GORE

USAF Officer Training School Braces For “Godzilla” Class

I attended a reasonably sized OTS class in 1996. We were organized into only three trainee Squadrons and we lived in the dorms which I later stayed in for Squadron Officer School. Even though here were only two to a room, it was pretty tight.

In the early 2000s, OTS got its own compound out on the old flight line at Maxwell AFB. Even so, I don’t know how they’re going to house a class this size.What’s more, OTS is set up in a “inmates running the asylum” scheme. This requires the upper class, which is halfway through OTS, to assume many of the duties normally fulfilled by a training cadre. If the upper class is substantially smaller than the lower class, supervision will suffer. Granted, over half of the new OTs will be prior service, but even then, the number of those right off the street will be larger than an average class.

The undertaking is so big, as of last week, many did still not yet have orders to attend OTS.

It’s going to be a tough go; for everyone involved. I wish everyone good luck!

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. —

This past March, Air University’s Officer Training School celebrated the graduation of its largest class in school history: 340 officer trainees. Just a few months later, though, the radar is reading a class more than twice that size.

What is being dubbed the “Godzilla” class, OTS Class 19-07 will push the school to its maximum capacity by tipping the scales with the expected arrival of 800 officer trainees in mid-July.

OTS is considered the “shock absorber” for Air Force officer accessioning, said Lt. Col. Erick Saks, 24th Training Squadron commander. The school works with the Air Force manpower directorate and Air Force Recruiting Service to meet any projected shortfalls in the number of commissioned officers from the service’s other commissioning sources — Air Force ROTC and the Air Force Academy — based on the needs of the Air Force.

For the Godzilla class, OTS nearly tripled the typical number of seats allotted for active duty line officers, going from about 170 to 500, the majority of the increase. The 800 officer trainees coming in will be split between OTS’s two training squadrons, the 24th TRS and Det. 12. Previously, each squadron typically received a class of 250-300 OTs.

OTS leadership, however, does not expect the increase in trainees to cause a decrease in quality of training.

“It’s not just about getting numbers out, it’s about making sure our trainees leave here with the skills they need to be great officers,” said Capt. Kaitlin Daddona, 24th Training Squadron assistant director of operations for training. “That’s what we’re really focusing on with this many people in one class.”

In order to make sure operations continue to run smoothly, communication and coordination have been key in preparation of the class, Daddona said.

With the abnormally high number of trainees coming in, otherwise routine aspects of the OTS schedule, such as meal times and lectures, have required more forethought and planning due to the nature of the beast.

Communication and coordination are important, especially when there are only six military training instructors to take on Godzilla.

Master Sgt. Bobby Johnson, OTS MTI, said that tackling this monster of a class will help develop himself and his team into “masters of controlled chaos” and make them gain the ability to problem solve while in the presence of hundreds of future Airmen.

Molding almost a thousand civilians into Air Force leaders at once can sound like a daunting task, but the OTS team sees it as an opportunity to become laser focused on cohesion and developing into better leaders right alongside their very own Godzilla.

“The best part of this has been being able to open up those lines of communication so that we can connect and build relationships with the partners that we have, whether it’s here on base or within Montgomery,” said Daddona.

The team at OTS believe that they are up to the task, but they fear the class will take a major toll on the school’s facilities.

Capt. Curan Clonch, 24th TRS assistant director of operations for standardization and evaluations, said that the facilities are going to take the biggest hit from Class 19-07.

“We can anticipate all of the things that may happen, but there’s not much we can do as far as preventative maintenance,” he said.

While the hype of this class has created a paradigm shift in the OTS staff’s mindset, the school’s goal remains the same.

“Even though Godzilla seems like a terrifying beast, we recognize the importance of getting these officers through and giving them the training that they need,” said Daddona. “As long as our trainees are leaving pumped and ready to be officers, then we did our job.”

By Senior Airman Alexa Culbert, Air University Public Affairs

10 Responses to “USAF Officer Training School Braces For “Godzilla” Class”

  1. Capt M. Hodde says:

    This is all fall out from the “AF Hunger Games part one and two” that happened in 2010 and 2014 respectively. The service kicked out thousands of people during two different draw downs. At the same time they were canning people, the USAF also severely limited officer accessions through ROTC, and probably OTS as well.

    In addition to the recruiting blitz they are on right now, the USAF has turned to bribing the “survivors” of the last two draw downs to stay with bonuses. And it is not just pilots and other aircrew the service is throwing money at. If an officer in my career field commits to an additional four years of active duty AFPC will give them $60K. These bribes are contingent on the officers who took them actually serving the entire period, which is fair. Prorated repayment of the bonuses is required should those same officers not be able to complete the four year tour. This makes sense if the officer gets hurt or has to leave early due to family/humanitarian circumstances. It was made very clear during the informational seminars related to the bonuses, that the USAF was under no obligation to retain who took the bribes should another draw down take place during the period the bribes covered. In other words, should an officer who accepted the four year additional commitment be selected as tribute in a yet to be announced “Hunger Games Part 3” they would not only not be “protected” but they would also owe the service part of the bribe back.

    It will take a while for the USAF to fix its mistakes from 2010 and 2014. Expect more of this kind of stuff in the future.

    • SSD says:

      Unfortunately, this is all too common. I was an intelligence officer. Thanks to the drawdown of the mid 90s, the career field was short and out rages number of officers. Their solution? Create lots of lieutenants in the Intelligence field.

      • Capt M. Hodde says:

        I will say that at least the USAF didn’t call the last couple culls “quality cuts” like they did in the 1990’s. Many of my more “seasoned” mentors are still upset about that little linguistic gem.

        According to the legends one picks up working with retired flyers, navigators were hit particularly hard during that period. The AF allegedly later tried to bring some of those guys back either through a recall or a voluntary return to active duty. Rumor has it more than a few of them told Big Blue to pound sand on account of the implication that they were not “quality” officers.

  2. Capt M. Hodde says:

    During the 2014 draw-down, some year groups were supposed to lose 25% or more of the personnel assigned to a specific AFSC (MOS for non-zoomies). In my year group and AFSC, 5 out of 16 “eligible” officers volunteered to leave early and go make contractor money. This met AFPC’s (the USAF’s Human Resources department) quota to reduce the cohort by just under a third. However, the powers that be almost kicked out a sixth guy since the fifth guy to leave on his own did so after some notional deadline. AFPC was already primed to kill an extra career and had to be talked out of it by being reminded they had already met their goals through volunteers. Those of us remaining were only pulled off the chopping block at the very last minute.

    In my career field and many others, the folks who left on their own often owed the Air Force time in order to pay back educational investments. In 2014, if you volunteered to leave, the USAF forgave any service time commitment you had for ROTC scholarships, attending the Air Force Academy, tuition assistance, and service/government sponsored grad school. I believe they were also waiving time incurred for PCS moves. Further most folks got to take their security clearances with them to their new contracting or GS gigs. They did not pay severance packages to young officers at the time, but the debt they forgave could be worth thousands or hundreds of thousands in the case of very clever academy grads who attended expensive grad school programs on the government’s dime while on active duty.

    In a sick twist of fate, the selection board for the 2014 pink slip festival finished right around the time that Mosul fell to ISIS in 2014. This meant that the USAF committed to significantly thinning out its force structure very shortly before the air campaign to oust those lunatics kicked off.

    To add insult to injury, the USAF brass started complaining about not having enough officers before the ink had even dried. At SOS in summer of 2015, a General assigned to manpower gave a presentation to about 500 of the very same Captains his office had just put through the ringer. In his brief he laid out the dire need for additional officers and the herculean efforts the service’s recruiting, training, and accessions teams would have to make. The irony may have been lost on the General, but it was not on the students. The rage was almost palpable in the auditorium from guys who had not only just watched their friend’s and squadronmate’s careers ended but also now had to pick up the slack from their missing comrades’ absences.

  3. Capt M. Hodde says:

    It is getting better. Wilson, Goldfein, and Wright have done an outstanding job shepherding us. But it is going to be rough for a little bit until everything equals out again. I just hope the USAF does not then immediately start this cycle over.

    But, you never know who will be in charge then, what the political realities will be, or what the service’s and nations priorities will look like. It is always wise to prepare for a draw down financially and emotionally. A lot of people like to look at the military as a high job security profession, and perhaps it is compared to many parts of the private sector. But, a long military career is not an absolute. Anyone who says otherwise is probably a recruiter.

  4. Torch says:

    My issue with this is they aren’t adding any additional cadre and it is already a skeleton crew.

  5. GANDIS says:

    I switched to the dark side in 2017 and they had completely done away with the upper/lower class concept for a while at that point. It will be interesting to see how the cadre handles a class that size with the minimal staff they have around. Even when I went through, we were a one of the larger classes and the question was posed to a few members of the staff there about how they felt the quality of training was. The almost universal reply was that it had suffered greatly because the reduced time in training and cadet-to-cadre numbes prevented making the training right. I am so glad I am not in that nightmare class coming up.

  6. EODMadBomb says:

    Just try getting a compass to work, that close to so many soon to be 2nd Lt’s.