Air Force Officer Training School
Officer Training School (OTS) is a United States Air Force commissioning program located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the current de facto officer candidate school (OCS) program for the U.S. Air Force, analogous to the OCS programs operated by the other branches of the U.S. armed forces.
OTS is a part of Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accession and Citizen Development, formerly the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools (AFOATS). Named for the late Major General Jeanne M. Holm, the Holm Center falls under Air University (AU), which, in turn, falls under the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), an Air Force major command (MAJCOM). In addition to OTS, the Holm Center also has oversight responsibilities for the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) pre-commissioning program on U.S. colleges and universities, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) citizen development program in U.S. high schools, and the entire Civil Air Patrol, both its senior member program as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, focused search and rescue and other emergency services and disaster support, and its citizen development and aerospace education cadet program (similar to the AFJROTC cadet program) via its HQ CAP-USAF activity. The current Commander of the Holm Center (Holm/CC) is Brigadier General Paul H. Guemmer, and the current Commandant of OTS (OTS/CMDT) is Colonel Scott M. Lockwood.
During peacetime, OTS is usually the smallest commissioning source in the USAF, producing fewer officers per year than AFROTC and the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). Given its shorter lead time for officer production (9 weeks versus the typically 4-year pre-commissioning process for USAFA and AFROTC cadets), it is the commissioning source used to balance out USAF officer manning as deemed necessary by the Air Force. The number of officers commissioned through OTS fluctuates wildly as their numbers are largely influenced by the number of graduating cadets through the Academy and AFROTC, as well as being the first place the Air Force cuts when they have a surplus of cadets through the other two sources. Given this reality, OTS has often surpassed USAFA officer production during wartime periods such as during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s or the Reagan defense buildup of the 1980s. Conversely, OTS can be hard to get into during years of contraction within the national defense establishment in general and the Air Force in particular, such as the mid and late 1970s following the end of the Vietnam War and associated USAF force structure reductions or the post-Cold War era and its associated defense reductions of the early and mid-1990s. During these periods of contractions, OTS produces few officers, making selection for the OTS program particularly difficult and competitive for college graduates, especially those with no prior enlisted service, particularly USAF enlisted service.
OTS is divided into two parallel programs. Total Force Officer Training (TFOT) is the more traditional 9-week pre-commissioning program for non-prior service college graduates, as well as active duty enlisted, Air Force Reserve enlisted, Air National Guard enlisted and former enlisted personnel with college degrees at the baccalaureate level degree or higher who wish to become Air Force officers. TFOT serves all active and reserve component line officers except judge advocates. Commissioned Officer Training (COT) is a 5-week program, primarily focused on terminal degreed professionals (i.e., medical, lawyers, chaplains) directly accessed into the USAF officer ranks. COT serves all active, reserve and air national guard non-line officers and judge advocates.
Interested applicants for OTS typically contact Air Force recruiters. Recruiters will screen candidates, provide application details and schedule applicants for the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT). The AFOQT covers numerous test batteries assessing math, verbal, and analytical skills, as well as measuring pilot and navigator/combat systems officer potential for those applicants aspiring to be aeronautically rated officers. To have a reasonable chance at acceptance, either AFOQT scores, college GPA, or previous pilot skills (either as a civilian pilot and/or as a U.S. Army warrant officer/Army Aviator) must be noteworthy, although the selection process strives to employ a composite or "whole person" approach. Applicants will be given an opportunity to apply for Air Force career fields that correspond with the applicants' expertise and/or desires and will be interviewed by active Air Force officers as well as receive a military medical examination for flying or non-flying duty as appropriate. Applicants will then be screened by a centralized, periodic, OTS Selection Board conducted by the Air Force Recruiting Service, a component of the Air Education and Training Command. Applicants will be notified of acceptance or rejection by their recruiter pending release of the board results. Selectees for OTS will subsequently enlist in the Air Force Reserve via the Delayed Enlistment Program and will be assigned an OTS class date. OTS is highly competitive, with recent boards (circa 2010 - 2012) having selection rates below twenty percent.
Total Force Officer Training
Per Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2013, personnel attending Total Force Officer Training must have a baccalaureate level degree or higher in either technical or non-technical fields. Technical fields may include any ABET accredited Engineering degree and other fields in high demand by the Air Force. Non-technical degrees are more common, and therefore applying with a degree in such a field is very competitive. Applicants can apply for rated or non-rated positions. Rated positions are flying related -- Pilot, Combat Systems Officer, RPA Pilot, or Air Battle Manager. Non-rated fall into 2 categories: non-rated operations, such as Space & Missiles, Intelligence or Weather, and non-rated support, such as Aircraft Maintenance, Logistics, Civil Engineer, Security Forces, or Communications.
Areas of instruction include military customs and courtesies, military history, leadership, field exercises, drill and ceremonies, small arms training, and combatives.
In 2014, OTS was transitioned to a nine-week course and the lower/upper class system was eliminated. Officer Trainees were also re-designated as cadets in 2015.
The first few weeks of training are geared toward orienting the cadet with Air Force standards. The focus is on physical training, drill and ceremonies, and academics. Cadets will be expected to work with their fellow flight and squadron members to accomplish specific tasks as required by their Flight Commander and Cadet Wing. They will also attend multiple classes in an academic environment. Later in the program they will attend field training exercises, projects, small arms training, and building team skills by overcoming challenges in a simulated deployment environment.
To graduate, cadets must meet or exceed physical standards, academic standards, and military bearing standards. Military bearing includes the ability to write and brief, lead the flight, and perform duties within the Cadet Wing.
Upon graduation, OTS graduates receive Regular commissions as Second Lieutenants in the United States Air Force, either in pay grade O-1, or O-1E if prior enlisted for 4 years and 1 day or more in any branch of the U.S. armed forces.
Commissioned Officer Training
COT is a 5-week course for professionals who have received a direct commission. Typically, these officers have degrees, such as M.Div., M.D., D.O., D.P.M., O.D., D.D.S., D.M.D., Pharm.D., Ph.D., Psy.D., B.S.N., MSW or J.D. in the case of chaplains, physicians, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and lawyers, respectively. They often enter at an advanced rank, such as First Lieutenant (O-2) and sometimes as Captain (O-3) in compensation for their high level of education, and in some cases, experience. Officers can be commissioned up to the rank of Colonel (O-6) if they possess the level of experience necessary.
With the exception of those officers previously commissioned as line officers through USAFA, AFROTC, and the BOT program of OTS, or the Air Force Nurse program of AFROTC, most chaplains, judge advocate general (i.e., lawyers), and medical personnel go through COT.
Commissioned Officer Training (COT) is responsible for developing medical, legal, and chaplain personnel into professional officers by instilling character, knowledge, and motivation essential to serve in the United States Air Force. The 23rd Training Squadron (23 TRS) provides a 23-training day Commissioned Officer Training course to instill leadership and officership skills in newly commissioned medical officers, judge advocates, and chaplains. The 23 TRS also conducts a 13-training day Reserve Commissioned Officer Training (RCOT) program for hard-to-recruit medical officers in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
The History of OTS
When the Aviation Cadet (AvCad) Program proved insufficient to meet wartime commissioned officer requirements, the United States Army Air Forces established the Officer Candidate School (OCS) on 23 February 1942 at Miami Beach, Florida, its mission being to train and commission members from the enlisted ranks.
OCS moved to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center (now Lackland AFB), Texas in 1944 and gained the additional mission of training officers directly from civilian status in September 1951.
OTS was organized at Lackland AFB, Texas in November 1959, with the first OTS class (60-A) composed of 89 officer trainees, including 11 women, who graduated and were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants on 9 February 1960. The number of OTS graduates has varied over the years, from 323 the first year to a high of 7,894 officers in 1967.
With the establishment of OTS, Air Force OCS closed its doors and conducted its last graduation in June 1963. Concurrently, the Air Force also commenced a phaseout of its long-standing Aviation Cadet (AvCad) Program at Lackland AFB. Unlike OTS, AvCad was limited to pilot and navigator candidates. In addition, AvCads had to successfully complete either undergraduate pilot training or undergraduate navigator training before they could be commissioned as Second Lieutenants. The last AvCad pilot was commissioned in October 1961 at the former Reese AFB, Texas and the last AvCad navigator was commissioned in March 1965 at the former James Connally AFB, Texas. OTS then became the sole organization for training future Air Force officers at Lackland AFB.
On 1 July 1993, Air Training Command (ATC) merged with Air University (AU) to form the new Air Education and Training Command (AETC), with Air University becoming a direct reporting unit (DRU) under AETC. OTS, which was formerly under ATC, and Air Force ROTC, which was formerly under AU, were then realigned under both AETC and AU. Until 22 September 1993, Officer Training School was located on the Medina Annex of Lackland AFB, Texas, graduating Class 93-06 on that date. During the spring and summer of 1993, OTS gradually relocated to Maxwell AFB, Alabama, commencing operations in interim facilities on 25 September 1993.
Historically, Air Force ROTC had been headed by a major general or brigadier general, while OTS had been headed by a colonel. In February 1997, in an effort to reduce duplication of effort and streamline administrative and reporting procedures within AU, Air Force ROTC and Officer Training School realigned under a newly created umbrella organization, Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools (AFOATS). Under this restructuring, OTS and AFROTC were placed under the leadership of individual colonels, while general officer oversight for both OTS and AFROTC, representing three-quarters of Air Force officer production, was placed under one command, the AFOATS commander, a brigadier general.
In the late 1990s, a $52 million military construction (MILCON) project commenced to build a new, dedicated OTS campus at Maxwell AFB to replace the interim facilities initially occupied in late 1993. The majority of this MILCON project was completed in 2001 and all projects relating to the new-cum-current OTS campus were completed by 2004. AFOATS was later renamed the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accession and Citizen Development.
During fourth day of OTS, approximately 134 cadets will be instructed to eat in a highly organized manner called Tight Meals, according to OTSMAN. The purpose of a tight meal is to quickly feed cadets in a timely fashion, leaving plenty of time to spare. This is done at the fourth day, once cadets have been familiarize with taking orders from command in a disciplined fashion. Cadets are assigned to different groups with different dining priorities (eating times). For example, the three flights in one particular squadron would eat at five minutes after the hour—breakfast at 0705, lunch at 1205, and dinner at 1705, while the other squadrons have dining priorities on the hour and ten minutes after the hour. Tight meals starts immediately once cadets are inside. The flights march to the chow hall early enough to make their dining priorities and check in with a mess checker, who determines whether they have arrived on time. If a flight is on time, it can eat at the chow hall. If not, those trainees get MREs. Meals are estimated to last 6 to 7 minutes, which includes drinking three full glasses of water, juice, or milk along with each meal. Flight leaders salute the mess checker and state: "Sir/Ma'am, Flight _____ reports with a dining priority of _____ we arrived at _______."
Tight Meal Rules and Procedures
01. Cadets will stand at attention while waiting in line to get their tray.
02. Once a cadet receives their tray, they will proceed through the service area to get their food.
03. Cadets shall not speak in the service area except when ordering food, saying excuse me, or making on the spot corrections with fellow cadets.
04. Cadets will proceed through the service area and bring their heels together at 45 degrees after each step.
05. Upon paying for their meals, they will enter the dining area and proceed to the furthest table.
06. A cadet will arrive at his/her 2.5-foot square table and take position 1, 2, 3 or 4, in that order.
07. Position 1 faces the service area.
08. Position 2 is to the right of Position 1.
09. Position 3 is across from Position 2.
10. Position 4 is across from Position 1.
11. All cadets stand at attention behind their chair until the table is filled.
12. If 20 seconds pass without another trainee joining the table, the trainees there may sit.
13. Once the table is filled, the person at Position 4 will say, be seated.
14. All cadets remove their jackets and sit down at the position of modified attention.
15. Modified attention means sitting up straight on the front third of the chair, hands in lap and heels together.
16. Once all parties are sitting, Position 3 hands a napkin to Position 1 and takes one for himself/herself, and Position 2 does the same for Position 4.
17. Position 4 ensures that everyone gets a moment of silence for prayer.
18. Once prayer is over, Position 4 will say, "enjoy your meal."
19. Cadets will eat without talking, while keeping their heels together.
20. During each meal cadets must drink three full glasses of water, juice, or milk.
21. Once the table is finished (which should be not long after the table seated immediately prior to your table finishes), Positions 2 and 3 pass their dishes and trays to Positions 1 and 4, who stack them.
22. Once the trays are stacked, all parties stand up and put their jackets on.
23. Positions 1 and 4 pick up the trays.
24. Position 2 picks up the napkin holder.
25. Position 3 wipes down the table with a napkin and then puts the napkin on one of the trays.
26. All parties exit by proceeding away from the service area to the back of the room and walking clockwise to reach the exit.
27. On the way out, Positions 1 and 4 stack the trays in a large receptacle, from the bottom up.
28. All trainees exit and form up with their flights to march to their next class or to the dorm.
- Air Force OTS Portal
- Air Force Officer Accessions and Training Schools
- OTS Factsheet
- Chaplain Blog with COT info
- AFI 36-2013, Paragraph 184.108.40.206
- Arnold, Henry H.—Foreword (June 1944--Special Edition for AAF Organizations) [May 1944]. AAF: The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces. New York: Pocket Books. p. 330.
Officer Candidate [sic] SchoolCheck date values in:
- Aviation Cadet Training Program (USAAF)
- Kiko Ochoa