Getting a pilot slot was never my intention behind anything that I did or completed in ROTC. The goal behind everything was to do better than everyone whether past or present, so that when the time came for any type of evaluation of my performance I didn’t have to worry about what the outcome of that evaluation would allow or stop me from doing. The thing that you have to realize is that your whole career, ROTC, academic, active duty, etc, is not a matter of a short sprint and all the sudden you’re sitting fat and happy in your lazy boy, it is a long distance, multiple obstacle, extremely diverse voyage that is only limited by your excess or lack of will and drive. Free lunches are no longer given out, the standards are at a higher caliber and the numbers needed for commission every year have decreased since I started a short four years ago. I can guarantee that this trend will continue in order to produce the absolute best officers for our Military. There are people out there that will give you tons of information on what to do and how to act but the reality is that your success in ROTC is on paper, with numbers. Numbers never lie, and neither does the ink on the paper.
From my own experience and those that I have observed, there are three major categories that you as a person/cadet can control. These categories are your GPA, Commander’s ranking, and PFA score. I believe that there are no perfect individuals on this earth but in order to succeed, and possibly get a pilot slot or whatever your career aspirations are, you must be perfect in 2 categories and great in the third. Perfect means at least a 3.4 GPA for non-technical majors 3.1 for technical, ranked one or two amongst your class, and a score of at least 100 on your PFA. I was able to take care of the PFA and Commander’s ranking just fine, but I only have a 3.23 GPA in a non-technical degree. I encourage you to find your weak point and work on it to be close to perfect, and never settle for anything less than perfect in your best areas.
Of course there are other facets that will help you besides the three mentioned above. Doing your best at Field Training will benefit your career progression next. If you have already done well amongst your class at the detachment and score pretty high in the Commander’s ranking, it should translate well to your Field Training performance. I was able to get ranked in the top 10% of my encampment and came home with a distinguished graduate award. I wanted to do the best I could in the encampment but I wasn’t going to brown-nose my way to the top or be what they call a “DG-Hunter”. I decided before I went that I was going to take care of my flight mates and do everything that I could to ensure our success instead of look out for myself. The way I saw it was if my flight was excelling and my flight mates were in good spirits, I was succeeding. It brought me to the top 10% and my flight voted and awarded me the Warrior Spirit award.
There are two more things that also play into your Order of Merit (OM) score, the score used to categorize you across the national boards. The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) is very much like the SAT’s from high school which means that you really should study for them. The biggest thing is re-familiarizing yourself with the material but also taking the practice tests to be better prepared for the format and timing. Lastly, taking the TBAS, an evaluation tool that is kind of like a flight simulator, is the final component of your OM score. No one can really prepare for this test, partly because the difficulty adjusts to your aptitude, but there’s also really nothing out there to cover prepping for the test. This isn’t something to stress over, just do the best you can while you’re taking it and be happy that you’ve made it that far.
Even after categorization boards announce who gets a pilot/CSO/ABM slot, the effort and performance does not stop there. For most, you receive your categorization during your 300 year so you have a full two years of leadership and self-progression to complete. The thing that I can’t stress enough is to look at ROTC, academics, and your overall success as a big picture. Make sure that the direction and effort that you are applying are for the right reasons give endless effort.