MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
This past March, Air University’s Officer Training School celebrated the graduation of its largest class in school history: 340 officer trainees. Just a few months later, though, the radar is reading a class more than twice that size.
What is being dubbed the “Godzilla” class, OTS Class 19-07 will push the school to its maximum capacity by tipping the scales with the expected arrival of 800 officer trainees in mid-July.
OTS is considered the “shock absorber” for Air Force officer accessioning, said Lt. Col. Erick Saks, 24th Training Squadron commander. The school works with the Air Force manpower directorate and Air Force Recruiting Service to meet any projected shortfalls in the number of commissioned officers from the service’s other commissioning sources -- Air Force ROTC and the Air Force Academy -- based on the needs of the Air Force.
For the Godzilla class, OTS nearly tripled the typical number of seats allotted for active duty line officers, going from about 170 to 500, the majority of the increase. The 800 officer trainees coming in will be split between OTS’s two training squadrons, the 24th TRS and Det. 12. Previously, each squadron typically received a class of 250-300 OTs.
OTS leadership, however, does not expect the increase in trainees to cause a decrease in quality of training.
“It’s not just about getting numbers out, it’s about making sure our trainees leave here with the skills they need to be great officers,” said Capt. Kaitlin Daddona, 24th Training Squadron assistant director of operations for training. “That’s what we’re really focusing on with this many people in one class.”
In order to make sure operations continue to run smoothly, communication and coordination have been key in preparation of the class, Daddona said.
With the abnormally high number of trainees coming in, otherwise routine aspects of the OTS schedule, such as meal times and lectures, have required more forethought and planning due to the nature of the beast.
Communication and coordination are important, especially when there are only six military training instructors to take on Godzilla.
Master Sgt. Bobby Johnson, OTS MTI, said that tackling this monster of a class will help develop himself and his team into “masters of controlled chaos” and make them gain the ability to problem solve while in the presence of hundreds of future Airmen.
Molding almost a thousand civilians into Air Force leaders at once can sound like a daunting task, but the OTS team sees it as an opportunity to become laser focused on cohesion and developing into better leaders right alongside their very own Godzilla.
“The best part of this has been being able to open up those lines of communication so that we can connect and build relationships with the partners that we have, whether it’s here on base or within Montgomery,” said Daddona.
The team at OTS believe that they are up to the task, but they fear the class will take a major toll on the school’s facilities.
Capt. Curan Clonch, 24th TRS assistant director of operations for standardization and evaluations, said that the facilities are going to take the biggest hit from Class 19-07.
“We can anticipate all of the things that may happen, but there’s not much we can do as far as preventative maintenance,” he said.
While the hype of this class has created a paradigm shift in the OTS staff’s mindset, the school’s goal remains the same.
“Even though Godzilla seems like a terrifying beast, we recognize the importance of getting these officers through and giving them the training that they need,” said Daddona. “As long as our trainees are leaving pumped and ready to be officers, then we did our job.”