The Air Force’s record-setting Officer Training School class nicknamed “Godzilla” — by far the largest in Air University’s history — graduated Sept. 27.
In July, OTS Class 19-07 began with 800 officer trainees at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Five weeks later, 149 of those new officers finished the program through an “off-ramp” designed for non-line officers in particular specialties.
The remaining 651 line officers in the class celebrated their achievement and became second lieutenants in a graduation parade last week, which included a flyover by the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.
“With your training complete, your Air Force career can officially begin,” Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander and president of Air University, said during the ceremony. “Your instructors have given you the tools you’ll need to lead in our Air Force and secure our future.”
This class was well over twice the size of the previous record-holding class, which was held last March and had 340 officer trainees.
It was so large the parade had to occur at the Cramton Bowl football stadium in downtown Montgomery to accommodate all the graduates, their families and friends. The Thunderbirds appearance was their first at an OTS graduation, due to the class’s size.
Air Education and Training Command said in a release that the trainees learned leadership skills during OTS, while spending time in classrooms, obstacle courses and firing ranges. The new graduates will now move on to their next assignments.
The Air Force said this summer that it needed such a huge class to meet its demand for new officers. OTS 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. This put OTS at maximum capacity.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.