Officer Training School trainees participate in a baseline expeditionary leadership problems exercise during their third week of training at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., on Oct. 3. This exercise required trainees to move as a group without verbally communicating. Several changes are coming to OTS beginning in January. (Airman 1st Class William Blankenship / Air Force)
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A new, shorter training course for officer candidates begins in January, a move that will boost the number of graduates by 40 percent in 2013.
The Basic Officer Training Course at Officer Training School has been cut from 12 weeks to nine. Among other changes, duty days will be extended by an hour and a half, combatives training will replace traditional physical training, and candidates will rely more than ever on modern technology to conduct their research, said Col. Thomas Coglitore, OTS commandant.
The changes followed an annual review by Air University staff of the training course's syllabus. The review identified inefficiencies in the old course at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
"The course length has stayed the same for a very long time," Coglitore said in a phone interview. "Just as the classes and what we teach has changed … the evolution of our facilities … and technology has helped us to more efficiently train and educate trainees."
For example, the new course eliminates up to 60 minutes of marching each day — 15- to 20-minute treks to and from the base chow hall three times a day. Trainees now eat at a dining facility on campus.
Other changes that allow for a shorter course:
• Weather days were eliminated.
• Officer candidates will no longer spend class time learning how to use the library and online sources.
• Duty days begin at 5:30 a.m. and end at 5:30 p.m., instead of about 4 p.m.
Coglitore said officers who have gone through the longer course shouldn't think that these new officers are getting less instruction or that they'll be in any way inferior.
"Reducing the course length will not change the quality of graduate. [It will] save airmen's time and save the taxpayer some money," he said.
Air University staff members estimate the shorter course will save at least $1.9 million in 2013. Additional savings will follow, because the Air Force will be able to hold more courses each year, giving Air Force Personnel Center schedulers more flexibility with follow-on training after graduation, Coglitore said.
Under the 12-week program, the basic training course at OTS was offered seven times a year. The shortened course eventually will be offered up to nine times a year, Coglitore said.
"We'll be able to provide just-in-time delivery of a new graduate that is closer to that training date," he said.
The change means 1,055 second lieutenants will graduate in fiscal 2013, up from 642 in 2012.
The Basic Officer Training Course develops new leaders through team building and other coursework during the first half of training, followed by leadership applications during the second half, according to the OTS website. Lectures, readings, guided discussions, classroom exercises, field leadership exercises and after-hours training activities are used to help graduates develop an in-depth understanding of their roles as future Air Force officers.
The Air Force has 116 requirements for commissioning new officers, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff require an additional 10, Coglitore said. That will not change with the shorter program.
"I am comfortable that we are not lowering standards," he said, "but becoming more efficient with how we schedule and conduct training."