Prepping for OTS - Additional Tips for TFIT

One of my readers sent me some advice on prepping for TFIT, so I thought I would share it with you all.

Just wanted to give you my thoughts on OTS.
  1. Loved it through and through. Loved virtually every aspect of it with two exceptions: sleep and dorm inspections. The lack of sleep is hard to overcome and frustrating. I tried to sleep by 2100-2200 every night to help make up for it. I also went to sleep really early on Saturdays (like 1900). I wasn't very good at folding and I absolutely despised how you had to make your running shoes tied so tightly it was impossible to wear them; I always thought that would be a safety hazard. What if there was a fire and a cadet couldn't put their shoes on fast enough because they were tied too tightly.
  2. Didn't expect how friendly and close everyone was going to be. Everyone in my class, especially my squadron, had a very close camaraderie.  They never saw it as "You're holding us back" they always saw it as "We're not doing enough to help you".
  3. I was terrible at marching, I just couldn't get the motions down until the weekend of TFIT. Once I spent a few hours with my flight mates, they showed me how to do it properly and that helped immensely. Not being rushed by the staff made all the difference.
  4. I got shouted at a lot, just like everyone else, mostly for not marching correctly and procedures. Procedures took me awhile to get down. I was non-prior and while I had read a lot on OTS, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into until TFIT started. 
  5. If I could do it again, I would study marching and leading a flight. I would also look over some OTSMAN and HAWK stuff as well since the information is out there.

Additional Remarks:
  1. SPEEDLOCK (the Masterlock directional one), this saved me a TON of time and my friends all wished they had one. I could open and close my security drawer in the time it took my friends just to open theirs.
  2. SOCKS. I highly recommend darn tough for PT and Thorlo ones for boots. Insoles were incredibly helpful according to my friends and I wish I had brought some.
  3. Printer + scanner really was helpful to have. I was located far away so walking all the way to the printer and then back got annoying. 
  4. Laundry detergent + dryer sheets. I highly recommend Tide Pods because that meant you only had to carry a little pod with your load instead of a whole bottle, not to mention they also smelled great afterwards.
  5. Bring your own white towels. The quality of the ones there weren't very good. 
  6. BRING YOUR OWN PILLOW and your own pillowcase if its just pure white. No one cared that I brought my own pillow as long as the pillowcase was white like everyone else's. The pillows were literally cotton balls stuffed into a bag, my own pillow was vastly superior.
  7. There is absolutely no PT until the PT test (The first Thursday of TFOT). You have the weekend of TFIT to help, but you really have no time to improve if you're behind by a lot.
  8. Lysol wipes were helpful, they usually have some at the supply closet but I think bringing at least one big container was helpful.
  9. BRING TOILET BOWL tablets (the ones you drop in the water basin). This will keep your toilet sparkling clean.
  10. Bring sandals/shower shoes to walk around your room
  11. If you know a really good glass cleaner, bring that too. The large mirror, the shower, and your personal mirrors all need cleaning.
  12. Swifter brusher (the hand ones with the handle) were very useful.
  13. RECHARGEABLE batteries were incredibly helpful due to the constant use of the flash light. 
  14. DO NOT BRING FOOD. I brought granola bars and some candy, not a smart choice and took up a lot of room.
  15. Do not bring too many extra clothes. I would recommend 3-4 days of civilian clothes and one set of sleepwear to hold you over until you get your PT uniform for sleeping. 
  16. If you go in winter, invest in REALLY GOOD Black gloves. No one cares what kind of gloves as long as they are black. The ones I bought there didn't keep me warm and I was constantly freezing despite in full ABU and APECS.
  17. Same goes for the watch cap, but make sure you can roll it up.
  18. My MTI didn't care what kind of sock color you brought (black or white) as long as the visible part was white or black. They also didn't care if they were crew, 1/4, etc. Just make sure they were flawless when they were folded.
  19. BRING BLACK AND SILVER SHARPIES. ALSO SCISSORS. Very helpful for standardization.
  20. Bring small lighters (2-3) and nail clippers for trimming strings on uniforms.
  21. If you can, bring your own iron. The ones there had a lot of burnt scum on them and they left burnt scum marks on our uniforms. My friend ruined a blues shirt this way. If you can invest in a very good iron, I'd recommend bringing it.
  22. Look up DET88 ROTC for marching and honor guard instruction videos, INCREDIBLY helpful to learn and practice before going to OTS.
  23. Bring Ziplock bags for organization. Helps to put things into organized bags rather than have them sprawled all over the place.
  24. Get with the priors. Don't try to figure out something on your own if it takes hours to do it. You simply don't have the time. Learn it from youtube if you can, but if you really can't figure something else out. Ask someone for help, especially on the weekends when people have a lot more free time. This will be especially helpful when it comes to making beds, folding clothes, and doing uniforms. 
  25. Religious services are surprisingly helpful. My mother was a bit religious, I wasn't much so. I did go to the bible study, which was awesome and full of great people, but it also gave me the opportunity to spend time with my other squad mates outside of the complex and allowed my mind to relax from the rigors of OTS.
  26. Bring a 12 inch ruler. Helps with beds and measuring other things.
  27. Bring lots of razor blades, you'll be shaving probably every other day. Also shave at night. Don't expect to do any hygiene in the mornings aside from brushing your teeth. 
  28. Get used to using your camelbak to wash out your mouth; having the plastic cup is just another thing they can ding  you for on dorms. Also remember to fill it up EVERY night.
  29. FILL THOSE POCKETS. Make sure your ABU pants for the next day have your flashlight, pen, memopad, OTSMAN, HAWK, and eyeglass strap. If you're going in winter, hand lotion helps a lot too. Sunscreen for summer. Also make sure you have your ABU cap. If you have an APEC, make sure your watch cap and gloves are in them. If you run out of pockets, use your blouse. ALWAYS MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS BUTTONED AND NEVER NEEDS TO BE UNBUTTONED. This helps in the morning because you just need to throw everything on and not worry about what you need to bring. Everything else that's important should go into your attache case. You should always get into the habit of carrying around everything you could conceivably need for the day. Anything PII (Important privacy information) should be left in your security drawer unless you are explicitly told to need it (for like finances, CAC cards, etc etc).
  30. Get used to saying sir/ma'am when you open a sentence that isn't "Yes sir or *insert greeting of the day* sir" (same goes for ma'am). Also remember to end conversations with the greeting of the day. Its just a good habit to get into.
  31. You can practice this with a baseball cap, but you should always put a hat on right before you go outside. If you get used to doing this before OTS, you'll remember to always do this with an ABU cap. Muscle memory.
  32. Always make sure you are carrying FORM 341s in your blouse pocket. I used a PDF program to insert my information and printed out like 30 Form 341 then cut them into separate pieces. Made it much easier for me later on.
  33. Buy a good pocket notepad (go over to Jetpens and buy a Midori ring grain memo along with some really good pens). You should always have two good pens on you along with a good pocket notepad. A larger notepad is useful for taking notes during lectures.
  34. Do SoBs, all of them before the CWT 1 or 2 as quickly as possible (and correctly). Not only it is good for your test, you can then use your SoBs in class to follow along to help you better understand the subject material in the flight room and in the auditorium.
  35. You won't have access to offbase for at least 2-3 weeks. Make sure everything you need is purchased in advance; you don't want to have to buy stuff from the OTS shop, especially laundry detergent. 
  36. Pack light, you will be expected to carry ALL your luggage AT THE SAME TIME up several flights of stairs probably. Some people had 60-100 pound suitcases they had to bring up 3 flights of stairs. You do not want to do this. I recommend one large suitcase you can carry and a backpack along with maybe a carry on bag. Remember that if you are flying on orders, you can waive all bag fees. Also if you have an account with the airline, make sure you get your frequent flyer miles (I got quite a few for American). This really only applies if you FLY. If you are driving, you can leave a lot of it in the car and go back for it later for the first few days.
  37. Bring a foam massage roller or "The Stick" if you have room. Several friends of mine brought some and they were INCREDIBLY helpful for easing the sore muscles we had after PT and marching.
  38. If you do not have a CAC card, I recommend using a paper clip or a piece of masking tape to tape your driver's license to your notepad or place it in a blouse pocket. DO NOT PUT IT IN ABU PANTS. I only say this because while I used my ABU pants a lot to retrieve items, I almost never touched my ABU blouse pockets. This will ensure you do not lose your ID; you are required to have an ID at all times.
  39. The welcome packet is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Make sure you put that in your attache case as soon as possible and keep it fairly pristine. It contains several forms you will be required to turn in as well as several sheets that will be important for the weeks ahead.
  40. Find out standardization with your squad/flight as soon as possible. For you non-priors and even priors, what I mean by this is that everyone has to be virtually the same. That means everyone puts their camelbak and their reflective belt in the exact same manner on their chairs in the auditorium along with even carrying your HAWK/OTSMAN in the same hand with the exact same finger positioning. Everything has to be the same. The MTI and staff aren't extremely picky however and know logic when they see it. If you brought gloves or different boots from home, they won't care as long as they are the same color as everyone else. If your friend wears Nike ABU boots and you wear Rocky's, no one cares unless one happens to be flamboyant hot pink. 
  41. DO NOT FILL OUT A FORM UNTIL YOU ARE EXPLICITLY TOLD TO DO SO. Line by line, box by box. The finance people will drill this into you as well. ANY mistakes requires redoing the ENTIRE form usually. The Form 1 had to be redone several times by most of our squad because they rushed ahead. Attention to detail is very important people.
  42. Try and set laundry days with the other squadrons. For example, Squadron 1 has M, W, Squadron 2 has T, TH. There's only one squadron per floor generally except for the 4th Squadron which is split between two floors. 
  43. If you do laundry, make sure you set a note there with your name, squad, flight number, and room number. Fold other people's stuff if you can, especially ABU and put it in a bag if there's one on top. DO NOT MOVE people's stuff unless it is done and you are putting it directly on top of the machine. Many people lost stuff this way, especially boot socks.
  44. GO TO SLEEP EARLY. Some days you won't be able to help it, but you should always try to sleep by 2130 or 2200. An extra hour of sleep is far more useful than an hour of study. If you have a watch that vibrates or has a quiet alarm, you can set it a little early (like 4:27) so that you can get ready for 4:30 wake up. To be honest the 0430 wakeup isn't really an issue past the first few days. Staff only check for the first week or two, after that its accountability for your Flight leaders (FDOs). On weekends when you have more free time, try to catch up on sleep on Friday or Saturday and go to sleep around 1900 if possible. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep REALLY helps, especially since you won't get it during the week. If you don't go to church, nap between 0800-1200 if you have free time on Sundays. You will have almost no opportunity to nap during the weekday.
  45. For those flying: purchase any cleaning supplies, printers, or various other items once you land in Alabama if you do not wish to have to take it with you on the plane. If you are driving, put all that extra stuff in your car or purchase it when you get to Alabama.
  46. For those driving: leave most of your items in your car except maybe your essential items for your room. Blues and the rest can wait till later, but do make sure you bring your ABUs.
  47. This is a personal preference, but I'd purchase a new iron. The irons there had a lot of water scum and burnt marks on them, which made them stain/destroy blue shirts they were used on. They weren't also particularly good and some of them didn't work. I'd personally buy a really nice iron because I'd be using it a lot. For those of you who don't know how to iron, I'd start learning now. 
  48. A lot of people have varied opinions on the HAWK and OTSMAN and whether you should study them beforehand. For the OTSMAN, you just won't understand most of the terminology or places they reference until you get there. The main thing I'd focus on in the OTSMAN are greeting procedures, reporting procedures, and saluting. The rest of it will come later. As for the HAWK, you won't be able to remember all of it, but there are several items I'd learn before arriving there since they are easily available online. These items would be The Airman's Creed, The Air Force Core Values, The Air Force Mission, The Military Phonetic Alphabet, The 6 Articles of the Code of Conduct, Air Force Enlisted and Officer insignia. Aside from that, the rest you won't really understand until you get there. As I said earlier, I'd focus on learning how to march and watching videos (or better yet someone who can teach you how the AF does it). This will help make the first two weeks a lot more bearable and help draw less attention to you.
  49. COT. Commissioned Officer Training may be taking place during your time at OTS. Commissioned Officer Training is for doctors/nurses, chaplains, and lawyers. They are commissioned officers and are to be given the same courtesies that you would with the staff, so remember to salute and greet them. Aside from that, you will have no interaction with them.
  50. This is a personal preference, but I recommend bringing a massage roller or tennis balls to help with massage your muscles while at OTS. The marching and the PT take a toll on some people and with the lack of sleep you'll be getting, it may feel hard to recover. Having a foam roller can go a long way to recovering faster.
  51. You will have your cell phones, but you will not carry them outside of your room until much later in the course. Only those in a leadership position such as your FDO (Flight Director of Operations; in charge of a Flight) or your squadron commander will have them on their persons. This is so they can communicate with the Flight Commanders and Squadron Commander. Aside from that, you may use them after dinner and before lights out to speak with family and friends. Many people spent an hour every night talking with family so they didn't feel homesick. To each their own, but be careful with time management. You may also use your cell phones as an alarm clock, but do not set an alarm for earlier than 0430.
  52. Try and be careful; do not overexert yourself or go crazy on physical activities. Everyone feels that competitive spirit and the wish to excel, but don't injure yourself. Injuring yourself could be a fast ticket home (You will most likely be given the opportunity to come back, but probably not for several months to a year). I'd recommend pushing yourself to your limits only during your PT tests, which you will be required to pass in order to graduate.
  53. Air National Guard folks do not attend TFIT (The indoctrination period before TFOT). This means ANG folks will arrive on the first day of TFOT and it will be up to the Flight and Squadrons to get them situated as quickly as possible and get them caught up with the routine. If you are ANG, you will feel lost at first and your flight/squadron should have everything prepared for your arrival. ANG people, make sure you know the oath of office for the ANG.
  54. Take the initiative. Don't be afraid to ask your FDO, squadron commanders, or even your flight commanders/staff for things as long as its not explicitly stated otherwise in the OTSMAN or you've been told otherwise. Some people were even allowed to have food in the dorms (as long as they were sealed) due to medical reasons or flight physical reasons.