What is Air Force Commissioned Officer Training, aka COT?

One of the aspects of the health professions scholarship program (HPSP) that seems to provoke the most anxiety in future military doctors is initial entry training – for the Air Force, Commissioned Officer Training, or COT. Of course, the Army and the Navy have similar training programs, but as an Air Force HPSP recipient, I can’t personally speak to those other programs. If you have attended Army BOLC or Navy ODS and would be willing to write a quick post about your experience, I would really appreciate it!

What is COT?

COT is an abbreviated version of the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) Total Force Officer Training curriculum. The standard TFOT course is an 8-week, in-residence program for people with a bachelor’s degree who want to become Air Force line officers (not doctors/nurses/lawyers/chaplains). Those who successfully complete the course will receive a commission. During OTS, they are officer trainees, not officers.

In contrast, COT students will be doctors/lawyers/chaplains/nurses. COT trainees commission FIRST and THEN attend COT, so you are already an officer, wearing officer rank, when you show up on day one. COT officers don’t really need much knowledge in the way of fieldcraft or tactical training, so the course is much shorter at 5 weeks.

Where is the course held?

The course is hosted by OTS, at the OTS facility on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, AL.

When is it held?

COT is held several times per year, but Air Force HPSP students typically attend in the summer. Ideally, you go before you start your first year of medical school, but some students attend between their first and second year of medical school, and others attend at the end of their fourth year of medical school, after graduation.

Does it matter when I go?

Yes! For Air Force folks, at least, you can’t wear a military uniform until after you have been to COT, to make sure you know how to wear it properly and how to behave in uniform. It’s convenient to have been before you start your fourth year, so you can wear your uniform on your away rotations and interviews. If you go before your first year of medical school, that also allows you to attend a course called AMP-101 (aerospace medicine basic course) during the summer between your first and your second year. This is a fun course where you go in the altitude chamber, do a bit of flying, and learn about aerospace medicine and flight physiology.

What is the course like?

That’s it’s own post! Coming soon… I’ll update this with the link when that post is published.

What do I need to bring, and where do I get it?

Also enough to make its own post, and also coming soon…

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