If you and I are close on social media, or real life, you probably knew that I took two and a half months off this year to attend Officer Training School (OTS) in order to pursue my commission in the Air National Guard. The whole endeavor was fairly intense, so blogging about it in its entirety would be virtually impossible, but I want to highlight a few aspects that I think will be worth remembering throughout the rest of my career:
Major Accident Response Exercise
The Major Accident Response Exercise (MARE) took place about mid-way through the 24 Training Squadron (24 TRS) curriculum and it held a special place for me for two key reasons: First, as a National Guardsmen I have been, and will continue to be, a responder to major disasters; second, I had the opportunity to lead 95 cadets as roleplayers enacting various scenarios that military members can expect to encounter.
The slideshow above shows roleplayers (in red and blue jerseys) being directed by leadership (gold jerseys) to carry out various scenarios the responders needed to overcome. Some of these scenarios included providing: Security, casualty recovery, water, and communication towers. This was an extremely difficult learning experience for the personnel who had to put into action the lessons they learned on disaster response, title codes (e.g. Title 32 v Title 10), and non-aggressive security.
If I hadn't played such an integral role during MARE, then the guest speakers would have easily been the biggest influential part of OTS. During the nine weeks we spent at OTS, we had several guest speakers ranging from General Everhart to the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, James A. Cody. These speakers were - quite simply - phenomenal and motivating forces that helped bring operational perspectives to the training curriculum we had been enduring over fifteen hour days.
My personal favorite was Chief Cody, who was able to give us a stratospheric view of the enlisted force and how we, as newly minted lieutenants, would be expected to enforce and influence these policies from day one. What made Chief Cody stand out, however, was his lengthy questions-and-answers session following his speech where he entertained and answered dozens of questions from the cadets. These topics ranged from the implementation of the F-35 program to retention programs in the military, and Chief Cody answered them in ways that made every individual there think and grapple with the issues on their own terms.
Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) Exercise
AEF was a three day mock deployment where cadets were expected to employ the International Airmen concept and utilize their cultural competencies and negotiating skills to avoid, and win, armed conflicts to achieve very specific objectives. Some individuals really hated this exercise stating that the paintball style of warfare was not realistic, and the scenarios not accurate; these individuals - I believe - missed the large point. However, before I delve into my opinion too deeply, read through the newsletter that covered the exercise.
This exercise was modeled after recent history in the Middle East (US - Al Qaeda - USSR mirroring Olympus - Hyperion - Titan) and was designed to be a first glimpse for many Airmen and nonprior cadets in the difficulties of negotiating across cultural and language barriers when both sides of the table are armed. It proved to be far more difficult than many cadets - even those decrying the lack of realism - expected, and most negotiations ended unfavorably for most parties, resulting in an uphill battle for both sides as they gained, and lost, the independent Hyperion support.
Problem Solving Competition
The aforementioned newsletter's cover page briefly introduced the Goldhawk Problem Solving Competition, a competition I entered in an attempt to solve one of the largest problems facing American interests: ISIS Recruitment. It was a several week long competition that forced me to look at the downfall of centralized governance, the Deffaunt-Weisbuch Model, subconscious manipulation, the limitations of the American Military in combating nontraditional forces using traditional methods, and the reality of modern warfare that necessitates a doctrine shift; I then had to condense what amounted to three years of independent research into a seven minute briefing.
You would think that graduation would be the most memorable event from OTS, but it only manages to come in at fifth. It was a pivotal moment in my career, but it only served to accent the overarching experience that I had at OTS; the dining out, ceremonies, and guest speakers managed to eloquently tie the public face of the military (e.g. the 2 day graduation weekend) to the rest of the military experience (e.g. 63 days of military training that the public isn't privy to).
The stark difference between 2 days of public accolades to 63 days of hard, unglamorous work was something that was not lost on the 209 cadets that completed the program. The numerous sympathetic comments from civilian loved ones about the woes of averaging 4 hours a sleep a night only drove home the fundamental change that we, prior and nonprior alike, had undergone to differentiate ourselves from our enlisted peers and the civilian population.