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What is AFROTC?
The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (AFROTC) is one of the Air Force’s three sources of commissioning officers.  It differs from OTS in that cadets complete the program while going through college.  It differs from the Academy in that cadets attend a non-military college or university and study any major of their choice.  As with all commissioning sources, the purpose of AFROTC is to prepare cadets as officers and leaders for the Air Force. 

In order to begin the process of becoming an Air Force officer through AFROTC, a student must first attend a school that offers the program.  Many undergraduate institutions offer the program and for those who don’t offer it directly, students can often join a detachment that has a cross-town agreement with it.  After completing the necessary paper work and meeting the cadre of the detachment, the student then enrolls in the AFROTC curriculum, which includes both classes and a Leadership Laboratory (LLAB) ran primarily by the cadets. 

AFROTC Curriculum
Air Force ROTCThe first two years of AFROTC and the AS100 and AS200 courses are meant to give a cadet a feel for the program and the Air Force without either party agreeing to a commitment.  The first two years of the program are for the cadet and the Air Force to “try each other on” to decide if there is a fit.  For cadets who receive a 4-year scholarship out of high school.  They would sign the contract/ enlist in fall of their freshman year -- for these cadets, commitments begin on the first day of class of their sophomore year, so they have one year to try out the program and make sure it was right for them.  The in-college scholarship or 3-year scholarship recipients aren't eligible for this.  Once they sign the contract, they are committed.  Find free money for college or an advanced degree. Search now!

After the cadets sign their contract, if the cadet either chooses to leave the program or fails to meet standards within the program, the cadet then bears the responsibility to either pay back the money that has been put towards his/her education or  be involuntarily called up for active duty as an enlisted personnel.  The choice belongs to the Air Force and typically involves the paying back of scholarship monies used.  Cadets also must complete all necessary paperwork to attain a Secret Clearance sometime during their first two years and prior to attending Field Training the summer of their sophomore year.

AFROTC Overview
Most students begin in their freshmen year of college and begin with the AS100 course curriculum.  In this course cadets learn general information concerning what Air Force life is like.  They study such topics as dress and appearance standards, military customs and courtesies, Air Force heritage, career opportunities and benefits, the Air Force core values, and leadership among others.  This course is a general overview of the Air Force.  In the first two years of the program, cadets are known as General Military Course (GMC) cadets.  After your second year of ROTC you will go to Field Training, which is a 4-week training period designed to test your ability to become an officer.  After completion of field training, you’ll come back and begin to lead and be responsible for cadets and programs within your detachment.  The third year will focus on honing your leadership style and getting you ready to pick an assignment with the Air Force.  Your senior year will offer high level command positions in the detachment and prepare you to enter active duty.  By now you will know what you will be doing in the Air Force and you will be spending most of your time leading the detachment and getting ready to commission.


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AS100 (freshman year)
Assuming you are new to ROTC and your university, and have 4 years remaining until graduation, you will be classified as an AS100 cadet or C/4C (Read:  Cadet 4th class).  You will be an AS100 for the first academic year (fall and spring semesters at a typical university).  During this year, your ROTC coursework will consist of a one credit class that focuses on an introduction to the Air Force.  You’ll learn the basics of how a base operates, what career fields are available to officers, and a lot of miscellaneous Air Force knowledge.  In addition to your class you’ll have Leadership Lab (Read:  Lead Lab, Lab, LLab, etc…) where everyone from the detachment participates in various activities planned by cadre and command staff.  At Lead Lab, you’ll be placed in a flight.  Your flight is similar to a small class in size and structure.  You’ll have a flight commander who is the upperclassman in charge and conducts most or all of your training for the semester.  You’ll usually get a new flight every semester.

What do I focus on this year?
-Meeting people (Classmates, GMC, POC, and Cadre).  Not only will you be spending the next 4 years with your classmates, but in a year or two the AS200’s will be POC and in charge of what you are doing.

-Focus on school.  The biggest reason for cadets getting kicked out of ROTC is bad grades.  This is especially difficult for those on scholarship who will have to give their money back or enlist if grades drop below a certain cumulative GPA (2.0 for GMC, 2.5 for POC, of course subject to change from AFROTC).  Since this is your first year, your grades will affect your GPA more than they would when you’re a senior.  You’ll also have a better idea if you want to keep the major you’re currently in.  Changing your major later in ROTC is tough to do (Almost impossible if you are a POC).

-Take everything seriously.  Over time you’ll figure out what you need to pay attention to and what you can dismiss as busywork or poor planning on the part of wing leadership.  Initially however, pay attention to everything and you’ll be setting yourself up for an easier time during your AS200 year.

Additionally, what should I focus on if I want a pilot slot?
-Get involved with extra curricular activities offered by wing staff or cadet organizations.  You’ll be able to meet people and determine if/which organization you want to join when their training periods come around.  You’ll also get a leg up in terms of familiarization with the ROTC environment.

PDT after freshman year-Getting a good score on your pilot and navigator sections on the AFOQT test will pave the way for a good chance at a pilot slot.  The AFOQT is a test taken soon after you enter the program and is structured similar to an SAT.  Several AFOQT test books can be bought or obtained that are great study guides.  In addition to the study guides, basic aviation books will help on the aviation knowledge portion of the test.

-Some detachments offer a CAP flight orientation program.  This program will give you 4 flights in a single engine aircraft for a minimal fee.  If you’ve never flown before, this is a good indicator to if you’ll even enjoy flying.  A lot of people get sick on their first few flights, but this is normal for everyone and don’t be concerned that you’ll always be stuck with that problem.  Once your body gets used to flight you’ll stop getting sick.

In their sophomore year, GMC cadets will register for the AS200 course curriculum.  In AS200, cadets will study previous wars and the Air Force’s role in them.  They will study the history of the Air Force as a military branch including its founding fathers and the Army Air Corps.  They will study and discuss the Air Force’s failures and successes throughout history.  The course generally consists of Air Force supplied material, an outside source of Military History, and concludes with the cadets giving individual briefings concerning a specific time in the Air Force’s history.  Often, the O-6 or other leading Professor of Aerospace Science (PAS) and the detachment will teach this course as it gives him/her the opportunity to get to know the cadets.  It is important that the cadre know the cadets so that when it comes time for the cadets to apply for careers in the Air Force, the cadre are able to accurately rank the cadets as it counts for up to 50% of the cadets’ submitted packages. 

The sophomore year is also important for cadets as it is also their Field Training (FT) preparation year.  In this training, led by cadets who have previously completed FT, AS200 cadets will learn what it will be like to attend FT over their sophomore summer.  FT is a requirement for all AFROTC cadets and acts as an officer “boot-camp”.  It is also required if the students desire to stay with the program and enroll in the AS300 course in the fall. 

AS200 (sophomore year)

This year will be the second year in ROTC for most cadets, except those who are dual-enrolled (meaning you came in late to the program and have only three years left until you graduate).  Concurrently enrolled cadets should read the AS100 section if you are new to ROTC.  AS200 coursework is focused on a history of the Air Force and is again a one credit class.  By this time you should know how to march in a flight, how to command a flight, and all of the written knowledge you’re required to know.  You’ll be expected to start leading in your flight during the fall semester.  During the spring, most detachments start a program called Field Training Preparation.  This semester, you’ll focus on learning how to get through Field Training (FT).  To excel here, you’ll want to know how to command a flight, and how to lead your flight through various problem solving situations.  Essentially, you should feel comfortable being a flight commander yourself by now.  This is the time to start transitioning from being a follower like you were as a freshman to being a leader like you’ll be expected to at FT and as a POC and your time in the Air Force.

What do I focus on this year?
-FT is no longer accepting everyone that applies.  ROTC has limited enrollment allocations (amount of new Lieutenants that the Air Force will accept in 2 years when you commission).  This number will fluctuate, but what you need to be concerned about is how competitive you are.  Your GPA and PFT scores will certainly factor into this ranking, but it varies between detachments.  Essentially, get your GPA and PFT scores as high as possible.

-You should know by now if the Air Force is what you want to do.  After you return from FT you will contract with the AF and it will be much harder if not impossible to leave ROTC.

Additionally, what should I focus on if I want a pilot slot?
-Joining a cadet organization will put you in a position to be more involved in the detachment.  You’ll learn more about ROTC, your cadre, the Air Force, and leadership in general.  Two of the best organizations to join are Arnold Air or the Honor Guard.  Both organizations should have a similar structure and will do the same thing to enhance your time in ROTC.  Check out more information on how to get a pilot slot.

-Keep your GPA as high as you can get it, at least over 3.0 but higher is better.

AFROTC Field Training
Air Force ROTCAFROTC Field Training takes place over the cadets’ sophomore summer of college.  There are three different bases where FT is currently located, however, these have changed over the years.  Currently, FT takes place at either Ellsworth, AFB in South Dakota, Maxwell, AFB in Alabama, or at Tyndall, AFB in Florida.  Each of these bases have multiple encampments such as Maxwell 1 and Maxwell 2, which take place during different months of the summer to accommodate more cadets in a given summer.  FT is typically four weeks long.  There is also a six week encampment for cadets who may have entered AFROTC their sophomore year and have not completed either the AS100 or AS200 course.  This six week camp includes an academic portion that covers both cirriculums and materials of the AS100 and AS200 courses.  After completing the academic portion, cadets then attend a regular four week camp. 

At FT, cadets are put through rigorous training that is designed to test and train them in an environment of stress which is intended to simulate the stresses that are experienced in time of war.  By the nature of the training, cadets must compete against one another, as in the end they will once again be ranked, however, they must also learn to work as a whole within their flight.  Each flight at FT is assigned a Field Training Officer (FTO) and one or two Cadet Training Assistants (CTA).  The FTO is an active duty officer who provides and facilitates the training of the cadets.  The CTAs are fellow cadets who have previously attended and graduated field training.  They assist the FTO in the provision and facilitation of training. 

Training includes military briefings by active duty personnel, daily physical training (PT), study and discussion in leadership, and various opportunities for the cadets to lead and experience the demands and duties of active duty officers.  At the end of training and upon graduation, cadets are now qualified to enter the Professional Officer Course (POC) at their detachment in the fall.  In addition, cadets may also receive various awards based on their performance at training and their ranking within their flight.  The two most prominent awards to be won are Distinguished Graduate and Superior Performer.  These awards are given to the highest ranked cadet(s) (DG) and the second highest ranked cadet (SP) and are factored into the package submitted when requesting careers. 

Upon completing FT and returning to their detachments, cadets are now eligible to enroll in the Professional Officer Course classes.  Each cadet that enrolls in the POC curriculum must also become a contracted cadet, with or without a scholarship, and now acquires a four year service commitment.  During the next two years as a POC, cadets will take up more responsibility in regards to leadership within the detachment. 

The AS300 course further develops upon the training that cadets received at FT.  Leadership is further developed and studied through various forms, including watching films that portray leadership and critiquing the leaders within them.   Download the AFROTC Field Training Manual.

AS300 (junior year)
By now you should know what’s going on with ROTC so this is purely information for the younger cadets as to what goes on as a POC.  The AS300 year is the year you will start leading others at your detachment.  Your job in the cadet wing will start to impact your UCR (explained in pilot selection) very heavily.  Some jobs will allow for a better UCR such as a Flight Commander, Executive Officer, PT Officer, and sometimes Special Projects or CAP Commander.  Assistant, deputy, and support jobs will make it very hard for you to stand out at your detachment in front of all the flight commanders or other high profile jobs.  If you are seeking a pilot slot, try to get a high profile job such as Flight Commander, Executive officer, or PT officer.  This year, your coursework for AFROTC will jump from one credit to three credits (in addition to Lead Lab).

What do I focus on this year?
-Stand out in your job at the detachment

-Maintain a good GPA and PFT score

-Decide what your choice of assignment will be

Additionally, what should I focus on if I want a pilot slot?

-Take the TBAS in the fall

-Submit your intention to compete for categorization (A form that should be filled out sometime in the fall, handed out my cadre)

-Work on getting a competitive PFT score for categorization

-Fix any issues in your paperwork that could prevent you from categorizing

-Retake the AFOQT if necessary

In the AS400 course, cadets will look at the role of the Air Force in today’s society.  They will also look at international military relationships and various factors of the United States’ national security policies. 

AS400 (senior year)
This year will be spent getting ready to go on active duty.  You will get your base assignment in late fall.  The date you will actually start work will be determined when you get your orders later in the year (usually in April).  You’ll have your UPT or UNT class date if you are categorized and will most likely do time on casual status and go to ASBC before you start your training/assignment.

What do I focus on this year?

-Getting any medical issues cleared up

-Making sure your paperwork is good to go

-Figure out logistics of entering active duty (Moving, transportation, etc...)

AFROTC Leadership Lab
Air Force ROTCIn addition to bi-weekly AS courses, cadets attend, participate in, and lead Leadership Lab (LLAB).  LLAB consists of military briefings that encompass every aspect of the detachment.  LLAB is usually opened with a briefing from the Colonel or another member of the cadre and is often motivational in nature.  Other current issues and topics are also addressed.  Following the cadre briefing, the Cadet Colonel of the detachment does likewise.  Once these briefs have been completed, various cadets who hold leadership positions in the cadet corps also brief the detachment.  These briefs include topics such as awards, training, intelligence, uniform issues, fund raising issues, and issues relating to the operations and maintenance of the detachment.  After all briefings are completed, the cadets move into squadron break out time, wherein each squadron meets at an assigned location to discuss issues pertinent to their squadron and their responsibilities in the detachment.  This time can also include training for the GMC and FT Prep cadets. 

In addition to class and LLAB, cadets also must complete 2 hours of PT every week.  PT sessions are organized at the detachment and attendance is mandatory.  For those students who are cross-town cadets and live a considerable distance from the detachment, PT memos are sent to the detachment's Physical Fitness Officer (WPFO) via e-mail.  Each semester, cadets are required to complete a Physical Fitness Test (PFT) at the detachment.  The PFT consists of a mile and a half run as well as push ups and sit ups.  Cadets must pass the PFT each semester or they will receive a conditional event which looks poorly on the cadet’s record.  Scholarship cadets who fail a PFT and a subsequent re-test may lose their scholarship. 
In addition to physical fitness and leadership skills and abilities, academics are always emphasized as being a cadet’s first and most important priority.  All cadets must retain a 2.0 average and scholarship cadets must retain a 2.5 grade point average to keep their scholarships. 

Career Categorization
Near the end of the cadets’ AS300 year, each cadet will make requests concerning careers within the Air Force upon commissioning.  Those cadets who desire to be rated as a Pilot, Navigator, or Air Battle Manager (ABM), must be physically qualified and must compete for those slots.  Each aspect of the cadets’ time in AFROTC and college are calculated and evaluated when consideration is made about who gets a rated slot.  The aspects are evaluated upon a weighted percentage scale.  For instance, how the cadet did at FT counts as 15% of their score when submitting a package.  Other factors are PFT scores, GPA, and most importantly the Colonel’s rating which counts for 50% of the cadets ranking.  Packages are submitted to reviewing boards and the cadets hear back after they have been reviewed and categorized slots have been assigned.  For those cadets who desire to attend Euro Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) for Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT), a memo must be submitted to their cadre stating as such at the time the cadet notifies them of their desire to be a Pilot rated cadet.  Each detachment receives a different number of slots based on the size of the detachment and the detachment's rating.  Cadets who receive Navigator slots or ABM slots, who are physically qualified, can attempt to upgrade their slot to a Pilot slot if they so desire.  An upgrade is never guaranteed.

Pilot (Categorized) Selection
Selections for pilots are done by a categorization board in late February/early March of every year.  You will be selected for pilot training the March before the fiscal year that you graduate.  For example, if you are graduating in May of 2007, you will be submitted for pilot selection in March of 2006 and find out that same month (In your junior year of college in most cases).   The selection criteria with explanations follow and is referred to as your Order of Merit (OM):

15% CGPA
Your cumulative GPA is directly submitted for this portion on a 4.0 scale.  The reason it’s important to get a good GPA right away is that only the first 5 semesters of your GPA will count towards this score (in most cases).  This is not your GPA at graduation; it’s your GPA at the time you are submitted for pilot training.

15% PCSM
This score is a combination of 3 areas and composes the PCSM (Pilot Candidate Selection Method).  The first area is your AFOQT Pilot score.  You’ll take your AFOQT soon after you enter the program.  Second are your flight hours, broken down into brackets up to a max of 200 hours.  Finally, the TBAS measures your hand/eye coordination, flight knowledge, and decision making.  The TBAS is typically taken in the fall semester before you are submitted for pilot selection.  More on the PSCM can be found on baseops.net.

10% FT
You’ll get a ranking once you finish FT which will directly contribute to your pilot selection.  10/10 for being a Distinguished Graduate (Top 10%), 9/10 for Superior Performer (Top 10-20%), 7/10 for Top Third, 6/10 for Mid Third, and 5/10 for Bottom Third.  Eligibility for DG and SP vary between Field Training Units but typically follow the guidelines above.

10% PFT (Most recent)
Your most recent PFT out of 100 scaled to out of 10.

50% UCR/RSS
Unit Commanders Ranking or Relative Standing Score is the ranking system that the cadre at your detachment create to stratify you against everyone else in your graduating class.  This is a mystery formula because it’s not made public by commanders, and furthermore varies from detachment to detachment.  Some commanders will let you know what your score is, some won’t.  The best way to predict this is to guess based on your success in the wing.

All of these are combined to 100 points and submitted to a national board.  You are not directly competing against others at your detachment, and no detachment gets X number of pilot slots.  You will compete nationally.  For example, 750 cadets want a pilot slot in a given year.  The Air Force says it needs 520 pilots.  Here, all 750 are submitted to the board and everyone’s OM is compiled in a list and a line is drawn at 520, Mr. 521 is out of luck, but has a good chance to get picked up for a supplemental board later in the year once some of those that are selected get dropped for medical disqualifications.

Here is an example of how I calculated my OM:

CGPA:  3.34
3.34 / 4.0 x 100 x 0.15 = 12.53%

PCSM:  95
95 x 0.15 = 14.25%

FT:  Mid-third (6)
6 = 6%

PFT:  93
93 x 0.1 = 9.3%

UCR:  Estimated top 20% of class
80 x 0.5 = 40%

OM:  82.08
(12.53 + 14.25 + 6 + 9.3 + 40 = 82.08)

Typically, the selection process will draw the line in the mid-high seventies (depending on the fiscal year and Air Force needs).  As you can see, as a GMC it is very hard to determine this score since you don’t really have a UCR yet, and you won’t have a FT or PCSM score until your junior year.  This is why it’s imperative to focus on grades and your PFT score in your early years.

Non-Categorized Selection 
Non rated/Non categorized selection means that you are applying to become anything other than a pilot, navigator, or ABM.  Some of these jobs do not require a selection process and some do.  You will meet a selection board if you are aspiring to go into OSI, Medical Corps, or advanced degrees such as a masters program.  The selection criteria for those are similar, if not the same, as the selection process for pilot (Without the PCSM score, but weighted heavily on GPA and UCR).  The selection boards for these assignments are held in the fall of your senior year before you commission.

Regardless of if you are competing on a selection board or not, all cadets will submit a Form 53, which lets you choose your top six choices for assignments.  This form is submitted to the Air Force in April of your junior year, you will usually find out the results over the summer.  Your major or area of study will highly influence this.  Some jobs in the AF are almost impossible to get without a specialized degree.  For example, it’s hard to get a Security Forces assignment without having a degree relating to criminal justice.  Likewise, it’s hard to get an Intelligence assignment without having a background in Political Science or History. 

Depending on your major, the AF might decide your job based on your major.  For example, if you are an Electrical Engineering major and your first choice is Personnel/Manpower, you will probably be assigned an engineering job anyway (even if engineering wasn’t even on your list).  Remember, your assignment is ultimately up to the Air Force, and while they do take your preferences into consideration, you need to be ready to deal with an assignment that you don’t want.

Those cadets who do not qualify, did not receive, or do not desire a rated career field within the Air Force, list the jobs that they do want and are qualified for in order of preference.  Again these packages are submitted and reviewed and careers are awarded based on the Air Force’s needs. 

After careers have been awarded and assigned, cadets must also maintain their qualification for their career field.  Pilot, Nav, and ABM rated cadets must pass Air Force physical qualifying test for those career fields and attain a Top Secret Clearance.  Cadets who will commission into non-rated career fields must also meet Air Force standards for those careers.  

Upon graduation, completed cadets will also commission as 2nd Lieutenants and take the Oath of Office, formally becoming Air Force officers.  Each cadet will then move onto training in whatever career they have been selected or will take on other duties assigned to them as they await training.

For more information, check out our ROTC Scholarships section. 

Interested in the other services?  Check out our Army ROTC section.

Ultimate ROTC Guidebook
Are you or is someone you know interested in Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps)? People join ROTC for many reasons. Some want a guaranteed job once school is finished. Others need help paying for college, want a challenge, or feel a special calling to be a leader in the most powerful military in history. For anyone interested in this topic, The Ultimate ROTC Guidebook: Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for Excelling in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a must-read necessity.

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Information courtesy of the Detachments at: University of Colorado and Colorado State University. 

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