Thursday, July 17, 2014

OTS Packing Prep

Packing for OTS makes me long for the carefree days of BMT preparation.  No, seriously, take me back to the days of a small backpack/duffle bag with as little as possible.  Get your pocketbook out if you're heading to OTS - you're going to be dropping a lot of cash.  That's the bottom line.  Hopefully you've got some money squirreled away.


There is a main webpage for OTS with all of the "information" you need.  It has its pitfalls though, and there is not a single, consolidated list of items you need to bring, paperwork or otherwise.  There are several subpages that have their own items mentioned in one-liners here and there, so you have to comb through everything to get the full picture, as well as talk to other former Officer Trainees (OTs) to get the rest of the story.

I am amused by the fact that the official website straight up says, in a nutshell, "Bring $2000 with you.  If you don't have it, prepare to apply for a Military Star [Credit] Card on the first day."  Ouch!  I guess you really do have to spend money to make money...

There is a main AAFES shopping list, and a pre-positioned list of items in your room upon arrival.  I imagine those items to be similar to my BMT experience, in which you're charged for them when you checkout at the mini-mall at OTS [read: not free].

My first recommendation is to keep and/or make copies of the receipts from all of your purchases.  Unlike BMT, nothing is going to be issued to you as an officer, and everything comes out of your own pocket.  Sure, you get a clothing allowance, but when is that going to come through?  Not in time for this, let me tell you.  I maintain an envelope with all of my receipts for tax purposes later, since these are all work-related expenses.

Things I've Purchased So Far:

  • Service Coat - Officer coats have epaulets.  Snagged the US emblems too.
  • Flight Cap - Ooh, fancy braiding!  Already took a picture of my kid wearing it.  ;)  
  • Blues shirts - Two princess cut short sleeve and one princess cut long sleeve.
  • Blue Poly Pants - The BMT blues pants are the wool blend (bringing them), but I am also required to have two pairs of polyester pants, which aren't issued to you.
  • Bras, sports and otherwise - The woes of a mom with a new, post-baby body.
  • IPTUs - Four sets of shirts, shorts, and a new suit.  I upgraded from the "loud" original PTUs I got at BMT.  Don't forget crew socks!
  • Compression shorts - One of mine got lost/stolen at BMT, so I made sure I had a pair for each set of PT gear.
  • Shower shoes - I chucked mine after BMT. 
  • Running shoes - I prefer to be properly fitted at a running store.  My existing ones aren't horrible, but probably not fit for inspection.  I was able to get a pair that will meet my needs given the terrain I'll be running on.
  • RABUs - The lightweight ABUs seemed like a must for Alabama heat.  I got two pairs, and had name tapes and functional badges sewn on.  Thrown in a new RABU hat, a new belt (mine had paint wear on the buckle), and six new sand t-shirts (cotton/poly blend).  Oh, and don't forget three more pairs of my preferred sage green sock.
  • Low Quarters (Corframs) - I upgraded after hearing that everyone has the "shiny ones" down there, and for the fact that it saves me the trouble of shining them.  We wear blues a significant amount of time down there.  I snagged new black socks as well.
  • Ribbon Racks - I am bringing two regular ribbon racks, a functional badge, and a rack of mini medals and the smaller functional badge.  We are in mess dress during graduation week for Dining Out, and have to have our racks prepared in advance.
  • Toiletries, Cleaning Products, Hair Care Items - Tons upon tons.  All new products for styling my hair, travel and full sized toiletry items, cleaning products to maintain my dorm room, energy chews and B12 supplements [I still can't believe you can self-medicate], the list goes on...
Things To Purchase:
  • Printer - Not super excited about this one, but Amazon has some cheaper printers that do only that.  Must grab ink to go with it.
  • Lightweight Blues Jacket - Planning to pick this up down there.  Seems like the OTs wear the ones without the embroidery and mine has that and the stripes showing.


So, how do you do this on the cheap?  If you have a sufficient amount of time prior to leaving, you can scour local resale pages on Facebook or Craigslist in search of officers unloading their old uniforms.  You can make due with your current uniforms if the markings left by your stripes aren't readily apparent.  You can rummage through your house in search of toiletries and sundries you already own.  

Does this seem overwhelming?  Well, you could always just show up with the bare minimum and purchase everything there.  I chose not to do that, because I don't want my choices to be limited down there [e.g. only one brand of shoe] and I wanted to have as much time as possible to try items on and make decisions for myself, versus being pushed through a line.  I also wanted the option to spread out my purchases over the course of a few weeks, versus getting that sticker shock all at once.

I plan to update with another post after OTS of what was truly needed and what wasn't, as well as my recommendations for future OTs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Say what?! An OTS school date!

Prior to our normal July UTA, I had a few AT days scheduled, so I could get them done for the fiscal year.  It made for a long week, Monday through Sunday, that I was working, or the longest week I've had in a while.  When Wednesday rolled around, I attended a meeting at the wing level that involved representatives from each squadron, including some supervisors from the Military Personnel Section (MPS; the folks who process the DACP program).

I was sitting there with a wingman, taking everything in and waiting for the meeting to start, when someone asked me, "so, did you get the letter?"

Um, come again?

Seems my selection letter had just come in the day or so before and they had it in their email.  At first I wasn't sure if this was some sort of horrible joke, as I was told my school date was next month.  I was familiar enough with the 2015 school dates and I knew that the next date was August 6th.  A mere twenty-eight days away.

The deliverer of this news wasn't expecting the reaction they got.  "Flabbergasted" is a good way to describe my initial feelings towards this news.  Am I excited?  Yes.  But it is a bittersweet, loaded bunch of emotions that come with it.  Remember that I've been going through this process since the fall of 2012.  To say it's been dragging is an understatement.  So, to sign the final papers on the 23rd of June and see a selection letter dated the 1st of July was beyond anything I ever expected.  That meant I had twenty-eight days.  Twenty-eight days to prepare my family for my departure, to get my daughter to sleep in the big girl bed, and to wean her.  DH is only home temporarily, before some additional duty out of state.  That means our family care plan is in full effect and DD is being watched by FIL.  I have no doubt that she'll be way taken care of, but I also want to get a support network together for him, as that's a big nine week undertaking for anyone.  Never mind the fact that I'm sure my school administrators are thrilled to hear that I won't be starting the school year with them.  The thought of writing lesson plans right now prior to leaving seems daunting, and low on my priority list in comparison to my family, military, and personal obligations.

That's where I'm at, readers.  I have twenty-two days remaining.  So many things to share with you already, but I definitely feel like I hit the rewind button back to 2011 and I'm preparing to go to BMT all over again, except with a lot more luggage and money out of pocket prior to leaving.  Forgive me if I can't share right away, but you can expect lots of stories when I return!  Eyes on the prize, the 10th of October and those gold bars.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Zuus 4th of July Playlist

Hello friends!  I should be baking a cherry pie right now [no, really, the crust is sitting out, waiting for me], but instead I had to pop online to share with you a cool musical collaboration I recently got to participate in.

I am a big fan of websites that compile a playlist for you, based upon certain interests - Songza, Spotify, etc.  They're a great way for me to listen to a certain type of music at work in the morning, while still keeping it interesting and unpredictable.  I hadn't heard of Zuus before they contacted me, but they do essentially the same thing, but with videos.  Awesome!  If you pop onto YouTube to watch music videos, you'll love this site.

They asked if I wanted to participate in a 4th of July playlist with a bunch of other military mom bloggers, and asked for a couple of my favorites.  The playlist is predominantly country in genre, which is the first genre that jumps to my mind when I'm looking for patriotic songs.  Fire this up for your 4th of July celebration and enjoy!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

New Beginnings

This past week was graduation week at the Air Force Academy.  Living in the area, we have the pleasure of witnessing the preparation for the big day, including the practice sessions by the Thunderbirds (back this year after budget cuts last year).  My father is a gifted photographer, and was able to capture some spectacular shots of their performance on graduation day.  These sights are a little reminder of one of the many reasons I'm proud to be an Airman.  


[Credit: J. Boone Pooler Photography]

[Credit: J. Boone Pooler Photography]

[Credit: J. Boone Pooler Photography]

On another personal note, three years ago today I left for BMT.  It does and doesn't seem like it's been all that long.  When I think about the changes that have occurred at BMT in these three years, it feels like it's been forever.  I've discussed with friends before that I know my blog has a finite nature due to the constantly evolving beast that is BMT, but my hope is that it continues to motivate and inspire, even in my absences.  I promise, I'm not holding out on you - just enjoying my summer days with my young family, soaking up all the time that I can!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Milspouse Appreciation Day!

Disclosure: I was gifted a flag by Gettysburg Flag Works, and made the personal decision to share my experience.  All opinions presented within this post are my own.

The Friday before Mother's Day is recognized as Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  I consider myself fortunate to have been a milspouse before I joined myself.  I went to BMT knowing the purpose and value behind my sacrifice, and with the experience of separation from my husband.  I cringe when I see fellow service members putting down military spouses, or even worse yet, military spouses picking on each other.  I believe in a shared sense of pride, in our country and in our duty, and I believe in the power of community.


Mike from Gettysburg Flag Works recently reached out to me and shared their dedication to military members and their families.  In honor of Memorial Day and a token of their gratitude, they offered me a flag from their extensive catalog.  A full-sized flag pole was a selling point of my home, and I was proud to be able to add a POW/MIA flag from Gettysburg Flag Works to it.  The flag is a bold, double sided all weather nylon.  Durability is essential out here, where our flags are flown around the clock (appropriately illuminated) and exposed to the gamut of weather conditions.  

With the Run For The Wall Central Route coming through our small town next weekend, it's a time for humble reflection on those who have sacrificed for our country.  I am thankful the small sacrifices my own family has made, and for the opportunity to honor those of others.

Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day to my husband and my fellow milspouses!  To those families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, you have my utmost respect and deepest condolences.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Just Keep Swimming

[Source]

Yeah, I'm going there.  The Dora/Finding Nemo approach to this whole situation, although that wasn't my first analogy.  I started thinking about sharks, and that thought that they can't stop swimming, or else they'll die.  Discovery, the lovely purveyors of "Shark Week," partially dispel that myth, but I digress.  Can you tell it's been an exhausting week turned drill weekend?

We know that the military is an endless waiting game, and patience is a virtue, but even the most patient can only hold out for so long.  Does that mean that I'm giving up on OTS?  Not at all, but it does mean that I'm starting to do more forward thinking, especially if this should fall through.  

The last two school dates for this fiscal year are 20 May and 1 July.  I've heard rumors that they are full through this fiscal year, and I've also seen stories from people who just found out on 30 April that they're in the 20 May school [yikes!].  We are also coming up on my eligibility to do Airman Leadership School (ALS), the Professional Military Education (PME) course that I need to complete in order to be promoted to SSgt.  As a Reservist, at 42 months Time in Service (TIS), I am eligible to do ALS, at least as someone with a six year enlistment.  You have two options for ALS - by correspondence (online) or in residence.  When I am eligible, my school year will have started, so while I could do it at my local base, I will most likely opt to do it online.  

Why go to this trouble?  Because if I'm going to be sitting around waiting for OTS, I may as well do it at a higher pay grade, or like I said before, if OTS doesn't pan out for whatever reason, at least I won't have wasted all of this time waiting.  Side note, there is a Time in Training requirement for my promotion as well, but there is a waiver process for it if desired/possible.  I am also promotable in my current position (up to TSgt).  If you are active duty, your process for promotion will be very different, but ALS is required for you as well.

So, that's where I'm at.  A hungry shark, who can't stop moving.  Dori, who is just going to keep swimming.  [Insert persistent sea creature here.]  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

An Exercise in Patience

The "Hurry Up and Wait" phrase is a bit of a cliche in the military, but sadly, there's so much truth to it.  That's where I am right now, with my future in a holding pattern, waiting to hear where I'm heading next.  Preaching to the choir for you active duty folks waiting on orders, I know.

The Good
Remember this?  Yeah, my enlisted self is still here.
My Deserving Airman Commissioning Package finally made it out of the Wing and up to the appropriate people.  I've verified this with two different people, so I believe it to be true at this point.  Lots of blind faith going on over here.  Too bad they don't make trackers for packages, like they do pizza delivery and online shopping.  I have no idea what happens next and on what timeline, or how I'll even be notified.  

The Bad
I'm running out of time here, folks.  My preferred school date starts May 20th.  I've been buzzing around AirForceOTS.com again, and saw that someone has already been bumped into the next fiscal year.  I would prefer not to go July through September, as that really throws off my teaching year.  Say what you will, but I would like to do OTS during my summer vacation.  I'm dedicated to both of my careers, military and civilian.

The Ugly
I have no idea what's going on with my career or DH's at this point.  We're flirting with the idea of relocating out of state if he finds permanent employment there, but everything is up in the air at this point.  He's on a six month TDY right now and loves what he's doing.  If he were to make that a full-time gig, that'd be great for our family.  Of course, it would be ideal if he could find a position like that out here, but I'm not sure if that's going to be possible, especially with the latest proposal to cut jobs at Peterson.  I can't make any plans beyond May because I have no idea if I'll even be in town.  My assistant principal at school is anxious to know if I'll be here next year or what's going on with DH's job.  I tell him he knows as much as I do at this point, which is true.  Don't even get me started on the "what ifs" - what if I'm at OTS when an out of state move needs to happen?  What is my culinary-challenged FIL going to feed my daughter while I'm gone?  Questions like this swirl in my head all the time.

So, in the meantime I'm going on about my business and trying to be proactive in my research.  That's about all I can do.  Keep on truckin', friends!