OTS revamps program, more efficient, effective training environment

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. — Over the past year, Air University’s Officer Training School has been revamping its program in order to provide a more efficient and effective training experience for its cadets.

One of the major changes the school has made has been the implementation of pre-requisite courses designed to cover topics, which otherwise would be done during a mass-lecture when the cadets arrive.

“Officer Training School and our curriculum department are looking at ways of helping people get ahead of the timeline a little bit, and give them credit for information that they potentially already know,” said Capt. Joshua S. Leis, OTS director of operations. “The first thing we got at was doing a distance learning pre-requisite of the program. You have to do some web-based training online before you get here and that goes over what some of our informal lectures used to be, which weren’t very interactive.”

By eliminating hours of one-way lectures, OTS has freed up more time to focus on hands-on, experiential training.

“This allows us to get to a deeper level of learning with the students when they get here,” Leis said. “We take all those hours that we used to use for those lectures and now do guided discussions and case studies where it’s very interactive. Instead of going with the knowledge level type academics, we can now get into the comprehensive and application type level academics.”

One of the major aspects of this new implementation is how it ties in with the continuum-of-learning construct, allowing OTS to meet people where they are.

Leis gave an example of how a prior-service technical sergeant, who has attended Noncommissioned Officer Academy, has the opportunity of testing out of the pre-requisite courses and receive credit. On the other end of the spectrum, an incoming cadet with no prior military experience can take web-based courses to learn about dress and appearance as well as customs and courtesies in order to be ahead of the curve when they arrive.

In addition to allowing the school to focus more on experiential learning, these changes have also allotted more time for the instructors to conduct both one-on-one and group feedback and mentorship.

“It’s more beneficial for the students because I think the most important thing we do here is that feedback and mentorship,” Leis said. “It has significantly increased the amount of feedback that we’re now giving the future officers. Now, (the cadets) go execute a training session, whether it’s out in the field or tabletop, and then provide that content to the instructor who keeps notes and can now provide them leadership feedback and tie that into their own experiences and with what they’ve seen happen in the operational Air Force.”

By allowing the cadets to receive more exposure to real-world scenarios and gain that instant feedback from their instructors, Leis and his team believe these future officers will be better prepared for when they head out into the field.

Another way OTS has been adjusting its program to fit in with the CoL construct is by promoting lifelong fitness through their tailored fitness program.

Through creating personalized workout regiments specifically for cadets struggling with physical training, OTS expeditionary training instructors have saved more than 90 percent of the ‘would-be’ washouts in the past year, said Leis. Meeting the cadets where they are both intellectually and physically has paved the way for OTS to produce more well-rounded leaders.

The common theme between the implementations OTS has been making this past year has primarily been to ‘leverage Air Force technology to further tailor individual learning,’ something Leis says his team is focused on continuing to do in the future.