The United States Air Force separates enlisted personnel and officers into two different categories.
Enlisted personnel represents entry-level positions in the USAF, usually with no more than a high school diploma. Officers, on the other hand, have 4-year college degrees and are intended to hold leadership positions.
Attending the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) is your first step toward becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force.
Learn more about the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in our complete guide to the program.
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What is the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS)?
Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) is the starter program for aspiring USAF commissioned officers.
The officer training program takes place at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
It’s a rigorous program that lasts 9 weeks and is divided into four phases of training.
Air Force Officer Training School tests officer recruits physically and mentally while also developing leadership skills.
Air Force OTS prepares recruits by focusing on critical areas such as:
- Leadership Studies
- Professional Knowledge
- Communication Skills
- Military Studies
- Field Leadership
The USAF course presents lectures, classroom exercises, guided discussions, field leadership activities, and after-hours training activities to prepare future officers.
Recruits live at Maxwell AFB during training with a complex that includes academic buildings, auditoriums, dormitories, dining, physical fitness center, and athletic fields.
Commissioned Officers of the Air Force prepare to enter service as a Second Lieutenant (O-1).
After graduating from Air Force OTS, many officers attend additional training to focus on specialties like piloting, navigation, space and missile operations, or other specialties.
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Air Force OTS Basic Requirements
The United States has four different ways to become a commissioned officer.
The first and most popular method is to attend Air Force Officer Training School (OTS).
However, you can only attend Air Force OTS after graduating from college with a four-year degree.
Secondly, prospective officers have the option of attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
While it’s a great option, the Air Force Academy is very difficult to gain admittance and requires a congressional endorsement.
Those that attend the Air Force Academy receive a world-class education that is completely paid for by the government.
Third, you may attend AFROTC while you are in college.
The Air Force ROTC program rewards you with tuition assistance but is only applicable to students currently in college or thinking about attending.
Lastly, you can join the United States Air Force and move up the ranks as enlisted personnel until you get promoted to a commissioned officer.
Note that this last option also requires a 4-year degree to be eligible for commission. However, enlisting the Air Force comes with educational benefits, such as tuition assistance, that make this very possible.
The Air Force requires you to have a four-year college degree or meet the guidelines for OTS in an alternative method.
Before you consider applying for Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) make sure you meet the minimum requirements:
- Between the ages of 18-39.
- A citizen of the United States.
- At least a bachelor’s degree from a recognized college.
The USAF does have slightly different requirements for specialty military careers like healthcare, ministry, and legal.
Speaking with a local Air Force recruiter can help answer more questions about specific requirements for Officer Training School.
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Air Force Officer Responsibilities
The United States Air Force expects a lot from its commissioned officers, which really isn’t much different from other uniformed branches.
Air Force Officers are leaders that receive extensive training at OTS to prepare for that important assignment.
Leaders are in charge of other personnel and must make difficult decisions, some of which may risk human life.
As a result, Air Force OTS provides aspiring officers with the tools and resources needed to become fair and effective leaders.
Those that graduate from Air Force Officer Training School are commissioned as a Second Lieutenant (O-1) – the lowest USAF rank for officers.
Air Force Officers have the opportunity to specialize in career paths like:
- Space, Missile, and Command and Control
- Arts and Humanities
- Health and Medicine
- Law Enforcement
- Future Technologies
Becoming an Air Force Officer means more responsibilities but also better pay and benefits.
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How do you get to Air Force OTS?
The purpose of the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) is to establish high standards of conduct for prospective officers.
Air Force Officers — the leaders of the military branch — need the knowledge and skill development to serve as managers of other military personnel.
Prospective Officers receive evaluations on their leadership potential, moral standards, and academic strengths.
However, before you get to training, you need to meet the basic requirements and go through the same process as other recruits.
The selective process is purposely designed that way to make sure you have what it takes to become an officer.
First, you’ll need to complete the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, or AFOQT.
The multiple-choice exam features topics that range from verbal and math skills to questions regarding your specific field(s) of interest.
You can only take the Air Force Qualifying Test twice, so make sure you study and prepare for the exam.
Secondly, you must pass the medical and mental screening at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).
Scheduling a MEPS examination is available through an Air Force recruiter.
The Air Force reviews every officer application through the Officer Training School Selection or Air Force Recruiting Services.
Each committee reviews candidates to find the most appropriate selections for Air Force Officer Training School.
The Air Force selection boards conduct reviews infrequently. So, make sure you are aware of the deadlines to avoid any interruptions in reaching Officer Training School (OTS).
Finally, you need to start preparing for Air Force OTS while you follow all the steps in the application process and await approval by a board.
Those that receive approval may enter the Delayed Entry Program until it’s time to depart for Air Force Officer Training School.
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What’s taught at Air Force OTS?
The Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) has four training phases:
Phase One – Foundation
Phase one focuses on teamwork, discipline, and standardization.
The purpose of phase one of Air Force OTS is to provide an orientation to the skills you need to serve as a well-respected leader.
The first phase introduces the fundamentals of leadership, military management, as well as the culture of the USAF.
Here is a quick breakdown of expected training during phase one:
- Blue-Line Ceremony
- Dorm Instruction & Uniform Purchase
- Drill Block
- Confidence Course
- Project X
Phase Two – Development
Phase two continues to develop your understanding of the fundamentals of leadership and military management.
The Air Force introduces basic combat skills and cross-cultural competence during phase two.
The training in phase two includes:
- M-9 Weapons Qualifications
- Basic Expeditionary Leadership Problem Solving (BELPS)
- Air Force Combatives Program (IE hand-to-hand combat)
USAF academics shift the focus to the following studies:
- Military Briefings
- Military Law
- Leadership Authority and Responsibility
- Standards and Accountability
Phase Three – Application
The third phase of Air Force Officer Training School deals with the practical application of the lessons of the previous two phases.
Prospective officers start to experience the pressures of leadership and command.
The Air Force requires trainees to pass individual leadership evaluations at the end of phase three to continue to the final stage.
The phase three training program includes:
- Assault Course
- Small-Unit Tactics
- Preparation for the Arrival of the Lower Class
- Leadership Reaction Course (LRC)
- Base Defense Field Exercises
The emphasis in the classroom during phase three includes:
- Group Dynamics
- Leadership and Management Case Studies
- Professional and Unprofessional Relationships
- Advocacy Briefing Measurement
- Air and Space System Capabilities
The fourth and final stage of the Air Force Officer Training School helps officers make the transition from training to the operational USAF.
The final phase concentrates on mentoring and the progression to the everyday life of an Air Force Officer.
There are remaining training programs that you need to complete in phase four like the Air Expeditionary Force Exercise (AEF) and First Officer Assignment.
Recruits receive final academic instruction through a Senior Officer Perspective and Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Panel.
An Oath of Office and official graduation ceremony make it official – you are now a commissioned officer of the United States Air Force.
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How hard is Air Force OTS?
The Air Force stands by the motto “Always with honor” for its officer training program.
The honor code of the school continues with the motto:
“We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.”
Consequently, the Air Force expects officer recruits to abide by the motto and standard of personal conduct during their less than 10 weeks at Maxwell AFB.
The Air Force Officer Training School is small, as it commissions fewer officers every year compared to the Air Force Academy and AFROTC.
Therefore, it is not easy to gain acceptance for Air Force OTS but is well worth the effort.
The nine-week course is extremely demanding physically and mentally.
However, it’s shorter than other military branch officer schools as well as a much quicker route compared to attending the USAFA or AFROTC for four years.
Every training program in the Armed Forces is difficult, but officer schools are usually even more intense because the military branch wants to train only the best and brightest.
Air Force Officers have a tremendous responsibility leading enlisted personnel and making difficult decisions, which makes the training program difficult and challenging.
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Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some frequently asked questions about the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS):
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What’s the acceptance rate for Air Force OTS?
The acceptance rate can vary depending on whether you’re applying as a rated (flying) officer or non-flying officer.
The acceptance rate for Air Force Officer Training School can vary between 10 to 65%.
The Air Force expects high performance in college with a 3.2 GPA or higher for a better likelihood of getting accepted.
Where is OTS conducted?
Air Force OTS takes place at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Maxwell AFB is located in Montgomery, Alabama.
The Air Force base offers standard base amenities including housing, dining, and entertainment.
After you complete Officer Training School, you may need to complete additional training at another Air Force base, depending on the specialty.
What happens if I fail Air Force OTS?
Officer recruits that get accepted for Officer Training School yet fail the program generally have one of two options.
If the trainee is not being eliminated for failure to meet military standards, he or she receives an assignment to another military unit for service.
However, if the officer in training was eliminated from the program for failing to meet military standards, he or she is considered for military discharge.
What happens after Air Force OTS?
While you should celebrate your accomplishment and enjoy Air Force OTS graduation, your work is often far from done.
Many graduates of the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) progress to additional training based on their specialty.
For example, Air Force pilots need to further their education and training before serving in full duty.
Regardless, you’ll receive the classification of Second Lieutenant (O-1) after completing Air Force OTS.
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The Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) is one of the ways to become a commissioned officer in the USAF.
You need to have a four-year college degree before the Air Force will consider an application to Officer Training School.
Air Force OTS is a demanding training program that lasts 9 weeks and helps develop your leadership skills.
Becoming an Air Force Officer improves your pay and benefits, but does require you to manage enlisted personnel and make a lot of tough decisions.
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