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. Here is a 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. Here is the link to AHRN.
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.
- Here is a link to see the rates they will pay you for a hotel by location. 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.
- Here is a link which contains all of the 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. Here is the link for the E-Publishing web site. 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) (https://etca.randolph.af.mil) 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.