I made a huge mistake that you could avoid if you take my advice. I wasn’t prepared to think about disability insurance in the first half of my 4th year. I figured I had plenty of time and I would think about it later. That was a mistake. For the post part, disability companies won’t cover you with disability while you are active duty. The exception to this is the company Standard. They will cover you while on active duty if you are accepted and start coverage and payments BEFORE you get your orders. I was told not to expect my orders until March or April. For some reason, the Air Force decided to do something ahead of schedule for the first time ever and I got my orders in January. I was a couple of weeks away from having my disability paperwork finalized and it was all cancelled because I had gotten my orders. Everything was not lost, however. There is another company, Ameritas, that will give you disability insurance so you can lock in the payments at the age of 26 and then suspend coverage and payments while you are on active duty. After you separate at 30 or so, the coverage begins again with the same payments you were approved for at 26. Payments increase as you age. But, if I am injured at some point during my 4-year commitment, I will not get disability insurance. If I am not able to be a dentist afterwards because of that injury, I am just out of luck. I do a lot of wood working so cutting off a finger/injuring my hand is a possibility. If I had started the process sooner with Standard, I would have coverage right now. The Air Force has some coverage I think but it isn’t enough to be a much help at all.
I graduated from Iowa on May 26, 2017. I was notified in January that I received my top choice for AEGD location (Bellevue, Nebraska) which is near family so my wife and I were very happy about that. We were expecting our second child in August so we wanted to be somewhat close to our parents so they could help a little after the baby came. We were looking for a house to rent for a few weeks and found one we really liked that had been posted a few minutes earlier. We immediately filled out the online application because we liked the size, neighborhood, proximity to the clinic etc. It turns out four other people filled out the application just after we did so we were first in line. Luckily, my dad was in Omaha on business the following day so we scheduled a showing so he could stop by and look; I wasn’t going to sign a lease without someone I trust seeing it. Everything looked good so we signed the lease which started on May 5th.
Leading up to graduation, I also had to plan my move to Bellevue with the Air Force. It was extremely complicated and frustrating and I have forgotten a lot of the specifics about it. I am about to plan my move to my next base in the next few weeks so I will be able to add that information in after I remind myself how it all works.
The movers came one day in mid-May and packed all of our stuff up and loaded it onto their truck. Since we were only moving 3.5 hours away, we were able to have a door to door move. Usually, movers will pack up your stuff and load it on a moving truck. From there it would be taken to another larger truck or shipping container and added to the stuff from someone else who is moving. It would eventually be delivered a few weeks later. I took the next day off from school and drove to Bellevue that night to meet the movers the next morning. They moved everything in to the house in a couple of hours and I started unpacking before heading back to Iowa City.
We moved the rest of our stuff and ourselves to Bellevue the day after I graduated. Then it was time to prepare for COT. I ran every day to get ready for the PT test. Monday, Wednesday, Friday I would run 1.5 miles (the distance ran for the test), and on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday I followed 10K training app. At COT, you will run a 5K and another day somewhere around 4 miles so I wanted to be prepared for that.
Leading up to COT, I received emails with instructions about booking flights and all of that. There is a number to call and someone walks you through all of that so you just have to show up for your flight.
Alabama is hot and so. Freaking. humid. I will touch on some of the big things that I had the most questions about but I’m not going to go in to the day to day detail because a big part of COT is the experience.
COT starts on Monday with people trickling in throughout the day. The COT website gives specifics about when you need to be there and all of that. There is also a uniform list on that website. I would suggest buying everything for your uniform ahead of time if at all possible. Many people don’t so if you can’t you will be fine but it will make the first day a little less stressful. You will most likely be going to an AEGD-1 residency and you will be assigned a sponsor for the current class to answer questions for you and help you transition in to the residency and military. You will possibly get to the area well ahead of COT so I would recommend you ask your sponsor to help you buy your uniform. My sponsor offered to help and I’m glad he did. He took me to the base exchange (BX) and we went through the whole list. I have never had a uniform so he was a huge help. There were a few things they were out of at the BX that I had to buy at Maxwell and it was a disaster. The line for alterations wrapped around the store and took about an hour to get through. Everyone is running around and doesn’t know what to buy and it just wasn’t fun. Buy everything ahead of time if you can.
On the first Thursday after you arrive, you will have the initial PT test. We were weighed on Wednesday to make things move a little faster that morning. Wake up is 4:30am every day. You aren’t supposed to have your light on before that but no one really checks after the first couple of days. You and your roommate have to be out of your room by 4:40 so I would suggest setting a vibrating alarm for earlier than 4:30 so you both have time to get ready. I slept in my PT clothes and just brushed my teeth and was out the door so it doesn’t take that much time.
There is a gym in the center of the COT campus where you will go as a flight or squadron to do the waist measurement. After that, you will do the push-ups and sit-ups a few flights at a time on the basketball court outside of the gym. You and your flight-mates will count for each other with the MITs (military training instructors) walking around and watching. I saw some people get away with pretty bad form, not bending their arms to 90 degrees but others were caught by the staff. If a rep doesn’t count, they will repeat the last rep number that did count and tell you what to fix like, “go lower,” or “keep your hands on your shoulders,” etc. Make sure you look up instructions on YouTube for proper Air Force push-up and sit-up technique. Like I said, some people got away with bad form but I wouldn’t count on it.
From there you will walk down to the track for the 1.5 mile run. The track isn’t a traditional circle track that is 6 laps for a mile. It is 1.5 miles from start to finish. It is called the paperclip because it has large curves to loop around different directions to make it 1.5 miles. It sounds weird but I preferred it over a normal track which I find very boring to run on.
At the end, you will be given a paper to initial that you acknowledge the scores for each section and then it is back to the dorms to shower and head to breakfast.
One of the biggest questions I have heard is about PT failure and getting kicked out of COT. I can tell you it does happen. BUT, not everyone who fails is kicked out. If you fail by a certain percentage (like 15-20% below the minimum), then you will be sent home and have to come back another time. If you fail but are within that window, the thought is that you will be able to get in good enough shape by the third week to pass the final PT test. Our class shrunk from 300 to 283 because of PT failures so it is something to take seriously
COT overall was a very stressful time. You never have enough time to get anywhere, or to study your lectures and finish your additional duties. You will be standing at attention in polyester long sleeve ABUs in the hot Alabama sun and humidity with a bug on your face and sweat literally dripping off your knuckles on to the ground but be unable to move. You will inevitably do something wrong that makes an MTI yell at you. You will smile at the wrong time or forget to say, “Good morning/afternoon/evening, sir/ma’am.” But don’t get too upset. It is all just a strategy to take you out of your comfort zone and see how you react. For the most part, the staff are just normal people who have a job to do. As you progress in the class, you will gain more privileges like going off campus, then off base in your blues, then off base in civilian clothes. Once this starts to happen, the staff calms down a little and in smaller groups will act more like humans.
There are additional duties assigned to every person in a flight. Then one person in each position is selected as the group leader of that position. There is the dorm advisor that is kind of like and RA with the group position being like a hall director. There is also a technology position (basically to set up the computer in the flight room before lecture), the academic position (make sure people submit assignments on time and do well on the tests), flight officer in charge (FOIC – pronounced foe-ic who is the leader of the flight) and several others that I can’t remember. Some positions were harder than others but try to do your best at whatever you get.
Advice for COT: Read the OTSMAN (OTS manual) before going. Here is a PDF. It changes a little every year but this will be a good start. Learn the Airman’s Creed well ahead of time and be able to recite it because they will ask you to. Also learn the first verse of the Air Force Song. It is on YouTube. You will also have to sing that as a group. They won’t ask you to sing it alone. Also, be ready physically. I had to prepare well ahead of time to get to the point that I wanted to be for the PT test. I got an 83 on the initial test and a 93 on the final test. You will get in better shape while you are there with all the marching, only have 10 minutes to eat and limited time/options for snacks (I lost 15 pounds while I was there), but test yourself ahead of time with a mock test and be sure you can pass the PT test so it is one less thing to worry about.