A lot of people have asked me what the hardest part of OTS was. In truth there are two answers. In general, the hardest part is maintaining excellence for the duration of the course. OTS is a long course and it requires you to give 110% best in every aspect of your life. At any given time you will have some sort of deadline looming above your head while other factors are in your face and demanding your attention. If you are worrying about the upcoming Consolidated Written Test (CWT) for example, you may be running through the different subject areas in your head. While you are running through them you may be standing in front of the DFAC with a HAWK in your face frantically trying to memorize the quote of the day because the staff is yelling at the flight in front of you about their knowledge. You want to get the answers right because the Phase One Evaluation (POE) is on Friday and you don’t want to let your flight down and you want to phase up. As you enter the DFAC you realize you forgot which side of the table position 1 is at and while you are worried about all of that you can’t remember if you are supposed to give the greeting of the day to the instructor you almost ran over. Once you finish the CWT, you find out combatives start tomorrow and you are worried you will mess up your shoulder, and concerned about how it will effect your PT test. Once one deadline is complete another one will take it’s place. It is constant stress so you just have to learn how to live with it.
The specific “hardest part about OTS” will vary from person to person. Believe it or not, there were people in my class who self-eliminated from the course during TFIT. There is a blue line ceremony in which you are asked if you are ready to cross into the blue and you are asked to take a literal step across the blue line. In my class someone decided they did not want to be there, and they self-eliminated from the course. That person was their own worst enemy. There were also six or seven who failed the Physical Fitness Baseline (PFB), which is the first PT test. Many of those people could not pass the PT re-eval and were dropped from the course. Many other people struggled with the “graded measures” more specifically the papers, the briefings, or the academic tests. The hard thing about these is under normal circumstances most people would pass these items with no problems, but in the pressure cooker of OTS it can be much harder to perform. OTS was not my first rodeo but I struggled with the academic tests because I was also in a demanding graded leadership position. There were a few people who were under review to be dropped due to “failure to adapt,” and the final PT test (Physical Fitness Assessment) threatened a few more. I would say at the end of the day we lost about 10% of the class over the course of two months due to one of the above circumstances.
OTS will cause you stare your weaknesses in the face and either overcome the challenges they present to you or choose another career path for your life. While OTS is not an easy course, it is something I believe everyone can complete if you set your mind to it. There is no excuse for a PT failure at OTS. All who are or hope to be selected for OTS should be scoring well into the 90’s for your PT test. If you are at all concerned about your form, you should be seeking help from your recruiter or base gym/Health and Wellness Center (HAWC). If you think you may struggle with the academics, put yourselves in the best situation to succeed. If you simply need time to study be sure not to choose a demanding leadership position so you have time to take care of yourself. If you need motivation volunteer to be the academic leader so you are clear on the Samples of Behavior and are in a position to help your flight members study. If your weakness is with the speech or paper, address your concern with your Flight Commander and study the grading form so you are clear on the criteria. Reach out to the members in your flight who have prior experience and are in a position to help you.
The bottom line is to ask for help if you need it. The people who struggled were the people who waited too long to ask for help. There were a lot of people who struggled, had no help from fellow cadets, and ended up being eliminated. There were also a lot of people who struggled, asked for help, and overcame the challenge and are now Second Lieutenants. Which do you want to be? You WILL be challenged and you WILL need help. The question will be what you do about it.