MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
With thousands of Cadets graduating Officer Training School every year, it’s inevitable that experiences will vary drastically from one person to the next. Cadet Eric Keller from New Paltz, NY has a unique perspective of one of the Air Force’s main officer training programs.
Keller, a member of the Air National Guard for nearly nine years, acted as a guardsman as well as an active duty service member. His experience as a prior service member prepared him for the rudimentary facets of Total Force Officer Training (TFOT), namely dorm maintenance, marching, customs and courtesies, and dress and appearance. These aspects, tedious as they may sometimes seem, have their utilities in instilling discipline, attention to detail, and situational awareness in the Cadets who graduate from the program.
All Cadets, including those who are prior service, are expected to understand the standards of training. When first arriving at OTS, Keller was told as a prior service member that he would not be able to coast through this training.
The instructors were right.
He has been challenged both by the academic standards that are expected of each Cadet as well as the training's physical aspects.
“Physical training is integral for military members and ensures that standards to complete every aspect of the mission are carried out,” Keller said. “This has been proven by the physically demanding obstacles that have been laid before us thus far in training.”
Keller’s sentiments are similar to those expressed by other Cadets with prior service experience. Breck Simmons, a Cadet in Flight 1-14 said, “These past few weeks have pushed me both mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have been in the military for 15 years and never faced challenges on this scale.”
There are several different areas of a military member's life that should be balanced to ensure their overall health: foundational pillars composed of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual states of well-being. Keller appreciates that TFOT ensures that these pillars are all properly fulfilled.
Keller’s mental state encompasses the understanding of the material as well as reinforcement from instructors. He also acknowledges that the instructors are well-trained and very approachable when questions arise.
“The academic material has been both enlightening as well as easy to absorb,” Keller said.
Keller’s physical state embodies both the morning physical training (PT) as well as the obstacles that are involved in the activities the Cadets take part in. Group PT builds morale and rapport with peers and prepares Cadets for the physical challenges they face when taking part in the different hands-on courses.
Keller mentions that the emotional state of Cadets is something that depends on the amount of pressure that individuals feel they are under at any given time. The various positions that each Cadet could potentially take part in are intended to test their emotional state and evaluate how they react to different stressors and challenges. This gives significant insight into how a Cadet will potentially lead subordinates and what actions can be changed or mitigated.
Finally, Keller feels the spiritual pillar is accommodating to the Cadets who wish to attend Sunday religious services. This is especially important to Keller. Although he does not attend Sunday services, he spends Sunday mornings meditating to reflect and recharge in preparation for the coming week.
Although four weeks have gone by since the beginning of the course, Keller looks forward to each coming Monday and the tasks, tests, and trials that each new week holds.
“I really enjoy the challenges here at OTS,” Keller said. “I know that I am not alone. There are 220 other Cadets alongside me for this highly rewarding journey.”
He mentions that with each passing exam, paper, briefing, and leadership opportunity, he builds and compounds self-confidence so that he can go back to his home station knowing he accomplished something few have done: survived Officer Training School.