OTS flight commander: Best job in the Air Force



Commentary by Capt. Peter Shinn
Flight commander, Academy of Military Science


12/2/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al  -- This fall, two events occurred which made me especially proud to be a flight commander at the United States Air Force Officer Training School. In October, the Academy of Military Science, which commissions line officers for the Air National Guard, celebrated the 40th Anniversary of its first graduating class. The following month, Commissioned Officer Training celebrated the graduation of its 20,000th student.

Both of these milestones are testaments to an unbroken heritage of commissioned leadership training that extends throughout the history of the Air Force, and even precedes it. In a very real sense, each trainee that graduates from any one the OTS programs represents the continuation of the "thin blue line" which has stood between the United States and its enemies through every conflict since the advent of air power. Moreover, I can personally attest that these trainees represent the very best of America.

As a flight commander for the Academy of Military Science, which produces line officers for the Air National Guard, I have trained a Harvard-educated attorney, a nuclear physicist, an engineer for General Motors, the vice president of a petroleum company, numerous airline pilots, a former U.S. Army warrant officer, and a number of entrepreneurs. Flight commanders for Basic Officer Training, which produces line officers for the Active Duty and U.S. Air Force Reserve, tell me similar stories about their trainees. Flight commanders for Commissioned Officer Training, which provides basic military training for new professional officers, are putting the foundation in place for the Air Force's newest lawyers, doctors, nurses, physician assistants, medical administrators and chaplains.

Training these outstanding young men and women for leadership positions in the U.S. Air Force is a humbling experience, and an awesome responsibility. It is rare that people can remember the names of many of their college professors, but almost anyone who has been through an OTS program will remember their flight commander for the rest of their lives.

The prospect of influencing future Air Force leaders, even in a modest way, certainly influenced me to volunteer for flight commander duty the first time in 2008. What I found is the majority of my students were prior enlisted members who, unlike me, had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. So, after 21 months as a flight commander, I volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan's Kunar Province for a year with the Iowa National Guard's 734th Agribusiness Development Team. My students had ended up influencing me, and as my tour in Afghanistan came to an end, I asked to return to OTS as a flight commander once again.

There are some of my fellow company grade officers that might think an assignment as an OTS flight commander would be an unproductive diversion from their primary career field. For those with that belief, I would invite them to consider a broader view. After all, as one of my fellow flight commanders once pointed out to me, "You know, Pete, we're leaving our fingerprints all over the Air Force of the future."

Each of the officer candidates who earned their commission through the Academy of Military Science since 1971, each of the 20,000 graduates of Commissioned Officer Training - indeed anyone who has ever graduated from any OTS program, is the product of a company grade officer who, in training their students, exemplified Service Before Self. It's one of the reasons I say being an OTS flight commander is, truly, the best job in the Air Force.