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Posts from the ‘OTS Prep’ Category

2
Jun

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.

21
May

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.

15
Mar

Preparing for OTS – Military Pay, PCSing, Getting a Sponsor

A graduate from class 17-03 (Det 12) sent me the following updates about OTS.  He made a few really good points that I never thought about spelling out specifically in the past:

  • Military Pay:  If you are a civilian it may take a while for your pay to start kicking in.  It is easy to think this is an issue with the OTS staff but changes to military pay in general take a long time.  If all goes well for an active duty person, you can see changes to your military pay in as little as three weeks, but for anyone it can take up to several months.  I think one of the main reasons for this is because it has to first make it through AF-level personnel then it has to be submitted to DFAS which manages the pay for the entire DoD.
    • Tip #1:  If your pay is messed up or you aren’t getting paid at all, SPEAK UP.  All leadership (OTS staff, operational AF, AETC training, etc.) acknowledges that not getting paid is a major, real issue.  If you bring it up they will move mountains to help you out.
    • Tip #2:  Double check everything.  Cross reference your base pay, BAS, and BAH with separate sources online.  I’ll do a specific post on this later with links and a brief explanation of a pay statement (LES).
    • Tip #3:  If something doesn’t look right and you get paid a bunch of money you don’t think you are entitled to, DON’T SPEND THE MONEY!  Once DFAS figures out the mistake they can straight up stop paying you until the debt is paid.
  • PCS’ing to Your First Base:  After you get orders (AF Form 899) it will include what is called a Report No Later Than Date (RNLTD).  This date will almost always be a few days after OTS graduation, so you need to plan for things to move fast after you graduate.  The DoD basically takes your graduation date then gives you “travel days” based on the number of miles it takes to drive to your first base.  The calculation is something like 350 to 400 miles per day.  If it takes you two days/600 miles to get to your first base, you will be authorized to take two travel days where the AF will pay you a little bit per mile and for lodging.
    • In the operational Air Force they give you a RNLTD a month or two past when you will actually take leave.  Finance calculates these travel days first then any extra days you take to get from A to B are charged as leave.
    • Your RNLTD CAN BE CHANGED.  You have to get approval from your gaining unit so you will have to dig and dig for phone numbers and ask someone at that unit.  The process when I was there was for your Flight Commander to sign a memo request, your gaining unit to approve the memo, then the 24 TRS/CC or Det 12/CC to finally approve it.  Once they approve it you give it back to personnel and they amend your orders in 3-4 days (at the fastest).  Check with personnel on the specific process when you are there.
    • In summary, unless you have everything in your car and you are ready to drive straight to your next base, if you want to take leave you may have to request a RNLTD extension.
  • Finally, Your Gaining Base will not know you are coming:  We are an electronic Air Force and everything personnel related is tracked in a database.  This includes PCSing, your personnel records, assignments, etc.  Because OTS is off cycle to the rest of the AF, and because they can’t load an officer assignment for an enlisted dude, your orders are cut by hand and manually produced on the AF Form 899.
    • You as an OTS grad will bypass this normal electronic process, so you have to reach out and bridge this gap yourself.
    • It is crucial you keep copies of your orders because unlike later in your career, you cannot log back in and just re-print them.
    • Try to established the relationship with your first base as early as possible.  Units are supposed to give you a sponsor to help you with your move.  They will provide local info, tips, contacts for setting stuff up, getting you a temporary address, etc.  Ask for them to assign you a sponsor because they won’t know you are coming.

Comments from the grad:


– They’re doing pretty different stuff between Det 12 and TRS 24 right now. In fact, the 24th is being unofficially called a “guinea pig” experiment right now as they’re cramming all of the material into even fewer weeks, but still keeping cadets for the standard amount of total time.  For example, I believe last week they had their CWT #2, SPT #2, PFA, and a briefing all in the course of a standard week.  So it seems like they’re trying to determine whether OTS can be further condensed.  Also, we (Det 12) only had 4ish people sent home total, and they had already had 15 sent home by the time we graduated, and they still had a few weeks left.

– Our Det 12 class was the first one (according to staff) that was put 4 to a dorm room.  It was pretty packed but we got used to it.  Interestingly, this was also one of the first (or perhaps the only) class to have zero self eliminations.  The staff is trying to figure out if there’s a connection between the two, but I don’t know what the future implications of this will be.

– I’d say around 20% of our class never received pay while at OTS.  This might not be something to tell incoming students so that they don’t worry about it, but OTS has acknowledged that their finance department is in need of change.

– They’re getting rid of the ropes course this year.  Bummer, because it’s really fun.

– AEF was only two days for us, as our class was too big.  Two squadrons went out for Monday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon, the other two for Wed afternoon through Fri afternoon.

– Maybe just give a little note to non-priors especially that there is a very good chance they’ll be PCSing to their next duty station immediately after OTS.  This is primarily for those cadets who might otherwise fly to OTS – I would have driven with my household goods from the Northwest for OTS if I had known that I would have a report date of 12 March after graduating 10 March.

– They’re getting rideof TFIT in the next yearish – I think you already knew this.  [NOTE, this has been confirmed to start for class 17-07 (click here)].

– They’re looking at the possibility of offering online lessons prior to OTS so that there is less classroom/reading time and more application.  I’m a big fan of this concept, but it’s not official yet and might not happen for some time, if at all.  Leadership seemed to be on board with the idea of it though.

– Don’t hide stuff in laundry bags.  They loved to check those.


Follow up comments from a recent 24 TRS grad:

I’m in 17-04, so I wanted to clarify and comment on the points from the 17-03 grad.

– They are correct. In one week, Monday was CWT2 and SPT2, Tuesday and Wednesday was LRC, Thursday was Advocacy brief, Friday was PFA. Then Sunday night-Tuesday evening was my groups AEF.  We’re also split in to two groups.  Almost everyone has a GLP at AEF.
– 24 TRS doesn’t have 4 to a room.  We have 2-3 depending on the squadron.  They have us split in to two dorms.  Goldhawks/Spartans are in one, Hoyas/Tigers in another.  This could be because they’re in the process of replacing all of the carpet in one building, though, so it only has two floors available.
– We only have one guy who isn’t getting paid yet, and his was supposed to finally start today.  Finance said something along the lines of they put in so many backpay/advance requests that their DFAS account has been flagged and DoD was having to manually approve things or something like that.
– 24 TRS hasn’t lost 15 people.  I think we’re up to 12 now, and a few were people who failed PFB and their retest.  2 self eliminated that I know of.  The others were people who failed multiple graded measurements.
3
Feb

OTS Consolidated Help

Morgan Higdon posted this in the “USAF OTS 1705” Facebook group (click here).  This is good info!  I posted this with his permission.

You can download the actual file if you are part of that Facebook group.  Click Here for the link.


Suggestions & Questions about Uniforms and Packing

  1. View this site and see how Zachary Ian packed his duffle bag (if using one of those instead of suit case); it may help: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1330569503637484/permalink/1518297878197978/
  2. How is everyone packing?  Some are bringing one duffel of personal items and civvies and a backpack with a laptop and some personal items. Some others are bringing a suitcase, garment bag, and a backpack.
  3. Is everyone planning to bring the “winter months” clothing requirements?  Some people are some people aren’t. Reporting instructions cite Oct-April for cold weather gear.
  4. Is anyone bringing a princess cut blues shirt, just in case?  Some said no, but if everyone has one eventually all females are able to wear them. Note: You can get these and tuck in like the original blues shirt (with usage of garters).
  5. Anyone find any quick tips or hints on rolling socks and shirts?  Shirts… Make sure when you turn over the bottom, do it at 3 inches, otherwise when you get to the end you will have to little or too much fabric. Read the OTS Manual…. It is specific.
  6. How many pairs of ABUs is everyone bringing?  The consensus was 3 pairs.
  7. Does anyone know about how OTS feels about vibram fingers? As far as I know (and from what I know from 2903) you can wear them. I do not ever recall reading in there that you cannot. I am active duty and there are always 1 or 2 people around the base who do in PT uniform.
  8. Suggestions:  Try to roll your shirts/socks prior to arrival. As well, it helps to zip lock like items together (for ease of packing/unpacking as well as keeping the roll “intact”.
  9. Suggestions:  Females- When we report in on the 29th, make sure you hair is good to go.  And by that I mean in bun (if it’s long enough) even though we’re going to be in civilian clothes.
  10. Suggestions:  Sew everything on prior to coming (excluding rank).  Also, clip and burn your strings.  This will save you a lot of time the first few days and make more time for cleaning/homework. 

Officer Training School Questions and TIPS

General Questions:
  1. Anyone hear any confirmation that OTS is going to be 2 weeks shorter or was that just a rumor?  Again, this is just a rumor. The course syllabus has not changed. This may be affective for FY18 but our current class will likely do the full 29 March – 02 June 2017 period.
  2. Does anyone know, or heard from grads, if you can wear calf compression, knee compression type devices during PT?  I’ve heard if they can’t see it under PT gear you are good.
  3. For those who wear steel toed boots everyday, are you planning on buying some non steel toes and breaking them in prior?  If so what kind?  Ordered the Nike boots.  Super light and comfy but not sure how durable they are.  Only wore them a few days but I have custom orthotics so I don’t usually have to break boots in.  They don’t come in steel toe though so not sure how much I’ll get to wear them after OTS. I have been told the under armor are nice also.  I don’t think you can go wrong with either.  I got a pair of rocky C4Ts
  4. Since the skill badge was mentioned in the clothing list, are you having them sewn on to your ABU tops along with your name tapes and USAF tapes?  Most people say yes.  Remember though, if you get wings, those always go on top.  Also, do not to sew on officer’s badge (unless same as enlisted) until completion of the course and/or tech school.
  5. Has anyone actually started to study?  Some have some have not.  If you are going to study anything, study the OTSMAN first.  It is higher on the priority list than the HAWK.
  6. Do you know what documents I need to bring to OTS to enroll in join spouse? Husband is AD and I know instructions to enroll civilian spouses in DEERS says to bring marriage/birth certificates.  I’m currently in DEERS if that matters.  Bring copy of original marriage/birth certificates and of his ID.

Helpful Links

From Prior Grads

  1. What time should I report in?  1500-ish is a good time.
  2. Comment:  USE THE CROSSWALKS WHEN GOING TO REPORT IN!
  3. How much luggage may I bring?  As much as you need (you do not have to carry your bags BMT style; you can roll your suitcase if needed).  If possible, leave blues items in the car.
  4. What should I wear to report in?  Khakis or nice pants, tucked in button up or collared shirt, belt, no watch or jewelry (other than a wedding band), tuck in your shoe laces.
  5. Comment to Prior Es:  Do not stand at attention when the instructors are lining us up after check-in.
  6. How much civilian attire should I pack?  What you arrive in will be okay for a few weeks (we won’t be wearing them) – If you have a car you might want a couple of outfits stashed there for phasing up
  7. The checklist says pajamas… any specific kind?  They suggest sleeping in PT gear.  There are times where instructors will come into the dorms and tell you to be outside in one minute and you cannot be in your civilian pajamas outside.  Also, they suggested not changing into PT gear right away after the duty day (wait until all instructors are gone), because they can call you outside at any moment and you would need to put your ABUs back on in less than a minute.
  8. For females, can we bring things like hair dryers, curling irons, make up?  Yes, and there is time to put make up on in the morning.
  9. Suggestion:  They highly suggest bringing your own pillow with a white pillow case.  I asked about a blanket and they suggested not bringing that because they don’t know where you would store it.  I asked because I am ALWAYS cold.  They said the AC is blasting all the time so bring a sweater to sleep in and/or the PT sweatshirt. 
  10. Should I have cash on hand?  Yes, like $20-40-ish
  11. Does the color of your undergarments matter?  No, no one cares about your bloomers. 
  12. Are prepositioned items provided upon arrival?  If you don’t already have them, they will take you down to the BX and make you buy everything then and there.  They suggest bringing those items with you (just one less thing to worry about)
  13. The dorm manual talks about having an attache for your computer. I’m assuming we can’t carry backpacks to put our laptops and other class items in?  No,  The attache must be uniform.  Purchase upon arrival.  The opening for large pocket is about 15″x12″.  The biggest issue is weight, that thing gets really freaking heavy while marching around.

From Prior Service (who have not yet attended)

  1. Do I need to pack my clothes they way they will be inspected?  No, plenty of time for rolling your socks there.
  2. Priority for graded items:
    1. Academics (SOBs)
    2. Research Papers
    3. Briefings
    4. OTSMAN
    5. Room inspection
    6. Drill and Ceremony
    7. HAWK
    8. PT
  3. A few suggested items:
    1. headphones,
    2. allergy/pain meds,
    3. scissors,
    4. MOLESKIN (they could not emphasize this enough),
    5. ABSOLUETLY NO SNACKS

From Prior Service (who have not yet attended)

  1. Does anyone know or have you heard anything about the weekend schedules during OTS?  Expect a Schedule along these lines (week 1):

Assignments/TDY

General Questions

  1. People who have base assignments, how well do those assignments match up with your requests?  Where are you going, and what was your first pick?  In general, people were not getting the assignments they requested.  A few got assignments that were on their list, but the majority did not.
  2. Did you get your assignment before your orders or did you see your assignment for the first time on your orders?  I got my orders three weeks after finding out about my assignment.

Career Field Specific Questions

  • (RPA specific) Any RPA guys have an assignment yet? I talked to Mr. Coleman yesterday and he said it should be soon.  Some have, some don’t.  We will just have to be patient on this one.
  • (21A Specific) Any word on AMOC yet and if the schedule is posted for the rest of FY17?  The Unit Training Manager will send you a rip once you are ready to go.  The assignments POC sent an email to my gaining CC saying that they do not have slots yet for AMOC for OTS (1705) graduates.
  • (21A Specific) Do you go to your first base first, and then go TDY to AMOC at Sheppard?  If so about how long until you actually leave to go TDY?  Yes; between 1 and 6 months after getting to your base.  It just depends.
  • (21A Specific) How is the command structure in Aircraft maintenance (i.e. who is over and under you)?  Very few officers; Squadron commander is normally your supervisor.  You may have a Capt or Major sitting as the Mnx Op’s Officer (to provide oversight just for the ops side of the house) but they won’t normally be your rater.  Your position will likely be a Flight Commander or AMU OIC.  You will have between 50-300 people under you.
  • (21A Specific) Is it difficult as a woman in the field?  And if you were in a different career field, is it hard to learn/adjust?  Not hard as a woman.  You have to have tough skin though; they are all normally respectful when I enter the area.
  • (21A Specific) Do we get to deploy/Do we deploy a lot? We get to deploy, but it depends on your Command.
  • (21A Specific) What seem to peoples favorite aircraft to work on/with?  Usually your first aircraft.
  • (21A Specific) Do you ever get to physically work with the aircraft or you just do the management of the people who do the work?  We are not signed off to work on the aircraft but you can go out when maintainers are working on the aircraft and learn what they do and maybe climb into whatever area the work is in, but we don’t do the physical work.  Just manage personnel issues, EPRs, and big picture guidance for mx practices, attend a lot of meetings in which we brief production and aircraft status.
  • (21A Specific) Is AMOC difficult for those who dont have mnx backgrounds?  It is an appropriate speed and if you have prior service it helps because you don’t have to learn AF stuff as well.
  • (21A Specific) Do we have to deal with a lot of disciplinary things?  Yes.  You tend to write a bit of apaperwork (normally LORs).  LOCs should be handled lower than your level and Article 15s are handled at CC level.  But your First Sergeants will have lots of examples so you don’t have to start from scratch.
  • (21A Specific) Do you recommend keeping anything from when you were enlisted (i.e. EPRs, resumes, etc.)?  Keep what you normally would if you were doing a PCS/PCA.
  • (21A Specific) Are officers in that Aircraft Mnx field mainly new accessions or do they come in through ROTC/OTS?  Mainly they are new AF Accessions, so you already will have a leg up on many people…
  • (21A Specific) What does a Deputy Maintenance Commander Recommend in this career field?  For my situation, I’ll be in for 10 years once I get settled at my first base and she was saying I need to do a remote ASAP after that.  It would be my first so it’s best to get it out of the way on your terms.  For you civilians, you really need to do a remote 1 year tour in your career.  Basically you are filling in a “checked box” to make Major later on. Example locations are Korea, Turkey or other places in the Gulf region.  Then after that you need to figure out what you want in your career.  If you wanna go far, you gotta get to bases that basically slay you and take you away from your family/deploy.  Or you can be with family and set yourself up to retire as a Major.
  • (21A Specific) This is a recommendation:  Just had a meeting with a 21A Capt and the biggest advice that he gave was that MX officers get beat up in meetings and not to push that beating to the Airmen.  There is some that will have to be trickled down but don’t take it out on them.  Take it on the chin and move on.  There are 3 main sections of MX, the Maintenance Ops (paperwork side), backshops (fuels, propulsion, off flightline stuff), and AMXS which is on flightline stuff.  Most of what the 21A’s do is briefings about status’ and parts on order and stuff like that.
15
Jun

Air Force Drill (Marching)

I looked for some good videos on marching but I did not find many I wanted to necessarily endorse.  On my limited search I found a video of some JROTC cadets marching who looked really sharp.  Off the top of my head this video covers 95% of what you will need to know how to do by the time you graduate OTS (with the exception of parade.)  The only one we did all the time which was not in the video was column of files from the right/left.

Our OTS flights had around 12-14 people and on any given day any one of us could be in charge of marching the rest of us around.  There is no hard rule for this because every Flt/CC and flight themselves will decide to do this differently, but expect to do some sort of leading and lots of marching while at OTS.
15
Jun

OTS Dorm Room

This is what the OTS dorm room looked like, and mostly what a room should look like when in “inspection order.”

15
Jun

Rolling Socks in OTS

OTS made me more efficient in what I can get done in any allotted time.  If I don’t know how to do something, I can figure it out more quickly than before.  If I know how long something usually takes, I can find a way to shave off 30 more seconds.  It is hard to explain how the training course does this to people who have never been through it, but the oversimplified version is that the course over-saturates you with tasks and limits the time you have available to complete them.

Here is a good video of how to do one task of the many you will have to complete while you are there.  I will try to find lots of these and post them for you all.  If you find a good video link it in a comment and I’ll do a separate post.
When I was in OTS we were required to roll the socks just like she does in the video, but I had a different technique.  I would flatten the socks like she does and place the end in the bottom drawer of my desk or security drawer.  I would pinch the socks with the drawer and hold it closed with my feet, then pull them tight as I rolled them up.  I did not bang the socks against anything at the end because I made sure the sides were flat as I was rolling.  Sometimes I would push the end in with my finger to make it flatter but my goal was to never have to do this.
14
Apr

General OTS Advice – Looking Back

I can say without a doubt that OTS was the most valuable experience of my life.  It was not valuable because I learned a lot, it was valuable because I learned a lot about myself.  I don’t know how common this perspective is from other OTS graduates, but I know it is true for me.  I will do a separate post to summarize how OTS fits into the larger picture of my life from a religious perspective.

Here are some general tips I have for those prepping for OTS:

  • Confidence – Learn to have confidence in everything you do and in every way you think.  Confidence is a paradox in that in order to be confident you have to not try to be confident.  You have to focus on the task at hand, learn what you need to perform the task, and concentrate on executing the task based on the gained knowledge.  Once you change your perspective from being confident to smaller tasks under your immediate control, confidence will come naturally.
  • Stress – OTS will be stressful.  The faster you realize this the faster you will be able to cope with and respond to it in a positive way.  OTS raises your baseline stress level so you know you can handle even the smallest tasks when your stress level is through the roof.  During the course take time for yourself.  I restored myself weekly by ignoring everything else on Sunday morning and watching my church service from home online.  To cope with stress during the day I focused on getting through the next appointment, next meal, or next ‘after SMT’ period.
  • Chill Out! – I majorly stressed myself out prior to arriving at OTS.  I gave you a general overview of the course so you know what to expect.  The course will give you everything you need in order to succeed, so all you have to do is execute.  In the meantime, relax and enjoy your freedom!
  • It’s Not About You – One of my flight mates thought it was possible to get through OTS without fully embracing the course or leaning on everyone around him.  Had he continued on this path, he would have been dropped from the course.  There were many other circumstances involved, but the bottom line is that you have to lean on everyone around you.  If you are struggling, let it be known early so your flight mates have the opportunity to help you (not right before the deadline.)  If you don’t they may think you don’t care and you want to go home.
  • Dive Right In – The last part of confidence is learning to just dive right in and do it.  You have been accepted to attend OTS, that is the hard part.  You DON’T want to go home early and give up this opportunity, so close your eyes and dive right in!  Challenge yourself.  Step out of your comfort zone, make mistakes (and learn from them) and I guarantee you will come out the other side a better, more refined person.
  • Don’t over-standardize – Doing so will only make your job harder.  Standardize enough to not stand out or get noticed, but not so much that you get a demerit if your pencil rolls 1 millimeter.  Standardization is one of the few things under your control.
  • Make It Look Right From a Distance – Whatever you do, make it look right from a distance.  If you are going to BS outside on the pad because it was a tough day and you have to wait for that last dude in your flight, have your HAWKs in your face so it looks right from a distance.  If someone can’t march your flight but has to for whatever reason, have the drill leader fall out as well so he can coach and assist as necessary.  Yes it is about having integrity and doing the right thing, but it is also about taking care of each other.

What is important at OTS?  How do I prioritize my time?
 
Many people thought the OTS staff was purposefully trying to distract you from what was ‘really important’ as a hollow attempt to make you better.  While I agree the course is challenging by design, I disagree on the motive.  The point of the high stress level and distractions at OTS is not to distract you from what is really important, it is to teach you that it is all important in a unique and complex way.  Here are some of the major challenges in priority order, and why I think think they are important.
  • Physical Fitness – If you fail the PFB or PFA, you will go home.  There are exceptions to this rule and I could explain to you what the exceptions are and how they work, but you need to have the mindset that failing a PT test it NOT an option.
  • Graded Measures – Your academic scores are one of the easiest areas for OTS to assess you on.  The graded measures are the papers, briefings, academic tests, etc.  There is a passing score and a failing score for each, and I think a minimum cumulative average.  Prioritize your time so you can provide adequate effort to your graded measures.  Failure of multiple graded measures will cause you to have to fight for the opportunity to graduate from the course.
  • Graded Items (but not Graded Measures) – These are items you receive a grade on but they are not technically ‘graded measures’ in accordance with the syllabus.  Examples of these are your SPT or BELPS score.  If you fail these items I don’t think you can be sent home, but you can receive an OTMR from your Flight Commander.  I think the score for these items also went directly toward end of course awards points such as Distinguished Graduate (DG).  Regardless, I am pretty sure these scores go directly toward your mid-term and end of course feedback score, which also contributes to awards and your flight ranking/stratification.
  • OTMR – An OTMR is an Officer Training Memorandum for Record (I think).  In of themselves, they don’t mean much.  They will directly contribute to your mid or end of course ranking though.  If you receive one your Flight Commander will have to remove points from your score.  Receiving an OTMR can be used as ammunition against you if you are trying to fight for your opportunity to graduate like I said above.  If you fail a few graded measures and you have a few OTMRs, it will all be part of your file when the commander reviews your case to stay or be dis-enrolled from the course.
  • Demerits – just try to keep your demerit count low in relation to everyone else.  In the end these really don’t mean much.  You may get an OTMR if you have a ridiculous amount of demerits, but if you are receiving so many demerits you are probably failing in one of the above areas anyway.  Just don’t be that guy that always stands out for being jacked up.
  • Dorm Inspection – Again just try to pass all of your dorm inspections.  The trick with the dorms is to just always have your room in inspection order.  What I mean is keep everything where it is supposed to be and in the correct order, but don’t focus so much on lint rolling your carpet if you know your closet is in the wrong order.  Make it look good from a distance.  If you expect them to hit your desk, THEN do the intense dusting of your desk the night before.  Some thing here, excessive failures or security violations means an OTMR.
  • Knowledge – It matters for Phase 1 but beyond that just stay off the radar.  Don’t tell anyone I told you that.  Don’t get me wrong you will get chewed out and eat some demerits, but it will take quite a lot of screw ups for it to make a significant negative impact.
14
Feb

Choosing Your OTS Leadership Positions

When I was at OTS with the 24 TRS we had to pick two types of leadership positions.  The first type was our graded leadership positions which were either boarded or non-boarded.  I did a separate post about the boarded positions here and have included information about the non-boarded positions below.  The other type of job was the flight-level job.  This job was not graded per se by curriculum requirements, but your Flt/CC grades you and it ties into your mid-term or end of course rating.

You should be deliberate about which leadership positions you pick.  The challenge will be finding a job which challenges you and helps you grow as a leader, but doesn’t over-task you.  You will want to consider that some positions aren’t available until the second round of boards (AEF-related positions), and define the difference between jobs which are meaningful to you vs. jobs which will just keep you busy.  This was really tough for me while I was there because we had to pick our jobs immediately but we didn’t have a lot of information or perspective about what they meant.  This is why I am writing this post, and here is my advice on my recommended strategy.

I believe your graded leadership position should be something you will enjoy doing, something that will challenge you, and something that you know you can do well.  I have a Type-A personality so I chose to pursue a prominent position.  I have a passion for leading and working with people, so my position gave me an opportunity to do something I loved.  Although it kept me busy (perhaps too busy), the lessons I learned in my graded position are lessons which have deeply impacted my life and my future career.  It gave me a taste of my true calling in the Air Force, and that is priceless to me.  That was my approach, but other approaches my classmates used were choosing jobs which related to their future career, or jobs which allowed them to do something that they were really interested in (such as coordinating the dining out).  My main advice for this is to not skimp out on yourself, but challenge yourself.

As for the flight-level jobs, I recommend you choose something you can do quickly and efficiently.  Flight-level jobs are the jobs which you will do to make the lives of your flight-mates easier.  An example of this is if you have been a squadron safety rep for the past six years, safety rep would be a great choice for you.  If you were an exec of commander’s secretary and are well versed in the Tongue and Quill, the forms leader would be great.  If you are good at marching or memorized the D&C, drill leader would be a good choice.  In short, look at your graded position as how you can better yourself, but your flight position as how you can help out your flight.  The positions range from the ones I mentioned above to intelligence, morale, or security.

Graded Non-Boarded Leadership Positions

While it is obvious that boarded positions such as the Cadet Wing Commander or Tiger-1 are graded, there are a slew of non-boarded positions which are also graded.  I believe the graded leadership position requirement was new to the TFIT/TFOT course layout.  From what I understand from the past, everyone did their time as a lower class, then they did their time as the upper class.  The upper class fulfilled their leadership requirement by leading the lower class.  When I was at OTS under the new course layout, EVERYONE had to have a graded leadership position at some point during the course.  Here is a rough list of the non-boarded but graded leadership positions for my class.  This list is from memory so it is not all-inclusive, and I am sure it changes from class to class.

CQ – There were several positions under CQ that were considered graded.  CQ is the office which is responsible for reporting accountability.  Every morning and evening cadet leadership takes 100% accountability of everyone in the dorms.  These numbers are sent to the staff (and OTS leadership) to ensure the senior OTS leadership knows what is going on.  Some examples would be if someone had to leave to go to the ER, or took emergency leave to go home.  The most important thing about CQ is to demand cadet leadership provides you with good info about accountability.  For example instead of the leadership saying “everyone is accounted for”, demand they tell you “my squadron has 100 personnel accounted for.”  Then once you get the numbers ensure they add up correctly and line up with what was reported the previous day.  This is extremely important because if CQ reports everyone is present and there are no issues but someone took out the trash and was crushed by the trash can, CQ could be the quickest way of identifying the issue.  The different positions ranged from scheduling, training, emergency procedures, and overall person in charge (chief).

Comptroller – This is the person in charge of reporting finance issues to the staff.  If someone isn’t getting paid and it is causing their family at home to not be able to eat, the staff needs to know about it so they can ensure the support OTS staff is taking care of and addressing the issue.

Historian – The Wing-Level historian is responsible for compiling all of the pictures and videos for the class.  Ideally all of these should be archived so the final historian can make sure a quality class video is produced.  There are also squadron-level historians who did the squadron videos, but when I was there the squadron-level wasn’t graded.

Chief of Standardization (Wing Stand-O) – This person is ultimately responsible for standardization of the entire wing.  There are also squadron Stand-O’s but again they weren’t graded when I was there.  This person will deal primarily with the MTIs and will probably spend most of their time addressing dorm discrepancy issues.  However, if the entire class is together and all the CamelBaks look different, I’m sure this person will be called out.  I believe this person had to produce a letter of all things which were standardized and give it to the staff.  I think there was also a graded assistant position.

Chief of Public Affairs – This person is in charge of arranging the community service projects or volunteer type opportunities for the class.  It will take coordination and working with outside agencies to ensure everything is set up correctly.

Dining Out OIC – This is the person responsible for setting up the Dining Out.  This job was unique because it was the same person for the entire class, to ensure continuity.  It is also different because while other positions require a lot of work up front then things go smooth, this position will require a little bit of work up front then it will get crazy prior to the Dining Out.  The Dining Out is also during grad week, so you may want to consider how busy you want to be when you are prepping for your family to be in town.

Fitness Officer – This person is in charge of PT at the Wing Level.  I think the squadron level fitness leader positions were also graded.  This person is given the exercise layout so it is just a matter of executing and sounding off during the PT sessions.

FDO – The FDO is the cadet in charge of the flight.  If the Flt/CC needs something, he or she will go to the FDO.  This is a great position if you love leading people but want to keep things on the small scale (leading 14 people vs. 200).

There are other positions such as executive officers, supply officers, education officers, deputy’s, Squadron 2’s, which were all graded but fairly self explanatory.  I will mention many of the assistant or second in command positions are easier because most of the work goes to the top and the top doesn’t always have time to delegate it out.  It just depends on what you are looking for from OTS.

14
Feb

Prepping for OTS – Additional Tips

One of my readers sent me some advice on prepping for TFIT, so I thought I would share it with you all.
Just wanted to give you my thoughts on OTS.
  1. Loved it through and through. Loved virtually every aspect of it with two exceptions: sleep and dorm inspections. The lack of sleep is hard to overcome and frustrating. I tried to sleep by 2100-2200 every night to help make up for it. I also went to sleep really early on Saturdays (like 1900). I wasn’t very good at folding and I absolutely despised how you had to make your running shoes tied so tightly it was impossible to wear them; I always thought that would be a safety hazard. What if there was a fire and a cadet couldn’t put their shoes on fast enough because they were tied too tightly.
  2. Didn’t expect how friendly and close everyone was going to be. Everyone in my class, especially my squadron, had a very close camaraderie.  They never saw it as “You’re holding us back” they always saw it as “We’re not doing enough to help you”.
  3. I was terrible at marching, I just couldn’t get the motions down until the weekend of TFIT. Once I spent a few hours with my flight mates, they showed me how to do it properly and that helped immensely. Not being rushed by the staff made all the difference.
  4. I got shouted at a lot, just like everyone else, mostly for not marching correctly and procedures. Procedures took me awhile to get down. I was non-prior and while I had read a lot on OTS, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into until TFIT started.
  5. If I could do it again, I would study marching and leading a flight. I would also look over some OTSMAN and HAWK stuff as well since the information is out there.
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Additional Remarks:
  1. SPEEDLOCK (the Masterlock directional one), this saved me a TON of time and my friends all wished they had one. I could open and close my security drawer in the time it took my friends just to open theirs.
  2. SOCKS. I highly recommend darn tough for PT and Thorlo ones for boots. Insoles were incredibly helpful according to my friends and I wish I had brought some.
  3. Printer + scanner really was helpful to have. I was located far away so walking all the way to the printer and then back got annoying.
  4. Laundry detergent + dryer sheets. I highly recommend Tide Pods because that meant you only had to carry a little pod with your load instead of a whole bottle, not to mention they also smelled great afterwards.
  5. Bring your own white towels. The quality of the ones there weren’t very good.
  6. BRING YOUR OWN PILLOW and your own pillowcase if its just pure white. No one cared that I brought my own pillow as long as the pillowcase was white like everyone else’s. The pillows were literally cotton balls stuffed into a bag, my own pillow was vastly superior.
  7. There is absolutely no PT until the PT test (The first Thursday of TFOT). You have the weekend of TFIT to help, but you really have no time to improve if you’re behind by a lot.
  8. Lysol wipes were helpful, they usually have some at the supply closet but I think bringing at least one big container was helpful.
  9. BRING TOILET BOWL tablets (the ones you drop in the water basin). This will keep your toilet sparkling clean.
  10. Bring sandals/shower shoes to walk around your room
  11. If you know a really good glass cleaner, bring that too. The large mirror, the shower, and your personal mirrors all need cleaning.
  12. Swifter brusher (the hand ones with the handle) were very useful.
  13. RECHARGEABLE batteries were incredibly helpful due to the constant use of the flash light.
  14. DO NOT BRING FOOD. I brought granola bars and some candy, not a smart choice and took up a lot of room.
  15. Do not bring too many extra clothes. I would recommend 3-4 days of civilian clothes and one set of sleepwear to hold you over until you get your PT uniform for sleeping.
  16. If you go in winter, invest in REALLY GOOD Black gloves. No one cares what kind of gloves as long as they are black. The ones I bought there didn’t keep me warm and I was constantly freezing despite in full ABU and APECS.
  17. Same goes for the watch cap, but make sure you can roll it up.
  18. My MTI didn’t care what kind of sock color you brought (black or white) as long as the visible part was white or black. They also didn’t care if they were crew, 1/4, etc. Just make sure they were flawless when they were folded.
  19. BRING BLACK AND SILVER SHARPIES. ALSO SCISSORS. Very helpful for standardization.
  20. Bring small lighters (2-3) and nail clippers for trimming strings on uniforms.
  21. If you can, bring your own iron. The ones there had a lot of burnt scum on them and they left burnt scum marks on our uniforms. My friend ruined a blues shirt this way. If you can invest in a very good iron, I’d recommend bringing it.
  22. Look up DET88 ROTC for marching and honor guard instruction videos, INCREDIBLY helpful to learn and practice before going to OTS.
  23. Bring Ziplock bags for organization. Helps to put things into organized bags rather than have them sprawled all over the place.
  24. Get with the priors. Don’t try to figure out something on your own if it takes hours to do it. You simply don’t have the time. Learn it from youtube if you can, but if you really can’t figure something else out. Ask someone for help, especially on the weekends when people have a lot more free time. This will be especially helpful when it comes to making beds, folding clothes, and doing uniforms.
  25. Religious services are surprisingly helpful. My mother was a bit religious, I wasn’t much so. I did go to the bible study, which was awesome and full of great people, but it also gave me the opportunity to spend time with my other squad mates outside of the complex and allowed my mind to relax from the rigors of OTS.
  26. Bring a 12 inch ruler. Helps with beds and measuring other things.
  27. Bring lots of razor blades, you’ll be shaving probably every other day. Also shave at night. Don’t expect to do any hygiene in the mornings aside from brushing your teeth.
  28. Get used to using your camelbak to wash out your mouth; having the plastic cup is just another thing they can ding  you for on dorms. Also remember to fill it up EVERY night.
  29. FILL THOSE POCKETS. Make sure your ABU pants for the next day have your flashlight, pen, memopad, OTSMAN, HAWK, and eyeglass strap. If you’re going in winter, hand lotion helps a lot too. Sunscreen for summer. Also make sure you have your ABU cap. If you have an APEC, make sure your watch cap and gloves are in them. If you run out of pockets, use your blouse. ALWAYS MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS BUTTONED AND NEVER NEEDS TO BE UNBUTTONED. This helps in the morning because you just need to throw everything on and not worry about what you need to bring. Everything else that’s important should go into your attache case. You should always get into the habit of carrying around everything you could conceivably need for the day. Anything PII (Important privacy information) should be left in your security drawer unless you are explicitly told to need it (for like finances, CAC cards, etc etc).
  30. Get used to saying sir/ma’am when you open a sentence that isn’t “Yes sir or *insert greeting of the day* sir” (same goes for ma’am). Also remember to end conversations with the greeting of the day. Its just a good habit to get into.
  31. You can practice this with a baseball cap, but you should always put a hat on right before you go outside. If you get used to doing this before OTS, you’ll remember to always do this with an ABU cap. Muscle memory.
  32. Always make sure you are carrying FORM 341s in your blouse pocket. I used a PDF program to insert my information and printed out like 30 Form 341 then cut them into separate pieces. Made it much easier for me later on.
  33. Buy a good pocket notepad (go over to Jetpens and buy a Midori ring grain memo along with some really good pens). You should always have two good pens on you along with a good pocket notepad. A larger notepad is useful for taking notes during lectures.
  34. Do SoBs, all of them before the CWT 1 or 2 as quickly as possible (and correctly). Not only it is good for your test, you can then use your SoBs in class to follow along to help you better understand the subject material in the flight room and in the auditorium.
  35. You won’t have access to offbase for at least 2-3 weeks. Make sure everything you need is purchased in advance; you don’t want to have to buy stuff from the OTS shop, especially laundry detergent.
  36. Pack light, you will be expected to carry ALL your luggage AT THE SAME TIME up several flights of stairs probably. Some people had 60-100 pound suitcases they had to bring up 3 flights of stairs. You do not want to do this. I recommend one large suitcase you can carry and a backpack along with maybe a carry on bag. Remember that if you are flying on orders, you can waive all bag fees. Also if you have an account with the airline, make sure you get your frequent flyer miles (I got quite a few for American). This really only applies if you FLY. If you are driving, you can leave a lot of it in the car and go back for it later for the first few days.
  37. Bring a foam massage roller or “The Stick” if you have room. Several friends of mine brought some and they were INCREDIBLY helpful for easing the sore muscles we had after PT and marching.
  38. If you do not have a CAC card, I recommend using a paper clip or a piece of masking tape to tape your driver’s license to your notepad or place it in a blouse pocket. DO NOT PUT IT IN ABU PANTS. I only say this because while I used my ABU pants a lot to retrieve items, I almost never touched my ABU blouse pockets. This will ensure you do not lose your ID; you are required to have an ID at all times.
  39. The welcome packet is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Make sure you put that in your attache case as soon as possible and keep it fairly pristine. It contains several forms you will be required to turn in as well as several sheets that will be important for the weeks ahead.
  40. Find out standardization with your squad/flight as soon as possible. For you non-priors and even priors, what I mean by this is that everyone has to be virtually the same. That means everyone puts their camelbak and their reflective belt in the exact same manner on their chairs in the auditorium along with even carrying your HAWK/OTSMAN in the same hand with the exact same finger positioning. Everything has to be the same. The MTI and staff aren’t extremely picky however and know logic when they see it. If you brought gloves or different boots from home, they won’t care as long as they are the same color as everyone else. If your friend wears Nike ABU boots and you wear Rocky’s, no one cares unless one happens to be flamboyant hot pink.
  41. DO NOT FILL OUT A FORM UNTIL YOU ARE EXPLICITLY TOLD TO DO SO. Line by line, box by box. The finance people will drill this into you as well. ANY mistakes requires redoing the ENTIRE form usually. The Form 1 had to be redone several times by most of our squad because they rushed ahead. Attention to detail is very important people.
  42. Try and set laundry days with the other squadrons. For example, Squadron 1 has M, W, Squadron 2 has T, TH. There’s only one squadron per floor generally except for the 4th Squadron which is split between two floors.
  43. If you do laundry, make sure you set a note there with your name, squad, flight number, and room number. Fold other people’s stuff if you can, especially ABU and put it in a bag if there’s one on top. DO NOT MOVE people’s stuff unless it is done and you are putting it directly on top of the machine. Many people lost stuff this way, especially boot socks.
  44. GO TO SLEEP EARLY. Some days you won’t be able to help it, but you should always try to sleep by 2130 or 2200. An extra hour of sleep is far more useful than an hour of study. If you have a watch that vibrates or has a quiet alarm, you can set it a little early (like 4:27) so that you can get ready for 4:30 wake up. To be honest the 0430 wakeup isn’t really an issue past the first few days. Staff only check for the first week or two, after that its accountability for your Flight leaders (FDOs). On weekends when you have more free time, try to catch up on sleep on Friday or Saturday and go to sleep around 1900 if possible. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep REALLY helps, especially since you won’t get it during the week. If you don’t go to church, nap between 0800-1200 if you have free time on Sundays. You will have almost no opportunity to nap during the weekday.
  45. For those flying: purchase any cleaning supplies, printers, or various other items once you land in Alabama if you do not wish to have to take it with you on the plane. If you are driving, put all that extra stuff in your car or purchase it when you get to Alabama.
  46. For those driving: leave most of your items in your car except maybe your essential items for your room. Blues and the rest can wait till later, but do make sure you bring your ABUs.
  47. This is a personal preference, but I’d purchase a new iron. The irons there had a lot of water scum and burnt marks on them, which made them stain/destroy blue shirts they were used on. They weren’t also particularly good and some of them didn’t work. I’d personally buy a really nice iron because I’d be using it a lot. For those of you who don’t know how to iron, I’d start learning now.
  48. A lot of people have varied opinions on the HAWK and OTSMAN and whether you should study them beforehand. For the OTSMAN, you just won’t understand most of the terminology or places they reference until you get there. The main thing I’d focus on in the OTSMAN are greeting procedures, reporting procedures, and saluting. The rest of it will come later. As for the HAWK, you won’t be able to remember all of it, but there are several items I’d learn before arriving there since they are easily available online. These items would be The Airman’s Creed, The Air Force Core Values, The Air Force Mission, The Military Phonetic Alphabet, The 6 Articles of the Code of Conduct, Air Force Enlisted and Officer insignia. Aside from that, the rest you won’t really understand until you get there. As I said earlier, I’d focus on learning how to march and watching videos (or better yet someone who can teach you how the AF does it). This will help make the first two weeks a lot more bearable and help draw less attention to you.
  49. COT. Commissioned Officer Training may be taking place during your time at OTS. Commissioned Officer Training is for doctors/nurses, chaplains, and lawyers. They are commissioned officers and are to be given the same courtesies that you would with the staff, so remember to salute and greet them. Aside from that, you will have no interaction with them.
  50. This is a personal preference, but I recommend bringing a massage roller or tennis balls to help with massage your muscles while at OTS. The marching and the PT take a toll on some people and with the lack of sleep you’ll be getting, it may feel hard to recover. Having a foam roller can go a long way to recovering faster.
  51. You will have your cell phones, but you will not carry them outside of your room until much later in the course. Only those in a leadership position such as your FDO (Flight Director of Operations; in charge of a Flight) or your squadron commander will have them on their persons. This is so they can communicate with the Flight Commanders and Squadron Commander. Aside from that, you may use them after dinner and before lights out to speak with family and friends. Many people spent an hour every night talking with family so they didn’t feel homesick. To each their own, but be careful with time management. You may also use your cell phones as an alarm clock, but do not set an alarm for earlier than 0430.
  52. Try and be careful; do not overexert yourself or go crazy on physical activities. Everyone feels that competitive spirit and the wish to excel, but don’t injure yourself. Injuring yourself could be a fast ticket home (You will most likely be given the opportunity to come back, but probably not for several months to a year). I’d recommend pushing yourself to your limits only during your PT tests, which you will be required to pass in order to graduate.
  53. Air National Guard folks do not attend TFIT (The indoctrination period before TFOT). This means ANG folks will arrive on the first day of TFOT and it will be up to the Flight and Squadrons to get them situated as quickly as possible and get them caught up with the routine. If you are ANG, you will feel lost at first and your flight/squadron should have everything prepared for your arrival. ANG people, make sure you know the oath of office for the ANG.
  54. Take the initiative. Don’t be afraid to ask your FDO, squadron commanders, or even your flight commanders/staff for things as long as its not explicitly stated otherwise in the OTSMAN or you’ve been told otherwise. Some people were even allowed to have food in the dorms (as long as they were sealed) due to medical reasons or flight physical reasons.