Packing for OTS makes me long for the carefree days of BMT preparation. No, seriously, take me back to the days of a small backpack/duffle bag with as little as possible. Get your pocketbook out if you’re heading to OTS – you’re going to be dropping a lot of cash. That’s the bottom line. Hopefully you’ve got some money squirreled away.
There is a main webpage for OTS with all of the “information” you need. It has its pitfalls though, and there is not a single, consolidated list of items you need to bring, paperwork or otherwise. There are several subpages that have their own items mentioned in one-liners here and there, so you have to comb through everything to get the full picture, as well as talk to other former Officer Trainees (OTs) to get the rest of the story.
I am amused by the fact that the official website straight up says, in a nutshell, “Bring $2000 with you. If you don’t have it, prepare to apply for a Military Star [Credit] Card on the first day.” Ouch! I guess you really do have to spend money to make money…
There is a main AAFES shopping list, and a pre-positioned list of items in your room upon arrival. I imagine those items to be similar to my BMT experience, in which you’re charged for them when you checkout at the mini-mall at OTS [read: not free].
My first recommendation is to keep and/or make copies of the receipts from all of your purchases. Unlike BMT, nothing is going to be issued to you as an officer, and everything comes out of your own pocket. Sure, you get a clothing allowance, but when is that going to come through? Not in time for this, let me tell you. I maintain an envelope with all of my receipts for tax purposes later, since these are all work-related expenses.
Things I’ve Purchased So Far:
- Service Coat – Officer coats have epaulets. Snagged the US emblems too.
- Flight Cap – Ooh, fancy braiding! Already took a picture of my kid wearing it. 😉
- Blues shirts – Two princess cut short sleeve and one princess cut long sleeve.
- Blue Poly Pants – The BMT blues pants are the wool blend (bringing them), but I am also required to have two pairs of polyester pants, which aren’t issued to you.
- Bras, sports and otherwise – The woes of a mom with a new, post-baby body.
- IPTUs – Four sets of shirts, shorts, and a new suit. I upgraded from the “loud” original PTUs I got at BMT. Don’t forget crew socks!
- Compression shorts – One of mine got lost/stolen at BMT, so I made sure I had a pair for each set of PT gear.
- Shower shoes – I chucked mine after BMT.
- Running shoes – I prefer to be properly fitted at a running store. My existing ones aren’t horrible, but probably not fit for inspection. I was able to get a pair that will meet my needs given the terrain I’ll be running on.
- RABUs – The lightweight ABUs seemed like a must for Alabama heat. I got two pairs, and had name tapes and functional badges sewn on. Thrown in a new RABU hat, a new belt (mine had paint wear on the buckle), and six new sand t-shirts (cotton/poly blend). Oh, and don’t forget three more pairs of my preferred sage green sock.
- Low Quarters (Corframs) – I upgraded after hearing that everyone has the “shiny ones” down there, and for the fact that it saves me the trouble of shining them. We wear blues a significant amount of time down there. I snagged new black socks as well.
- Ribbon Racks – I am bringing two regular ribbon racks, a functional badge, and a rack of mini medals and the smaller functional badge. We are in mess dress during graduation week for Dining Out, and have to have our racks prepared in advance.
- Toiletries, Cleaning Products, Hair Care Items – Tons upon tons. All new products for styling my hair, travel and full sized toiletry items, cleaning products to maintain my dorm room, energy chews and B12 supplements [I still can’t believe you can self-medicate], the list goes on…
- Printer – Not super excited about this one, but Amazon has some cheaper printers that do only that. Must grab ink to go with it.
- Lightweight Blues Jacket – Planning to pick this up down there. Seems like the OTs wear the ones without the embroidery and mine has that and the stripes showing.
So, how do you do this on the cheap? If you have a sufficient amount of time prior to leaving, you can scour local resale pages on Facebook or Craigslist in search of officers unloading their old uniforms. You can make due with your current uniforms if the markings left by your stripes aren’t readily apparent. You can rummage through your house in search of toiletries and sundries you already own.
Does this seem overwhelming? Well, you could always just show up with the bare minimum and purchase everything there. I chose not to do that, because I don’t want my choices to be limited down there [e.g. only one brand of shoe] and I wanted to have as much time as possible to try items on and make decisions for myself, versus being pushed through a line. I also wanted the option to spread out my purchases over the course of a few weeks, versus getting that sticker shock all at once.
I plan to update with another post after OTS of what was truly needed and what wasn’t, as well as my recommendations for future OTs.