Writing Women into History: Col. Laura Koch

  • Published
  • By Teri Baker
  • Chief of Plans, 42nd Air Base Wing
The theme of this year's Women's History Month, "Writing Women Back into History," affords us an opportunity to focus on individuals who are making history at Maxwell-Gunter. Col. Laura J. Koch, the Air Force Officer Training School commander, is an individual dedicated to molding new officers to meet the challenges of the future.

Many of the new officer trainees arriving at OTS have served several years in our enlisted corps and some have experience in citizenship through Civil Air Patrol or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. The very foundation of the Air Force officer corps is built through OTS. Referring to her assignment as "a great honor." Colonel Koch said she appreciates the opportunity to mentor and train the next generation of officers.

Colonel Koch's assignment came after commanding a reconnaissance squadron, holding a variety of operational flying and staff assignments, joint duty with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's E-3A Component, and most recently, serving as the Deputy Director of the Community Electronic Intelligence Management Office at Ft. Meade, Maryland. Colonel Koch believes the OTS curriculum and syllabus is rock solid, and she's seen excellent progress in expeditionary skills training since she arrived.

Colonel Koch is a natural leader who credits the dedicated, professional instructors and staff with the success of the OTS program. The majority of instructors are captains who volunteer to teach and understand the serious nature of the job. Each brings operational experience to mentor and advise trainees. The organization sponsors career days that match trainees with experienced officers in their career field. Prior enlisted are joining the officer corps at increasing rates which adds to the overall experience level of officers - currently 40 to 45 percent.

Competition to attend OTS is fierce and the result is an exceptional trainee corps. Colonel Koch believes in preparing them as she prepared for her career, working hard, selecting the right courses, and maintaining high grades. All of these take a long-term commitment to preparedness and learning. She lives this process in her own life and ensures this is conveyed to trainees; but they are also taught to remain dedicated to understanding the need of each position. Noting that today's OTS trainees are very technology-savvy, she works hard to ensure they understand technology is just one way to be aware of how to manage an organization. Every leader will have to address many challenges throughout their career and the eight-step problem solving process is part of the curriculum.

She is very excited about the Academy of Military Science's move to the Holm Center and stated trainees are continuously asking for more interaction with those from the other components. Colonel Koch is actively exploring methods to contribute to this shared common experience. Nearly 85 percent of the Air National Guard officer candidates are prior enlisted.

Watching trainees progress from arrival until they are ready to do the Air Force job is what drives Colonel Koch. Her favorite moment is watching the proud smiles of the graduates' parents and families. Colonel Koch lives by example and the Air Force is better because of her.