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.