Enlisted commissioning opportunities

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force provides several ways for enlisted Airmen to pursue a career change to the officer ranks.

Becoming an Air Force officer is a significant commitment that enlisted Airmen who display leadership potential are encouraged to look into.

"Passion is the first thing I'd want to see in any officer candidate," said Col. Scot Heathman, 92nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander. "Candidates should work to standout as go-to Airmen and to show that they have a higher calling as potential leaders."

The officer application process may be started at any point in an Air Force career so long as an Airman meets the requirements, said Heathman. Airmen should give consideration to the circumstances, current position and the future career goals an individual has first.

"Quitters need not apply. It's a long road to commission, so do your homework," said Barry Miller, Fairchild Education and Training Center counselor. "There are many people that will help you choose the best path to get there, but it's just as important to work out what you want after you make officer too, as that is just the beginning."

Three avenues exist for enlisted Airmen to attain lieutenant bars; applying for the Air Force Academy, the Airman Education and Commissioning Program or applying for Officer Training School.

The Air Force Academy is similar to a prestigious university. It's selective, competitive and good for young Airmen that have firm career goals. Some applicants may not be initially accepted, but will be offered attendance to the academy's prep school as a "cadet candidate" to help improve their chances, Miller said.

"It’s the top Air Force school and I encourage all eligible Airmen to apply for it," Miller said. "It's great for Airmen that wish to make a career of their military service, as you will find no place more specialized for such."

AECP offers active duty enlisted Airmen the chance to gain a commission by attending a Reserve Officer Training Corps course while earning a degree in college. The program enables an Airman to focus full-time on education goals, attaining officer status after successful attaining their degree.

"The AECP allows an Airman to attend a college full-time with an $18,000 a year scholarship," said Miller. "A great chance to get a degree you want, while learning to lead others and become an officer right out of school."

OTS is separated into two major groups: Total Force Officer Training and Commissioned Officer Training.

The TFOT program requires a bachelor’s degree to qualify and adds additional leadership training to successfully commission an Airman. COT is for those already holding specialized degrees in Medicine, Legal or Music and if otherwise qualified, can directly commission after leadership training school.

"Having a degree puts you one step closer," Miller said. "Medical, Judge Advocates and Air Force Band members are highly specialized and require a degree beforehand to commission. TFOT will work with any degree type."

Bachelors or higher degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are favored for most officer job fields due to their high desirability, however, a specialized degree is only one factor of consideration and any bachelors or higher degree will qualify to apply with.

"We are a high-tech force, so people with STEM degrees are desirable," Miller said. "That shouldn't dissuade anybody from applying or pursuing a degree they don't like. OTS acceptance has far less to do with the degree and more to do with who the Airman is."

"It doesn’t matter if you have a history degree ... the officer selection board wants candidates that show an ability to lead first," Miller added.

Base leaders are the first and best resource to approach when considering Air Force career goals, Heathman said.

"I like to discover outstanding Airmen and tap the potential they have," Heathman said. "If that potential is best realized by lieutenant bars, I'll back them 100 percent. I get personal joy when I see Airmen realize their leadership potential."

For more information on commissioning opportunities, speak with your leadership, the base Career Assistance Advisor or contact the education center at (509) 247-2348.