Welcome back for the second installment of How to get a Rated OTS Slot. Part 2 is designed to give you a detailed explanation of the required documents you will need to navigate this process. Dont let a small paperwork error ruin your chances at getting a rated OTS slot!
For most applicants, the following items cover all the requirements necessary to put together a rated OTS application package. However, additional steps may be required for those who require waivers or have unique circumstances. Your recruiter will guide you through the process and advise you on the steps required for your situation. Some recruiters may require applicants to fill out additional documents early in the application process, but those documents are generally used for screening purposes or to assist the recruiter in completing some of the required documents for you. This list is not official and requirements are subject to change. You can find more detailed information below the checklist.
- Official identification/citizenship documents
- Discharge documents (DD Form 214, NGB Form 22, etc.) if prior service
- Credit check consent form (AFRS Form 1325)
- Copies of law violation documents (traffic tickets/receipts, court documents, etc.)
- Tattoo screening form (AF Form 4428)
- Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) scores
- Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) score
- Copies of college transcripts
- Medical screening form (DD Form 2807-2) and applicable medical records
- Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) physical examination
- Applicant Profile document
- 3-5 letters of recommendation
- Recruiting officer interview
- Commissioning application document (AF Form 56)
Official Identification/Citizenship Documents
You must be a US citizen in order to apply for a commission. If you are a US citizen by birth, you will be required to provide your recruiter with an official birth certificate, which can be obtained from the Department of Health Services (DHS) of the state in which you were born. You will also need to provide a government-issued photo ID and your social security card. If you have dependents, you will need to provide their identification and citizenship documents, as well. Additional documents are needed for naturalized US citizens. Dual citizenship is disqualifying – applicants must renounce their non-US citizenship and relinquish foreign passports in order to apply. For more information, consult sections 2.19, 2.21, and 7.11 of AFRS Form 36-2001 or contact a recruiter.
Discharge Documents (DD Form 214, NGB Form 22, etc.)
If you’ve served in the military before, you’ll need to submit your discharge paperwork. If you no longer have these documents, you can request them from the US National Archives and Records Administration. Some reentry (RE) codes may require a waiver in order to proceed. Dishonorable discharges are usually disqualifying.
Credit Check Consent Form (AFRS Form 1325)
Your recruiter will conduct a credit check to determine if you have any significant financial issues that could be problematic during your service. You’ll need to fill out AFRS Form 1325 to authorize the Air Force to obtain a copy of your credit report. Derogatory information (accounts sent to collections, accounts past due, loans in default, etc.) and/or evidence of any late payments will require an approved waiver, called a Financial Eligibility Determination (FED), in order to continue with the application process. An approved FED is also required if your monthly minimum debt payments would make up more than 40% of your projected O-1 monthly salary. The waiver authority for an FED is generally the recruiting squadron commander. If you require an FED, you will need to type a statement that describes the circumstances which led to each piece of derogatory information and how you have resolved the issue (or plan to resolve it). The squadron commander may want to have a conversation with you to better understand your situation and judge your sense of financial responsibility. Keep in mind that rated jobs usually require a Top Secret clearance, which means that investigators from the federal government will look at your credit history as part of your background check after selection. An approved FED does not necessarily ensure that you will be deemed eligible for a Top Secret clearance.
Copies of Law Violation Documents (Traffic Tickets/Receipts, Court Documents, etc.)
If you’ve ever had any run-ins with the law, you’ll need to notate these occurrences in your application and provide copies of the tickets, receipts, and/or court documents. Occasional traffic tickets usually are not a big deal, but excessive violations or more serious crimes (like DUIs) will likely require waivers. Having a significant criminal history can be a disqualifying.
Tattoo Screening Form (AF Form 4428)
All applicants with tattoos are required to describe the location, content, and size of their tattoos on AF Form 4428. This is a requirement even if the tattoos are not visible in any uniform combinations.
Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) Scores
This is one of the most important pieces of your application. The board will look very closely at your scores, especially since some of these scores are designed specifically to gauge aptitude for rated positions. Your recruiter can schedule a testing session for you or you might be able to take it with an Air Force ROTC unit at a local university. Your recruiter may be reluctant to proceed with the application process if you score poorly, and it can be a difficult and time-consuming ordeal to find another line officer recruiter and convince them to give you a shot. You can only take the AFOQT twice without a waiver and you must wait 150 days between attempts, so study hard and be prepared. Check out BogiDope’s 3-part AFOQT guide so you can be sure to ace it.
Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) Score
This is another extremely important part of your application. To get a PCSM score, you’ll need to have taken the AFOQT and the Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS). Your recruiter can schedule a TBAS testing session for you, but they will probably have you take the AFOQT first and if you score poorly then they may be reluctant to schedule a TBAS session. Some AFROTC detachments also administer the TBAS and it may be possible to schedule a testing session with one. The PCSM score is calculated using your AFOQT Pilot score, your TBAS grading data, and the amount of flight time you’ve accrued. Although you can only take the AFOQT and the TBAS two times each, you can continue to improve your PCSM score after your testing attempts by investing in more flight time. Spend some time going over BogiDope’s PCSM guide to learn more and know what to expect on the TBAS.
Copies of College Transcripts
As mentioned previously, conferring a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to be a commissioned officer. You’ll need to provide copies of transcripts from all institutions that you earned college degrees from. If the transcripts don’t include transfer credits from other colleges you attended, you’ll need to include transcripts from the previous colleges, as well. Scanned or electronic copies are acceptable for the application process, but you must bring official raised-seal transcripts to OTS if you are selected. The selection board will see your degree type, major, school, and GPA. Applicants were previously required to use the Air Force’s cumulative GPA calculation method for all credits they received from all schools, but as of the time of this writing, the GPA that counts is the one on the transcript from the school that awarded the bachelor’s degree.
Medical Screening Form (DD Form 2807-2) and Applicable Medical Records
Your health will be scrutinized very heavily in the military – even more so if you’re serving in a rated position. The first hurdle is meeting the basic commissioning physical standards, and the first step in doing that is filling out DD Form 2807-2. The form consists mainly of yes/no questions regarding current or past medical conditions and it also includes a section in which you must provide more information for any “yes” answers. You’ll likely need to obtain medical records related to any “yes” answers and provide them to your recruiter. You should be honest but refrain from being a hypochondriac. If you weren’t diagnosed with something by a medical professional, do not answer “yes” for the condition. Once you’ve completed this form and have secured all necessary medical records, medical personnel will determine whether you have any issues which are disqualifying or require waivers.
If you need a waiver for a medical issue, you will generally be forced to wait for the waiver to be approved before you can move any further in the process. This can unfortunately mean months of waiting and uncertainty, but that’s sometimes an unfortunate reality of life in the military. If you have no significant issues (or you’ve had waivers approved for your issues), you’ll soon be scheduled for a pre-commissioning physical examination at the nearest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).
Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) Physical Examination
Once your DD Form 2807-2 and medical records have been reviewed and approved (and any necessary waivers have been approved), you’ll undergo a physical examination at the nearest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). This examination is mainly intended to make sure you’re physically qualified to be a commissioned officer, but there are some additional vision and hearing requirements that you’ll be screened for if you’re a rated applicant. It’s impossible to say with certainty what your options will be if you are found to not meet physical standards. Some issues may be disqualifying, some may require waivers, and some may require you to come back at a later date for reexamination. If you are found to meet all standards, then you are physically qualified to become a non-rated commissioned officer (which is sufficient to apply to the selection board), but you will be required to undergo more comprehensive physical exams and meet more stringent standards later if you are selected for a rated position.
Applicant Profile Document
This document is one of the main things that the selection board looks at and BogiDope has some great consulting services to help you create it. These documents contain most of the information from the rest of your application, but it is presented in a resume-like format which makes it easy for the board to quickly get an idea of who you are. Some sections just require the basic facts, like your amount of flight time, degree information, dates of previous military service or commissioning applications, and law violation information. The other sections are more subjective and give you a chance to showcase who you are and really stand out. Carefully crafting concise bullet points for your employment history can illustrate the responsibilities you’ve had, and highlighting career achievements and personal achievements can draw attention to your successes.
Your only chance to truly “speak” directly to the board comes in the form of a personal statement section, in which you state your objectives and reasons for desiring an Air Force commission. This section is where you should address any strange or negative factors in your background and give the board members an idea of your character and philosophy. It’s a good idea to make multiple drafts of your statement and do heavy proofreading. If you know any military members (especially commissioned officers), ask them to give you their feedback. This section has the potential to really push you over the edge if you can make a good impression with it.
3-5 Letters of Recommendation
You will need at least 3 to 5 letters of recommendation for your application package. It’s best to limit these to one page each since the selection board will not have enough time to critically examine each one of every single applicant’s letters. Choose people who truly know you well and can speak to your abilities in a substantial matter. If these people are employers or teachers, it’s a good idea to send them some resume-like bullet points and other notes which can refresh their memories of your accomplishments. Do not use letters that are obviously made from generic templates. It may be appreciated if you save the writers some time by writing the first drafts yourself and allowing them to make edits as they please. Letters from military members are a plus (especially officers), but a letter from a civilian who knows you well is a better asset than a letter with no real substance from a military member. Having the writers use the official letterhead of their employer or military unit is a nice touch that adds credibility and professionalism to the letters. Your goal is of course to obtain five powerful letters of recommendation, but if you feel that some of them are lacking in substance, it may be best to leave them out of your package since they may distract the board members from your more valuable letters.
Recruiting Officer Interview
One of the last steps in the application process is to interview with an officer from the recruiting squadron you are working with. The officer will grade you on 10 evaluation factors (appearance, attitude, leadership potential, etc.) which are listed on your commissioning application form (AF Form 56), as well as provide comments regarding your officer potential. Competitive applicants are often invited to interview with the commander of the recruiting squadron, but high ratings and positive comments are still beneficial even if they are from officers who are lower in the chain of command. This is another very important part of your application, so make it count. Wear a suit (or service dress uniform if prior service), get a haircut that’s within Air Force regulations, and be clean shaven. Be prepared to talk about your background in-depth and answer hard questions about any potentially negative factors. Make sure to highlight your experience with leadership and important responsibilities.
Commissioning Application Document (AF Form 56)
AF Form 56 contains almost every single detail in your application package. The board will look closely at the officer interview evaluation section, but for the most part, they will learn about you via the Applicant Profile document. However, it is still important to ensure that the document is completed in its entirety and has no errors because the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS) utilizes it extensively and your application may not be approved if it has inconsistencies. Your recruiter will probably complete most of this form for you, but you can make a good impression by having a draft of it completed yourself when you first make contact to express your interest in applying. Be aware that what you enter in the personal narrative section (item #22) must be the same as what you put in the Applicant Profile document.
Ok, admittedly that is a lot of detailed information on paperwork. If you're feeling overwhelmed, that's normal. However, understanding how to make yourself look as competitive as possible for each document could be the difference between getting your rated OTS slot or not. If you need help, check out BogiDope's Consulting page. There are a wide variety of services to help you get your resume and cover letters in order. Join us next time for the final part of How to Get a Rated OTS Slot – Part-3.