The OTS application process involves collecting information, filling out a stack of forms, and sending it off to Maxwell AFB where it is reviewed by a board of three USAF colonels. The board spends a week reviewing hundreds of applications, eventually making decisions on which people to accept into the program for the Air Force to meet its quotas for that period of time.
The main paperwork included in the application is as follows:
- AF Form 56 (Local copy, current as of 5 September, 2016) – The core of your application. Contains all of your contact information, job history, education history, any issues such as criminal or financial problems, interview results, and your personal statement.
Letters of Recommendation – Active duty applicants only have one LoR, no higher than their senior rater (usually a wing commander or equivalent) and it must be from someone in their chain of command. Civilian applicants can have five LoR’s, and they can be from anyone other than immediate family. Former bosses, teachers, co-workers and family friends are all acceptable.
Applicant profile – A résumé-style summary of your work history, education, professional and personal affiliation and hobbies. This has a lot of redundant information taken from your Form 56, formatted in a different way.
Degree transcripts – Official transcripts for all schools that you have obtained a degree from.
AFOQT results – Results from your Air Force Officer Qualification Test. (You can find your results here)
Medical qualification results – Medical paperwork for any jobs requiring extra medical qualifications, such as flying and some other jobs.
Waiver worksheet, and any required waiver requests – The worksheet determines if you need a waiver, and you must also supply the paperwork for any required waiver for things like financial problems, criminal history and age.
The boards meet roughly four times a year, two of which are rated boards for flying jobs such as pilot, navigator and air-battle manager, and two of which are for non-rated jobs, which is everything else. See this page for the complete schedule for boards and classes.
The application process is intense, as there is a large amount of information to put together. You will (should) spend hours reviewing your package, hunting for typos, missed information, and ways that you can word something more clearly and succinctly. Every detail matters, and an application filled with typos, poorly formatted text and missing or conflicting information show a lack of attention to detail and will likely be overlooked despite the content of the package.
Letter(s) of Recommendation
Much of the advice about the personal statement can also be applied to the letter(s) of recommendation. Keep it short, be specific and sell yourself.
For enlisted applicants, you will generally be writing your own letter of recommendation and then sending it up to your group/wing commander. The board seems to prefer a letter from someone you have actually worked with and has some personal experience with your character rather than having a letter written from a high-ranking individual that doesn’t even know your name. I’ve seen a package that was selected with a recommendation letter from a Chief Master Sergeant. Most will be colonels and above. I was fortunate that my group commander had been my former and first squadron commander, so they had known me for my entire Air Force career and could give a very good recommendation with a lot of history and personal experience to back it up. The letter should be in standard AF MFR format.
For civilian applicants, there is no standard format for the recommendation letters. They can be written on company/school letterhead. I’d recommend keeping them to one page for brevity’s sake. The people writing them for you should focus on things you did while working for them or studying under them. Tell them to be specific, providing numbers and anecdotes when possible.
If you have anything derogatory in your past like a criminal conviction, bankruptcy/financial problems, excessive traffic tickets, drug use, etc. then you’ll have to explain these things on the last page of Form 56.
My recommendation is to be honest about whatever happened, don’t make any excuses for the behavior, take responsibility, and focus on how you recovered from whatever it was and spin it into a positive.
If you had a bankruptcy for instance, talk about what you learned from the experience, how you recovered (took financial management classes) how you have improved (no longer have financial trouble, have ample savings and no debt), and also how you’ve helped others not make your same mistakes (taught class to 15 airmen, sharing your experiences and teaching them how to manage their finances and not wind up in the same place you were).
If you had a DUI, talk about how you’ve taken alcoholics anonymous classes, that you started a free ride service at your school or place of work, that you spoke at commander’s calls to share your story and educate other airmen about what can happen, etc.
Be honest about your mistake, but show that you’ve moved on and are trying to keep others from making the same mistake.
The biggest thing for the applicant profile is formatting. Make sure it is formatted consistently and according to the sample provided. Make sure the dates for things like your degrees are in descending order with the most recent on top. The content here is factual, so you don’t need to wordsmith it, just make it look nice and consistent.