Phase One at COT: Weeks 1-2

Today signals my thirteenth day at Commissioned Officer Training (COT), and I finally found time to update the blog. Technically, we just finished training day 8 of 23 on Friday, but our schedules are packed whether it’s the duty week, the weekend, or the fourth of July. We usually scramble from activity to activity from 0430 to 2300 daily, so I’ll try to hit the big points of what’s been going on here.

Two Sundays ago, I made the full drive from McLean, Virginia to Montgomery, Alabama in about 13 hours. I had the horrible realization my drive was one hour longer than anticipated when I reached the Alabama border, with a sign indicating it’s in the central time zone (womp womp). When I arrived at the Air Force Inn on Maxwell AFB, I ran into two females in the hallway discussing COT. One was a captain who just graduated dental school and was beginning COT the next day with me, and the other was an enlisted female who shared some of her experiences in BOT (basic training). In comparison, COT is much less stressful, but at the time, I did not realize what was in store for me.

Let me preface the rest of my post by saying that it was crucial to read a few blogs beforehand and to do research on the training program. COT has been one of the most difficult professional experiences for me, challenging me in ways that I had not expected while also being easier in other ways. Everyone gets stressed out. Everyone feels uncomfortable. Everyone is sleep-deprived, which is why our large auditorium is referred to as the “big red pillow”. At the same time, you’re going to have a lot of fun and learn what it really means to become a military professional. Every person has a different experience here; it’s all about the perspective you take away from this opportunity to train to become an Air Force officer.

On day 1, I drove in with the dentist I had met from the night before, who coincidentally ended up in my squadron and lives down the hall from me. Our class of about 320 officer trainees is split into 4 squadrons with 21 flights total. My Falcon squadron has 5 flights (mine being the Bravo Bombers, the best flight ever).

Day 1 consisted of LOTS OF YELLING. I learned to stop talking, to march, to follow directions, and to stare straight forward with zero facial expressions as screaming comes from every direction. I quickly realized that this would become a regular deal, but bright side: the screaming stops phasing you really early on. They instruct by yelling. When you calm down, listen, and follow through, all goes well. Things are only a big deal if you make it a big deal (unless you’re doing something egregiously horrible, but most trainees I have encountered are individuals of high moral character). Buying uniform items was a hot mess that day, but it was refreshing to have normal human conversations with the people working at the store before being thrown back to OTS staff again.

Most activities here revolve around five main things: 1) drill/marching, 2) physical training, 3) academics, 4) your duties/leadership roles, and 5) team building activities.

1) Drill.
I have no idea why this hasn’t been mentioned in previous blogs more. Marching and saluting and rendering military customs and courtesies are way more difficult than I thought they’d be. They also play a huge role in the COT experience. We passed our pennant test yesterday and Bravo flight came out as the #1 flight in our class. This is a BIG DEAL, especially because we really got our act together and practiced drilling meticulously the couple days beforehand. We were underdogs, but we rocked it. Our success earned us a most professional flight of the week award within our squadron. THIS GUIDON IS OURS. WE OWN THE GUIDON.

After receiving our pennant and professionalism award!

Bravo flight after receiving our pennant and professionalism award!

2) Physical training.
We head out for PT at 0440 most mornings. Per other blogs, I assumed the workouts wouldn’t be challenging, but they’ve actually been good thus far. Lots of running and group stretching. I can tell certain individuals are struggling more and others are breezing through it, but I am getting some good workouts in and my physical abilities are clearly improving. We took our baseline PT test on Monday, and I got all my personal bests for the 1.5 mile run, the push-up portion, and the sit-up portion. I surpassed my goal of hitting the excellent mark (scoring 90/100) and got a little over 95. #Winning.

3) Academics.
In the first week, there is so much paperwork processing and drill that you forget you’re here to learn the logistics of being a military officer. It has definitely picked up week two, after we took our big test on the officer training school manual (I got 100%, which was a huge pick-me-up when I was getting mentally exhausted from sleep deprivation. Sleep is huge, people. You’ve got to get it.) I had assumed classes would be more on Air Force history, rules, and regulations, but it’s a lot better than I anticipated. Courses thus far have focused on team building, motivation, and leadership skills. We also have classes on warfare studies, profession of arms, as well as communication. Big test coming up Monday that I should be studying for as we speak. Also, I am giving a brief on Wednesday about human rights in Iran. Stay tuned for how those go.

4) Your duties/leadership roles.
There are dozens of opportunities to get involved in leadership here. I will admit that most people who pick those higher-up roles seem stressed out of their minds, but if that’s your thing, then definitely jump on it. Leadership comes in many forms though, and everybody plays a part here. I lucked out with my flight job as the photographic officer. I would like to consider myself a morale booster. For weekend #1, I had to crank a lot of things out, but now my main responsibilities are to take photos and update the flight board (which is pretty difficult in a place where there is basically no functioning internet and you’re not allowed to print). My flight and squadron have excellent leaders. I am grateful for the opportunity to train with such a fabulous group of people (shout out to my Bravo Bombers – BOOM BOOM – as well as my flight commander).

5) Team building activities.
I think this will come more into play later, but what I really wanted to emphasize is how closely we work within our flights. My flight consists of 16 amazing people, including mostly medical students and dentists, as well as a couple psychologists, a pharmacist, and a chaplain (who’s my roommate!). We have done some field leadership training as well as countless group activities together. Our Bravo flight is a cohesive unit, and our team morale is always high. None of us are prior-military, so it has been quite the process where we are all learning how to be military officers. These people are going to be the #1 reason I might miss COT after graduation.

Ready for the next leadership mission

Ready for the next leadership mission

Other random points worth mentioning:
-Alabama feels like a toaster oven. How we wear boots, pants, and long sleeves still baffles me.
-Tight meals consist of shoving as much DFAC (our dining facility) food as you can in under 10 minutes. Sitting at modified attention and the no-talking rules aren’t painful in comparison to the stomach pains I get after meals from eating too quickly. The food is pretty good though AND very cheap.
-Being feminine is quite the challenge. Not much time for make-up or pretty hair. Luckily, OTS staff has not been passing out demerits for hair that “looks like a rat’s nest”. In defense of all the females here, we try.
-Andrew and my dad are flying down for graduation in August. Happy happy happy happy. 3 weeks and counting.

Peace, love, and Bravo.

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10 thoughts on “Phase One at COT: Weeks 1-2

  1. I just had a couple of questions which seem so dumb but are stressing me out, I will be attending COT in a few weeks and was just wondering on the first day (reporting day) what is an appropriate outfit to wear and also I have already purchased all my uniforms so will we be allowed to get our luggage from our vehicle or do we need to bring all of it to the building upon reporting. Thanks!

    • I hope I am responding on time: I stressed about the same things! Make your life easier by having your hair up in a military-appropriate bun (out of your face and above your shirt collar) and by taking off any unnecessary jewelry (you’re fine with wedding/engagement rings but they can be more harsh at COT with the Air Force dress code). I do not remember anybody getting chewed out for what they were wearing, but everybody was dressed conservatively. It’s safe to go with khakis/knee-length shorts (I think jeans were fine too?) and a generally conservative blouse (has sleeves, no cleavage or midriff showing). You should bring all of your luggage from your car when you are reporting. The reporting location is right next to the parking lot. After in-processing, everybody heads to the shop to buy their uniforms; they pack everything from the shop in the green duffel bag.

      Good luck and please let me know if you have other questions before you head out!

      • Thanks so much! One more question, I see several people recommending a printer. I just do not want to lug anything that big out there. I was just wondering if it really is necessary.

      • Hi, sorry if this is in the wrong place, but I am going to COT shortly, and do they give you a green duffel bag or do you need to bring one to stash the uniforms in? If you need to bring one, where is the best place to buy it?

        Thanks

      • The green duffel bag is one of the things everybody purchases on day 1 of COT, so you don’t need to worry about it in advance! I only saw a couple prior service folks bring theirs.

      • That is great thank you. Can you bring any type of luggage for all your items, and stash the suitcase in your room somewhere?

      • Any type/size of luggage is fine. My suggestion is to consolidate to one luggage (maybe plus a backpack if you need the extra room). Just be prepared to lug whatever you bring in gravel. You’ll be required to store your luggage in the closet. They threatened to take all the luggage to a storage place so nobody can hide contraband, but they never touched it my year… it was a nice place to throw extra clothes/food I didn’t have room/time to fold away.

      • Hey guys,

        One more question. If we have no uniforms and certain things need to be tailored or rank sewn on, what do we do in the meantime while those alterations are happening?

      • Hey Ben! I think I might have been the Ashley that asked question before I went so it has been a bit but you will drop you abu blouses off separately (recommended to have two) and they will do your name tapes and air tapes on them then. The first couple of weeks you wear the paper name tags until everyone gets blouses back with tapes. You can do no tailoring on Abus as they are meant to not tailor but once you get to your base you can have them altered. You won’t need blues for a couple of weeks so you can get them measured and pinned for alterations in the uniform supply at the ots campus ( they take you there the first day) and then the drop off for dry cleaners and alterations is right there as well. That is also where you drop off your abus to have your name and af tapes sewn on. No badges yet.

  2. I would say that bringing a printer is definitely helpful, but I couldn’t have fit it into my luggage unless I had bought a smaller one (which I personally would’ve done in retrospect). Most flights got lucky and had one of 16 people bring a printer and save the day; my flight legitimately went out of our way to smuggle in a printer just so we could do our homework. I was in charge of the procurement of a printer through the folks who went to church (my roommate’s mom visited, went to church with my roommate, and brought us a printer!). Sunday religious services are the only opportunity to leave COT for the first few weeks.

    The only reason the printer situation is unfortunate is there are no functioning/accessible printers for us on base and there are certain things that are expected to be printed. You can pay somebody in another flight to use their printer/ink if necessary, and I think the word is out that printers are helpful to bring.

    I probably went into too much detail there, but basically, it’s your call! Your flight can figure it out together 🙂 Some people didn’t even need to print anything. It partially depends on your flight officer position.

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