Air Force Journey

Sharing my journey through Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) and beyond.

OTS Prep

The Hardest Part About OTS

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.


  1. As someone who was short-noticed to go to OTS in Jan, I am a bit worried about my PT. Currently I can meet the minimums on a good day and am REALLY pushing to get in the low 80s quickly. You mention that failing the first PT test they are subject to a “PT re-eval”. Is this re-eval given to all the initial failures? When was it given?

    Just really really worrying and it would be great to know they may still be giving second chances to cadets.

  2. First of all to answer your question, yes I think all failures had a chance to re-eval about a week later. That re-eval basically set your fate though so it is best to avoid that situation.

    I was active duty for 11 years prior to OTS and here is my own PT prep mindset. To get better at pushups and sit-ups, you have to do pushups and sit-ups. Prior to a test I would make myself do 70 pushups and 60 sit-ups every couple of days because that was right above my max's. I would do my minute then bang them out one at a time till I hit my goal for both. For pushups this would generally mean 50 or so in one minute, rest, then 10 at a time until I hit 70. Then sit-ups. If you do this even for only two weeks you will get better. The most important thing is form though. Make sure each rep is of good form or you are setting yourself up for failure. Every PT evaluator is different so if you keep it by the book you will pass the strictest evaluator.

    To train for the run I used GPS running apps (I use strava) to map out different 1.5 mile segments around my neighborhood. I used the hilly and curvy ones to train, but my evaluation segment was 1.5 miles at a slight incline (I think it was 5%). I would test myself on that one and since the incline always slowed me down I would always be faster on the track.

    At about one month out, two weeks out, and a week out I would do a mock PT test. I would do strictly one minute pushups, one minute sit-ups, then 1.5 mile run on the track and record my results. This would calm my nerves down because I would seriously freak out about my PT test for about two months prior to the test.

    The key to whatever your workout plan you do is this, YOU HAVE TO STOP TRAINING ABOUT THREE DAYS PRIOR TO YOUR TEST/MOCK TEST. Muscle fatigue is real so if you work your muscles too hard you will not be able to perform. The other key is hydration. Seriously drink a ton of water the days leading up to your test. A lot of people don't realize how much slight dehydration will effect your run time. It is like something is pulling you back.

    Honestly since you are worried about this and reading up on it, I know you will be fine. I always have a ton of adrenaline which gives me extra reps and cuts my time on actual test day.

    One more thing which helped me specifically for OTS with the run is a GPS running watch. At any time I could look at my watch and it would tell me my pace so I knew if I needed to speed up. I ways ran an insane first lap so as long as I did an 8 min pace every lap after I would be safe. Good luck, hit me up with more questions.

  3. Great post, and congratulations on finally earning your commission!

    In regards to the watch – Did you have an everyday watch that also had GPS capability, or did you have a GPS watch specifically for PT? I was planning on purchasing a watch for OTS anyways, but will buy a combo watch if it will make life easier.

    For the luggage on day one – Did a lot of folks bring wheeled luggage bags? I guess my concern is the staff yelling something to the effect of, “Carry your luggage, trainee!!” Does it make sense to bring a couple of duffel bags that are easier to carry? Or an I overthinking things?

  4. Anonymous

    When are typical “Phase up” times for each Phase? Does this differ between TFIT and TFOT only cadets?

  5. Thanks!

    I bought a Garmin Forerunner 10 off craigslist. On the main screen it has time and date. When you turn on the GPS it tracks your run on the map and will give you live inputs on the pace like I was saying. My only two complaints were the chrono was hard to turn on quickly if I needed it, and I scratched the face of it while I was scrambling around getting ready in the morning. I am a tech/GPS junkie so only get a GPS watch if you think you will greatly benefit from it. The main watch you need for OTS is a digital watch with time/date and a chrono would be helpful in the DFAC.

    Your choice of luggage will only help you get from your car to your dorm. The staff won't give you a hard time about it, they will just tell you to hurry up. You will need to be concerned about your laptop not breaking for being crammed into your bag, having and packing the stuff you need, and getting everything up to your dorm room on that initial arrival. Also know that you may have to bring yourself and luggage up stairs to your dorm room. Lots of people had luggage so yeah, don't overthink it.

  6. Reply posted below. Thanks!

  7. I just did a post on phasing up for you. Since the guard folks arrived in time for TFOT we all phased up together for every phase.

  8. Thanks for the feedback!

  9. If you fail the first PT test and are required to do the PT eval, how long in between is that? Is that the second PT test? I would assume they wouldn't test you so quickly after you fail your first one and would make sure to see if you can improve before testing again?

  10. No the course mandates two separate PT tests. The first is the Physical Fitness Baseline (PFB) and the second is the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). The people who failed the PFB re-tested about a week later. There is no time to really improve it is just a matter of proving the first failure was a fluke. Check out my Week 2/PT post I did a a few days ago.

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