Thursday, July 2, 2015

OTS: Preparation Recommendations

Has it really been five plus months since I've blogged?  Yikes!  I've received a number of requests to keep up the OTS posts, and that is definitely my intent.  In the time that I've been offline, I've attended and graduated from the Logistics Readiness Officer Course, my technical training school after OTS.  I thought I would have time down there to blog, but the nightly readings were pretty extensive, especially when the reading was dry.

One of the biggest questions I get about OTS is what people should do to prepare.  I'm not going to harp on physical fitness here, because hopefully you already knew that would be important.  This is the military and all.  ;)  Much like BMT, your best bet is to go to OTS already in decent shape, and not expecting OTS to get you to that point.  You will do three PT tests while at OTS, although we would quickly come to learn that unlike BMT, none of them count.  Mind-blowing, let me tell you.  That is fodder for another post, and may or may not have changed since I left.  You do need to pass one of them while you're there, though, so you can't avoid them completely.

My best preparation tip for you is one I heard and ignored myself, over and over.  To give myself some credit, I had less than a month's notice.  These words of wisdom are,


"Study your OTSMAN and HAWK before you go to OTS."

Please note that these documents are revised frequently.  Double check the Holm Center website before you start committing anything to memory, to ensure that you have the most recent copies.

Sporting my OTSMAN and HAWK on the arm.
OTSMAN (Pronounced like "ah-tz-man") - The Officer Training School Manual is the bible for all of the procedures and policies at OTS.  This applies to all components, including those in the Air National Guard, whereas there used to be supplements that were specific to the Guard.  This new revision integrates all of the supplements and reflects the Total Force Integration of OTS.  You will take two OTSMAN tests while at OTS, in addition to following all of the rules that are outlined within it.  It covers everything.  Procedures for marching, for classroom or auditorium instruction, for the dining facility, etc.  It has all of the privilege information as well, as you progress through the phases.  You will be expected to know and live by this document while you're at OTS.  It may not make a lot of sense when you read it now, but you will soon know it forwards and backwards.  Unlike at BMT, if you have questions about what you can and cannot do, your commissioned staff will frequently ask you to refer to the OTSMAN and figure it out for yourself.  As a result, you can use this manual as justification for why you are doing or not doing something, including something not addressed within.  For example, the placement/wearing of the HAWK/OTSMAN on your person does not appear to be addressed in the OTSMAN, therefore you can standardize and come to that decision as a student leadership team and make an executive decision as a cadet wing.

HAWK - The Handbook of Warrior Knowledge includes memorization work for each day of training at OTS.  In the back of the HAWK are quotes for each day.  When prompted (either individually or as a flight/squadron), you will sound off with, "Sir/Ma'am, the quote of the day for TD-__ is as follows: [insert quote here, including the author/citation]."  "TD" refers to the training day that you are on.  Double check as to whether the day you arrive is TD-1 or if it is TD-0, and number your quotes accordingly.  The rest of the HAWK includes knowledge, such as the Air Force Creed, Mission, Oath of Office, etc.  Your staff will give you a deadline and a page number, and you will be required to know all of the information.  Studying through page fifteen is a great start, although keep in mind that the AF Creed, the AF song, the rank structure, and the phonetic alphabet are also popular amongst staff members.  You will sound off (cadet-initiated) during formation while you're waiting, or if prompted by a staff member ("Let's hear some knowledge, Cadet So-and-So").  The proper way to initiate is, "Hoyas/Flight 2-10/Group Name, the Air Force Mission on three.  One, two, three!"  The response would be the same as the quote of the day response above.  As you're looking at the HAWK, keep in mind that if you're not Guard, you don't need to memorize the stuff applicable to ANG.  If you see an asterisk at the end of the title and the item is a list, you only need to memorize the bold words, not the descriptions that follow.  The memory work can be daunting, to say the least.  One great strategy used by a fellow cadet was to input all of the memory work into Quizlet, which has an audio component for those that are auditory learners.  Another friend recorded himself reading the memory work, and then uploaded them as MP3 files for listening in the car while driving to OTS.  Mnemonics are also a great strategy, as are pictures or making connections amongst the concepts.

Why should you do better than me by studying these before you go?  Because daily living and training at OTS is stressful and hectic enough on its own, as you acclimate to the training environment.  If you already have this stuff memorized, or at least a strong foundation, you'll be in a lot better shape than those walking in cold.  Plus, you're going to be logging some late nights trying to memorize this stuff.  You need your rest.

61 comments:

Robert Lieder said...

So glad that you are back. I hope that tech school wasn't to stressful. This is already an extremely helpful post, and as soon as I am done with some PME I will start memorizing.

Thanks.
Robert

Erin said...

@Robert Lieder - Thank you so much! No, it wasn't too stressful, just tedious with reading and studying. Glad to help provide some background for your studying! How soon do you leave?

Aunie said...

Oh man, this gets me jazzed just reading it. Maybe someday! You're truly an inspiration, Erin... or shall I now begin calling you LT? ;)

Robert Lieder said...

Don't have a date yet as I am just working on package submission. Everything is due on the 4th of September, and then results in December. Wish me luck!

Erin said...

@Robert Lieder - Fingers crossed for you! You've got a great jump on everything so far!

Shanee H said...

Congrats to you. I found your blog on budgetsaresexy.com lol. I looked over a lot of your posts and you seem like you know a lot. I have a few questions. I considered joining the Air Force in 2010 after I got my Associates Degree. But I held out hoping to join as an Officer. In the mean time while finishing school I ended up havin a little girls which of course ceased all plans of joining active. So a year later from getting my Bachelors Degree in Business Mangment, Minor in Psychology I started talking to a recruiter. He informed me that I wouldn't be able to join as a Officer because my degree was not need. And gave me some other information including the info on the program you went through to get selected for Officer School. So I told him I'm ready where do we start. And I never heard back from that recruiter for almost 3 months. I understand he may have been busy. The last time I talked to a recruiter in 2010 I was able to go in and talk. Since then I moved and it is a rural area. After the recruiter got back in contact with me he mtold me what jobs were available. And since then I did not want to work with that recruiter. I just didn't feel great talking with him. I guess I didn't feel like I was taken serious. So a year has passed and I pretty much have tried to put joining the Air Force Reseve in the back of mind. I've tried getting over the desire to join but it's hard when I work for the Exchange and I'm on Post Monday to Friday. My Dad has been in for over 20 years and is still in. It's hard to get away from the Military life I guess. I thought that working for the Exchange would be enough because I get to serve those who serve. And I love it. I'm going though the process to become a manager. But it's starting not feel enough. Sorry so long. My question is should I try another recruiter? Since I live in a small area should I go to a bigger city and talk to one? Or even another state since I travel with my job a lot? With talking to other recruiters from other states or cities help or hurt the process? I wish there were more how to's on how to deal with recruiters. Thank You Erin.

Erin said...

@Shanee H - Yes, try another recruiter for sure. I would call the closest one again, or try to get the number for another one in your vicinity. You're ultimately going to have to drive there to do your processing, so don't shoot for too far away. Don't let them blow you off either. The line they fed you about "your degree is not needed" is BS. I knew of multiple folks in my OTS class, including one that was fresh off the street like you, with a business degree. Persistence is key during this process. Don't settle for a sub-par experience, ask to speak with supervisors and push until you get the information you want. Ask to speak with an officer recruiter if you want to go that route. Find out when the upcoming boards are. Keep pushing. Also, have you considered the Guard instead of the Reserve? That's another great option, and you may find a different experience with those recruiters, if you're not getting anywhere with the Reservists. If it proves to be too hard to be an officer off the streets (the ones I've seen are typically heading to be pilots), are you up for enlistment? Good luck to you, keep me posted!

Robert Lieder said...

Hey Erin, I know your busy but I was wondering if you could answer a question for me.

How long after selection did you find out your base assignment?

Erin said...

@Robert Lieder - That I can't answer for you, since I'm a Reservist and always knew my base/assignment. Sorry!

Robert Lieder said...

ah fair enough. No problem, thanks for the response.

Meagan Frye said...

My husband is currently in OTS, what's comes along with phasing up and how hard are the academics tests to pass?!? Obviously concerned I wanna see him do well, so people fail out or do they give opportunity to retake tests?! Any details would be greatly appreciated as I know he is super busy!!!

Meagan Frye said...

My husband is currently in OTS, what's comes along with phasing up and how hard are the academics tests to pass?!? Obviously concerned I wanna see him do well, so people fail out or do they give opportunity to retake tests?! Any details would be greatly appreciated as I know he is super busy!!!

Erin said...

Phasing up has privileges associated with it, in terms of where you can go in your "free time." That's the biggest thing. You definitely have to study for academic tests. You can't fail more than two graded measures, so the stakes are high. You can retake a test, but you definitely don't want to be in that position. Good luck to him! Start shopping for your dress for dining out! ;)

Jewel Brenk said...

Hi Erin!
I've been following your blog for a long time now and I have enlisted in the Air Force Reserves! I do have one big question, and I decided to post it on here since this is the most recent thing. am I allowed to bring a prescription nasal spray to BMT?? it has no steroids in it, it only is used to combat swelling so I don't get so many headaches. I have tried to find the answers on google, but no luck! Please help me! Thank you for your service!

Audrey Price said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Erin said...

Jewel, did this spray come up at MEPS? That's my only concern. We weren't allowed to take any pain meds there, except if the medical staff directed us. You could try bringing it along with your prescription, although they may make you stash it in your luggage and not access it.

Jewel Brenk said...

No ma'am, it did not come up at MEPS, I honestly didn't even think about it. If I bring the prescription with me, would I get in trouble for it since I totally forgot to mention it at MEPS, since there's no record of me having or taking it??

Erin said...

If you didn't report it, I would not bring it.

Heather said...

I have just accepted an DACP position as a Logistics Readiness officer and am working my way through the paperwork process. Your blog has been helpful along the way! Thank you!

Erin said...

Congrats Heather! Email me as you move along in your journey, especially before LROC (if you have questions)!

Juan Pablo Navarro said...

Hey, I just wanted to say that I'm very impressed with your story. Congratulations! all your hard work has definitely paid off. I'm currently trying to follow that same path. I got a little over 2 and a half years and I'm hoping to apply for the first non-rated board of FY17. Would you mind sharing your packet with me? I'd like to see how it looks from the perspective of another young airman. If possible, I'd also like to have you look at the packet I've been working on and scrutinize it lol Advise from a selectee would be really awesome!

Erin said...

Thank you Juan Pablo! Are you AD or a Reservist? Shoot me an email, Erin@aimhigherin.com, and let's chat.

alichaptx said...

Hi Erin! This post made me think of a question I have: how does tech school work after OTS? I get how it works post-BMT but what are the differences for officers?

Also, thanks so much for the Quizlet tip! Had no idea that website existed. Just created an account and found a ton of pre-made Air Force related material!

Erin Carpenter said...

Typically officers go to their base first and then leave for tech school later. Some commands prefer to have you at home for a bit before you go. There are exceptions to this. Pilots go into training right away. You'll stay in billeting, in a solo room (most likely), and definitely nicer than what you've had before. Glad to help with Quizlet!

Matt Kinney said...

First off, thank you for your continued work on this blog it has really helped me to prepare for OTS. I am waiting on a class date and hopefully should get it soon so I have a couple questions. I have been running and doing push ups and sit ups, and wanted to know when is your first PT test I heard its like the 2nd day. Also I've been studying the OTSMAN and HAWK and wanted to know if you could tell me what the tests are like? Multiple choice? Fill in the black with exact words? Lastly, is their anything different for Reservist in OTS?

E-Ho said...

Does it matter what color your undergarments and compression shorts are?

Erin said...

@Matt Kinney - All of the tests are multiple choice. Nothing is different for Reservists at OTS, aside from some briefings that we get to skip out on because they don't apply to us. Good luck to you!

@E-Ho - Compression shorts should be black or dark blue (navy). Keep undergarments basic - white, black, grey, blue, tan.

JD said...

Hi Erin,

I recently found your post trying to get some insight on OTS and your blog has been extremely helpful! I was recently selected for my commission through DACP and I already have my billet, now it's a matter of waiting to hear back from AFRC since my physical, 1288 and the rest of the documents have been submitted again back to the MPF. I was wondering if you had any insight with the waitlist for OTS. Did you get an OTS date once AFRC signed off? Were you given several options or you had to take the first option given to you?

Also, with the change that you mentioned with the upperclassmen not being merged with the lowerclassmen, how will that work now? Is it just the cadre member and MTIs that are in charge all 9 weeks?

I'm just trying to mentally prepare myself. I definitely plan on studying the HAWK and OTSMAN when it comes time. In the mean time I am waiting and finishing up NCOA.

Erin said...

@JD - Feel free to email at erin @ aimhigherin.com anytime too. Once AFRC signs off, it goes up to ARPC, who then sends your MPF/command a letter with your school date. That part didn't take long at all. Nope, no options at all. They give you a letter that says, "Congrats, you leave on XXX." By the time I finally had letter in hand, I left in 28 days. Quite a whirlwind when you consider how long the rest of my process took. I have a blog post about it on here. The MTIs are in charge for the first week or so, until your flight commander (typically a 1st Lt or Capt) takes over. Keep at your NCOA, you never know what could happen. If it drags out, at least you could possibly/hopefully get promoted and make more money in the meantime. Good luck to you, and congrats!

JD said...

@Erin

Thank you for the quick response! You have been the most helpful. I have had several friends who went to OTS (from DACP) last year; however, they have not been helpful at all (keeping all the information to themselves). I did read your blog about your long wait; that is just crazy! It took them about 8 months to go to OTS after being notified being selected for DACP. I am hoping for a December school date so that it's not too hot in good ol Maxwell, but we'll see. I was selected in January but still waiting on the additional approvals and signatures.

Did time fly for you? I have a lil one as well, so I know that'll be hard, but when I was in BMT, the 9 weeks flew by and I'm hoping the same with OTS.

Thanks again!

Erin said...

@JD - My pleasure! Sorry to hear your friends have not been more helpful. I do believe you can find balance to sharing information about a program, yet also maintaining its integrity so that everyone is challenged. The time went by fairly quickly. You're always busy, that's for sure, with little downtime to get homesick. Plus, you're able to call/Face Time frequently, so it's much easier in that regard. Fingers crossed for that December date! You can tough it out if you must though, it wasn't too bad. Then again, I also did BMT/tech school in the summer, so that's just my luck!

Edward J said...

Hi Erin,

As many, I stumbled across your page just looking at all things associated with OTS. I've found your journey inspiring and also similar to mine. I did a lot of volunteer work with the Developmental Training Flight prior to being selected through the DACP. I also obtained a position as a LRO. This position is with an aerial port squadron and didn't catch of yours is the same.

Anyways, my journey has been quite lengthy. For whatever reason, my on-base clinic took 3 months to certify my physical. Every time I'd ask for the paperwork, they would say the flight surgeon needs to sign off on it and will do so but is extremely busy at the moment. Ironically enough, when my gaining commander finally stepped in, they ended up just stamping it with the flight surgeon's name and typing //Signed//.

This wasn't the only hold up, there was quite a few other instances where odd things here and there would be questioned. When my package finally made it to NAF, they kicked it back saying they wanted my lifetime history of my fit to fight scores. First off, they never asked for it in the package originally, but I submitted my previous two as a courtesy. Then they come back and ask for them all. Oddly enough, my last two scores they first got were in the 90s, so I found it to be a strange request.

Anywho, I was just curious if you knew how the process worked after ARPC reviews? For instance, I understand there are scheduled boards that evaluate the AD and civilian candidates. So my question is, does my package need to wait to be evaluated by that same board, or do they just process it at the ARPC level and assign you the first available class date?

My package was just submitted to NAF about Feb 10th and I still haven't heard anything yet. I know there are only three class dates for FY16 left (March, April & July). For all I know they could be full, the Airforceots forums have conflicting info about that.

Erin said...

@Edward J - Thank you so much for your kind words! Yes, I'm a Porter as well. :) Your hold-ups and setbacks sound similar to mine. I had to CC everyone and do read receipts on every email I sent. That is so weird that your PT scores held you up. Once the NAF reviews, they send it to ARPC to assign your school date. It really shouldn't take too long once you pass the NAF. Any word on that yet? If they evaluated my package at ARPC, I definitely wasn't privy to that process/timeline. I'm assuming they put me in the first available class date, since mine was 28 days after I got the letter saying I had one. Keep the faith - if you don't make this FY, I'm assuming they'd put you in a date in the next one. We're just shy of your package being at the NAF for a month. Can your MPF follow up with the POC there? I did get a smidge lucky in that regard, as I knew the Exec to the General that had to sign off. Good luck to you! Keep me posted!

Edward J said...

@ Erin - That's great about being a porter! I'm also a reservist too, so I'd love to hear about your experiences after returning to your unit (STP, formal training through AFIT, deployments, or anything similar). I'm actually moving from maintenance to this. So everything as a whole will be new to me.

My FSS personnel has been on top of questions prior to submitting. However, they literally told me not to ask about the package until 30 days passed after submission. I actually just sent and email inquiry earlier this afternoon to ask about any updates. The good thing I suppose is that NAF HQ happens to be on my base. So when they kicked my package back the first time, NAF CSS cc'd me on the rejection. When resubmitting last month, I sent it back through my FSS and copied the NAF personnel. She actually reviewed it quite fast when it was first submitted, so I would assume it's been in ARPCs court; otherwise, I'm sure she would have said something about it by now.

On the bright side I was just promoted in my DoD civil service job which more than likely wouldn't have happened without those set backs. But I'm literally sitting on going 11 months since receiving my selection from the DACP board. I like to think things happen for a reason, so I can accept that wait period for the good outcome. But I guess at this point, now I'm just super eager to hear a date confirmation.

Erin said...

@Edward J - Shoot me an email and let's talk, in terms of STP, AFIT, etc. erin@aimhigherin.com How great that NAF HQ is at your base - definitely convenient. The wait for OTS is painful, but it sounds like it was definitely beneficial for you. How will your rank change affect your civil service job? Talk to you soon!

Nate Bautista said...

Hi Erin,
I have a bachelors degree as well. Would you really recommend going in as enlisted if they are not accepting Commissioned Officers off the street? I too have a family and it would suck to have to leave them for BMT and tech school, then leave again for OTS and tech school. Do I have that right?

Thanks,
Nate

Nate Bautista said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JD said...

@Edwards J
Have you heard anything yet? I spoke with a few of the instructors at OTS and there are still seats available for the July class (TFOT); typically the Reserve seats never fill up so they are given to AD/Guard. After July there are two dates in October, which has seats as well. We have 7 selected from our Wing and we're all still waiting but it is currently with NAF.

@Erin
As a Reservist what documents did you actually need to provide on day 1. Even though I don't have a school date yet, I'm trying to be prepared as possible. As you stated in your video and what to pack section, we definitely need to pack/bring more than we did to Basic.

Thanks!

Erin said...

@Nate Bautista - Yes, I would. I did that and was completely pleased. Your other option would be to keep applying for OTS again and again, but in the meantime, you could be enlisting, serving, and accumulating experience/retirement years/etc., not to mention networking and increasing your chances. You're always going to be leaving for one reason or another with the military. I know it's rough, but it's manageable and you have to think big picture. Yes, you have the order right.

@JD - You had to show them two forms of payment, as they request, regardless of whether you show up with a bunch of stuff or not. The usual forms of identification, that sort of thing. I think I came ridiculously prepared with documents, and didn't need to do too much. If you've already got yourself/family in DEERS, having those documents is just a formality, as are having copies of your transcripts. I don't know if they ever asked me for those. Bring them regardless, naturally.

Edward J said...

@Erin I'm a little behind on getting to this, but I am definitely going to email you about those things. I literally waited almost 1 1/2 years from selection, but finally got my date! Anyways, my civil service job isn't associated with my reserve spot. I'm not an ART or anything like that. I just picked up GS12 at my job back in Feb which is what I think many junior officers are on the ART side.

@JD I finally got my date. I'll be in the first offering of FY17 - 23 Aug 16.

JamesE Lutz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Veronica Pichay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Veronica Pichay said...

Hello there 2Lt,
I've been doing some research about getting commissioned through AFROTC but would like to go straight an ANG unit. I'm question is it better to just finished my degree while in AFROTC or after my degree go enlisted to ANG and apply for the DACP?? A little about me, I'm currently an E4 in the ARNG.

Erin said...

@Veronica Pichay - If you can commission through AFROTC, that would be ideal, but you may require an Active Duty service commitment if they're paying for your schooling. You may just have to put in your AD time and then when your commitment is done, move to a Guard unit. Aunie @ AunieSauce.com is ANG and did enlisted prior to commissioning at OTS - she may be one to ask!

VA BP said...

Thank you very much ma'am!

Erin said...

@VA BP - My pleasure, you're welcome!

DLindow said...

Hi Erin,
Thanks for all of the info you have posted and written about on here. I feel like my story is very close to yours! I am 29 and also a teacher and interested in joining the Guard. How do you balance your AF career with your young family and teaching? My wife and I have an 18 month old son, and I am concerned about leaving both of them behind for a long period of time. You probably have a post about this already that I just haven't found yet. Thanks again!

Erin said...

@DLindow - Artfully. ;) Lots of organization at work and home, so that I can dedicate as much time as possible to my daughter. They have both experienced my absences before, and we have another one coming up. Does your wife manage the bills/household affairs? Does she have a strong support network locally, between friends/family? Those are key factors, as well as connections to resources at local military installations to support her.

DLindow said...

I can imagine! That is something that we have always done as a team, and I think she would be just fine in handling it on her own for a while. Both of our families are here, so I know she will have a great support network. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate the wealth of information you have here. It's been a great help!

Erin said...

@DLindow - Sounds like your family is in a great place! Good luck to you!

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