Commissioned Officer Training – Here’s what you need to know

What is Commissioned Officer Training (COT)? COT is a 5 week training program that teaches the moral character of being an airman as well as basic knowledge and job requirements of being an Officer. COT is held At Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.  

Who goes to COT? Anyone who has commissioned and is working towards a career as a chaplain, lawyer, physician, dentist, physician assistant, or nurse. 

What do you do at COT? Your average day at COT starts at 0430 and ends at 1100. You will be woken up at 0430 (don’t make the mistake of turning your lights on prior to 0430) and will be expected to be dressed and ready to go to PT by about 0435. I slept in my PT uniform on top of my bedding  with my PT gear laid out on my desk so all I had to do at 0430 is brush my teeth and put my contacts in and I could be ready to leave within 5 minutes. Unfortunately for guys, they have to get a bit more accomplished as they are expected to be clean shaven every day. After PT which runs from 0500-0600, you have time to shower before you report to your breakfast dining priority. After breakfast you typically have class from 0800-1700 for the first couple weeks. Later during your time at COT you have other activities such as such as Project X, a series of obstacle courses and Blue Thunder which is a mock deployment.  

How do you prepare for COT?

  • Work on your fitness! While your PT scores technically do not count in the grand scheme of things (Official PT scores are only reported 45 days after you start at your assigned base), you will make life at COT much easier if you prepare wisely. You take a preliminary PT test within the first few days of arriving at COT. If you pass, great, nothing happens. If you don’t pass you get put in a group that has to be monitored by the athletic officer for your squadron and your squadron leader. It may also hold you back from earning privileges (like being able to go off base or not having to walk in a formation). Before attending COT, work on push-ups, sit-ups, and running. To see what the standards are for your gender and age, click HERE. The Fitness Assessment charts begin on page 83 of the document, but the beginning of the document details how the test is conducted and references special population.  
  • Purchase your uniform. This is not absolutely essential, but if you have a base nearby this would save you time and money while at COT. My recruiter recommended I visit my local Air National Guard base and find someone at the Exchange to help me purchase my uniform. I was able to get almost everything off of the required list months before I attended COT. This allowed me to break in my boots (a lifesaver), and have my uniform tailored and my rank sewn on. Just be sure to find a tailor who is aware of the military standards and can tailor your uniform appropriately. Also be warned, the sizing on the uniforms are completely different than sizing in the civilian world.  
  • Get a credit card. Depending on when you arrive at COT, you may have to pay for a stay at the Air Force Inn on base. During future ADTs, transportation between the airport and the base may not be provided, in which case you will also have to rent a car. Granted car rentals and hotel stays will be reimbursed, it may take several weeks to have the payment submitted.  
  • Set up  a hotspot on your phone. During my time at COT, I spent entirely too much of my time trying to connect to the internet. I have heard from friends who attended COT at other times during the year and they didn’t have any issues with the Wifi, so it may be hit or miss if you will be able to get online. As you will have to research and submit assignments via email, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you have your own hotspot.  
  • Get an Active Duty ID. Technically since your Active Duty status begins a couple days before COT begins, you are able to get your CAC (Common Access Card) if you visit any base during this time period. You will need a CAC to access military computers on later rotations and if you purchase a CAC reader, you can access certain military sites from your personal computer. If you attempt to get an ID before or after your active duty status you will be issued a green Reserve ID which is not a “smart” card so it doesn’t grant you access to any computers, and you’ll have to replace it during your next ADT.
  • Arrive in a shirt you can tuck in and shoes you can march in because COT starts the second you step off of the bus.  

Insider Tips for COT

  • Don’t stand out, for whatever reason!  
  • You will get yelled at. Don’t take it personally, it is part of the process.  
  • Remember your customs and courtesies whenever you talk to anyone.
  • Memorize your Otsman (The Rule Bible) ASAP
  • Forget something? Order it online. You start receiving mail about 1 week into COT.
  • Keep your security drawer locked – they take this very seriously 
  • Keep a copy of your orders, your Otsman and a pen on you at all times, even to PT.  
  • Drink lots of water! Most medical students attend COT during June and July and Montgomery, AL is so, so hot and humid.  
  • Moleskin is a saving grace to protect your feet from blisters.
  • Prioritize sleep, your body will thank you.  
  • Make time to talk to your family and friends, your sanity will thank you 🙂  

One year later, and I still am so thankful for my experience at COT. I have made lifelong friends and it taught me that I am capable of so much more than I used to give myself credit for. My time at COT were by far the most physically and mentally challenging 5 weeks of my life. Just keep your chin up, and keep your mind open. The instructors at COT have high expectations but they also teach you a lot if you are willing to listen. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll leave with a sense of accomplishment and pride after crossing into the blue.


13 thoughts on “Commissioned Officer Training – Here’s what you need to know

  1. Did you ever cry during COT or see anyone get upset? I am applying to the air force hpsp (and I am not hypersensitive or anything) but I have heard stories about people who have let the intimidation get to them/ showed that they were upset- what happens in those situations?


    1. I did see a handful of people get upset or annoyed while at COT. Part of what you learn at COT is maintaining military presence so it’s strongly discouraged to be overly emotional. COT is intentionally stressful. They want to make sure you can handle physical, mental and emotional stress. With that being said nothing that they do at COT puts you in danger or harms you in any way. Just remember it’s only 5 weeks, anyone can survive a little sleep deprivation and mental challenges for that short period of time


  2. Hi! I am in finishing up nursing school in 2 more semesters and it is my dream to join the AirForce as a nurse midwife. Can you offer any insight on how the recruiting process works, and the dos and don’ts to ensure that I get in?


    1. Hello Jennifer! So glad you’re considering a career in the Air Force! Unfortunately I can only speak to the specifics of HPSP applicants, but I feel that your process in joining may be similar. I would say try finding a recruiter who is specific for the medical field. This may take a lot of phone calls and follow up emails but it’ll make the transition much easier! For instance I was applying from Minneapolis but my closest HPSP recruiter at that time was based in Omaha. The process itself is a lot of paperwork and a lot of hoops to jump through. Once you start the application process make sure you take note of deadlines. When I applied there were certain cutoffs that I had to have my paperwork in by to be able to be reviewed by the committee. Lastly be honest about your application, especially when it comes to medical conditions. You have to undergo a full physical (MEPS – which I wrote a blog post about) and they’ll dig through your history and if there’s any inconsistencies it may reflect poorly on you. Good luck on your application, I’d love to hear how it turns out!


  3. Did you have issues getting onto the ANG base since we don’t have CAC cards yet? I want to go to a base but I don’t know how to get access without my CAC card.


    1. Check out my new post today about visiting base. If you have orders and a valid drivers license you should be able to get on base. When I first commissioned I went to the visitors center at my local Air Force reserve base and got my green reservist ID. I was able to get my CAC, immediately prior to COT as that was my first time having active duty orders. Just research your nearest base and look at the card office hours/protocol. Some places you’re able to make an appointment other places you may just have to do a walk in and wait


  4. You say to make time to talk to family. How does that work? Do you get time to make a phone call at the end of the day?


  5. When did you find out what base you were assigned after COT, and how long after graduation did you have to report to base?


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