Whoever it was that told me that I wouldn’t have a ton of time at COT to do other things, they were right. Our days are long and chock full of meetings, drills and what the military calls “in-processing” – getting all of our paperwork in order, clearing all of us medically, and getting us outfitted with uniforms and whatnot. The bulk of my time the past two days has been spent waiting in single-lines, be it to get my blood drawn, give a urine sample, or buy uniforms. And the whole time I’ve stood in line, I’ve been reading my Officer Training School (OTS) Manual, known as the “OTSMAN.”
But before I get into the OTSMAN, I want to tell you what my introduction was like. Since I arrived early to Maxwell I was ready to check in right at noon. There were a few others early arrivers, and we all kind of ran into each other at the lobby for the Air Force Inn where I and some of them had stayed. (The other early arrivers came in by car, skirting around the iced-over roads throughout the South.) The Air Force Inn was ideal because (a) it is right across from the OTS complex where COT takes place (in addition to other officer training schools); (b) it has free wireless internet; and (c) it is indoors and heated. (Remember how I said it was cold? Yeah, it’s still cold.) There was a nervous energy in the room, as most of us had no prior military service and didn’t really know what to expect. I met one woman who proceeded to tell me how sick she was and that she had stocked up on five-weeks’ worth of Sudafed, Nyquil and Dayquil. I promptly excused myself and doused my paws in hand sanitizer for fear that her handshake carried the plague. Just what I needed.
So a few of them set off before me and I trailed them, rolling my luggage. As I approached the front of Morehouse Hall (the dorm where all COT trainees stay), I ran into two female Military Training Instructors (“MTIs,” a.k.a. Drill Sergeants). The one closest to me stopped me about thirty feet away and told me to go around the building, drop off my luggage, and come back prepared for in-processing. Only she barked it at warp speed. This is what I heard:
I politely said yes, thanked her, and did exactly what she told me to do. Welcome to the military. The rest of the afternoon went pretty much like that. I checked in and got my assigned room and flight, got issued a parka and camelbak water hydration system, did some computer input, and headed out to the Army Air Force Exchange Store (AAFES) to buy uniforms. But the most important part of all of that was that I got my copy of the OTSMAN. It’s a small book (115 pages), about 6 inches by 7 inches. When I was handed it, the training officer told me “This is your bible. Everything you need to know about the next five weeks is in there. You need to read it and study it at every available moment, and you need to keep it on your person at all times. Do you understand?” I of course said that I did. And I kept that thing in front of my nose every second as I stood in line all day. Others didn’t fare as well. I overheard this conversation (it happened behind me and I was told to stare straight ahead so I certainly didn’t plan on craning my neck to watch):
Instructor: Ma’am, are you here to waste time?
Instructor: ARE YOU HERE TO WASTE TIME, MA’AM? ARE YOU HERE TO WASTE MY TIME, YOUR TIME, AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S TIME?
Instructor: THAT’S “NO, SIR.”
Trainee: No, sir.
Instructor: THEN WHY ARE YOU NOT READING YOUR OTSMAN? (Some awkward shuffling.) YOU NEED TO SPEND EVERY CHANCE YOU CAN STUDYING IT. THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL SUCCEED IS BY LEARNING WHAT IS IN THERE. AND YOU SHOULD START WITH PAGES 5 THROUGH 16. DO YOU WANT TO BE A LEADER? ISN’T THAT WHY YOU ARE HERE?
Trainee: Yes, sir.
Instructor: THEN START ACTING LIKE IT.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I heard a lot of dressing-down having to do with not reading the OTSMAN. So if I don’t post very frequently, know that it’s because I’ve got my nose buried in the OTSMAN. Here’s a picture of it, along with the welcome folder from my flight commander.
|Study your OTSMAN!!|
And I forgot to mention one thing. I was assigned to ECHO flight! (You can see that in the paperwork underneath the OTSMAN in the picture above.) A flight is a small grouping of 12 to 15 trainees. Three flights make up a squadron, and there are three squadrons in the entire class (nine flights total). The flights and squadrons compete against one another over the course of COT, both in academics and athletics. And the flights are assigned letter designations, in this case A (Alpha) through I (India). I happened to land in Echo flight, which is a great sign because my grandmother’s name is Ecco Ochoa! At least I’m taking it as a good sign. Might as well, right?