December – Leave
  • 6 December – Leave
  • 7 December – Leave
  • 8 December – Signed in to first base
  • 14 December – RNLTD

In this case 8 December will become your “Date Arrived on Station” at your first base, and it will start your clock at that base.  For your travel, you will be charged four days of leave and given the two travel days for ‘free.’  It really doesn’t matter where in the travel those leave or travel days take place, they just account for the aggregate number at the end.  In this case you arrived prior to your RNLTD and that is no problem.



Uniform Guidelines

Disclaimer:  I do not own the contents of this AFI, nor the images that were copied from it.  This is an educational post.

Finding the AFI

All guidelines for the wear of Air Force uniforms can be found in Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903.  This is probably the most well-known and referenced AFI in the operational Air Force, so you will need to know how to navigate it.  Not only do you need to know how to wear the uniform properly as an officer, you need to know the rules so you can enforce them with your subordinates.  The point of this post is to be a starting point for non-priors before you learn to dive deep into the actual regulation.

All Air Force regulations and forms can be found at the Air Force e-Publishing site.  In most cases if it isn’t on this site, it isn’t official.  The only caveat is that it only contains Wing-level regulations and above, Squadron and Group regulations will be maintained by the respective Plans and Programs, DOV, or equivalent offices.  DoD regulations are also found at a different site.

Click Here for the Air Force e-Publishing home page.

From the home page, search “36-2903” on the right.

Home Page

Click AFI 36-2903, Dress and Appearance of Air Force Personnel



When you open an AFI, take note of the latest date.  Although this AFI was published in 2011, it has been amended several times over the year, the latest date of 9 February 2017.


ABU guidelines are currently in Chapter 5.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5:  ABU Blouse

Here are some highlights from Chapter 5 regarding the ABU blouse.

  • (Truncated) Officer Rank Insignia (see Attachment 2). Officers will wear subdued metal or cloth rank on the collar.  The long end of the Lieutenant and Captain bars will be centered 1 inch from the bottom of the collar.
  • Nametapes.  Nametapes will be an Air Force digitized tiger print background
    with dark blue block lettering.  The nametapes will be worn immediately above the upper ABU coat pockets.  Cut off or fold tapes to match pocket width.  The “U.S. AIR
    FORCE” nametape will be worn above the upper ABU pocket on the wearer’s left. The last name nametape will be worn above the upper ABU pocket on the wearer’s right.
  • (Truncated) Badges and Graduate Patches.  The total number of badges and graduate patches worn will not exceed four.  Badges will have a solid background, and will have the edges folded and sewn down with no more than ¼ inch space between embroidered design and badge edge.  With the exception of tabs worn on the crest of the upper sleeve (i.e. Army Ranger tab) badges will have squared edges.
  • Chaplain, Aeronautical, Space, Cyberspace, Missile Operations,
    Occupational and Qualification Badges and Graduate Patches.

    • No more than a combined total of three chaplain, aeronautical, space, cyberspace, missile operations, occupational, or qualification badges and/or graduate patches will be worn on the wearer‘s left.
    • If worn, ABU cloth badges will be worn.  Airmen may wear the badges
      of other military services while permanently assigned to units that perform duties with another military service.  Airmen may also continue to wear earned, permanently awarded Air Force and other services’ qualification badges that meet the criteria in paragraph 10.5, regardless of duty assignment.
    • Wear only regular size embroidered cloth badges or specialty insignia.  Metal pin-on type qualification badges are not authorized for wear on the ABU.
    • Chaplain, aeronautical, space, cyberspace and missile operations badges are mandatory and, except for the missile operations badge, will always be worn in the highest position.
    • When more than one aeronautical, space, cyberspace or missile operations badge is authorized, the badge representing the current position will be worn and the second and subsequent aeronautical, space, cyberspace or missile operations badges become optional.
    • All other occupational and qualification badges and patches are optional.
    • If a chaplain badge is worn in conjunction with aeronautical, space or cyberspace badge, then the chaplain‘s badge will be in the highest position.  Aeronautical, space, cyberspace and missile operations badges are equal in precedence.
    • When awarded the aeronautical, space and cyberspace badges, wear the badge that reflects current job or billet in the highest position.
    • Parachutist wings are optional; however, when worn they will be placed
      above an occupational badge or below a chaplain, aeronautical, space or cyberspace badge.
    • All occupational badges worn will be the same size; regular.
    • Aeronautical, space and cyberspace badges may be a different size than an occupational badge; however, multiple aeronautical, space and cyberspace badges will be the same size.
    • The first badge will be centered ½ inch above the ―U.S. AIR FORCE nametape.
    • The second badge will be centered ½ inch above the first badge. Third and/or fourth qualification badges may be worn on the right pocket or above the nametape (as appropriate).
    • The Weapons Instructor Course Graduate Patch (graduate or instructor)
      and/or USAF Test Pilot School Patch (graduate or instructor) may only be worn on the left shoulder of flight suit, or on the left breast pocket of ABUs.

Here are some pictures from the AFI of the men’s and women’s ABU.  Really all you have to worry about is U.S. Air Force and the name tape.  Cadet rank is pinned on similar to how this AFI states to put Lieutenant bars, but go by whatever the OTSMAN says.  Non-priors don’t need to worry about other badges or graduate patches.

Women's ABUMens ABU

Chapter 5: ABU Trousers

5.1.4. (Truncated) Trousers.  Trousers will be 50% nylon and 50% cotton, with button fastenings and an Air Force digitized tiger stripe print.  The trouser waistband will rest on the Airman’s waist.  Pockets will be secured and items stowed in pockets will not be visible except pens stowed in the pen pocket.  Tucking the ABU trouser into the boot is optional.  Whether tucked in or bloused, the trouser must be evenly bloused (gathered in and draped loosely) over the top of the combat boot and must present a bloused appearance.

Really all you need to know about the trousers is to button your buttons, clip your strings, wear a belt, and they will sit higher on your hips than you may be used to.

Chapter 5:  ABU (Other)

5.1.3.  (Truncated) T-Shirt – Desert Sand colored (Tan).  A desert sand (tan), short or long sleeved t-shirt will be worn under the ABU coat.  Exception:  Squadron commanders may authorize Airmen to wear a standardized color undershirt on Friday or during special events (only one color per squadron; individual purchase only, not unit-funded).

5.1.5.  Belt.  Desert Sand colored (Tan).  A one piece rigger style, nylon, web belt (1 ¾ inch
wide) will be worn with ABU trousers (Exception: maternity trousers).  Belt may extend
past buckle.

5.1.7.  Headgear.  Headgear will be worn outdoors at all times, unless in a designated “no
hat” area.  For wear and description see applicable paragraphs 6.2.5, 6.2.7 through  Socks (sage green).  Sage green socks will be worn with the sage green or tan
boots.  Plain white socks may be worn under the sage green socks as long as the white
socks are not visible.

6.4.3.  (Truncated) Footwear (males/females) Combat boots.  Will be worn with the Airman battle uniform, or the flight duty uniform.  Laces will either be tied and tucked in the boot or tied and wrapped around the boot.  No ―bowtie boot laces.  Logos will be the same color as the boot.  (Truncated) Sage Green Boots.  Will be worn with the Airman battle uniform, the battle dress uniform or the flight duty uniform.  Boots will be sage green, lace up with plain rounded toe or rounded capped toe with or without a perforated seam.  A zipper or elastic inserts may be worn; however, if worn, they will be without design.  Green boots can be either with or without a safety toe.


I’ll probably add more specific advice for each of the uniform items, including what I do.  In general I try to avoid AAFES because I have found over the years that I get better quality service and higher quality products from third parties.

You can buy an entire ABU set online, and it will arrive with name tapes and all badges you request.  You can even request alterations such as pockets being sewn down, which many people do to improve the look of the uniform.  It literally arrives ready to wear after you wash it and clip any strings. 

The biggest unknown factor is what size you need, so that can be an issue.  I wear 32×30 jeans and wear 32 XS ABU trousers, so for me it was pretty close.  You can call them or use the guides on their site and they were pretty close for me.  If something arrives and it doesn’t fit, as long as you don’t wash it you can send it back.


Getting Ready for OTS

A long time ago someone took a lot of my posts and combined them into an all-encompassing prep document.  It also includes things like the general schedule, tips, or other resources.

I have the word document but it is 20 mb so I chose not to link it, but if anyone ever wants to update this hit me up and I’ll send you the download link.

Again, there may be some overlap between this and many of my blog posts, but this document is more portable.

Click Here to download the file.