Packing for Air force OTS is even more of a crapshoot than BMT, as there’s really no list of what to bring. The OTS website has two lists, including this one about.
Unlike with BMT, you have the option to drive to OTS (versus flying). As a flyer, I was limited in what I could bring. I opted to put everything in a backpack, a garment back, and my green BMT-issued duffle bag. While it wasn’t as convenient as having my car available for storage, it worked out fine. Driving to OTS gives you the ability to stash items in your car until you need them, such as civilian clothing items, additional uniform items you don’t want to have to roll and fold, as well as items that don’t fit in your security drawer or under your sink.
With BMT there’s a lot of talk about what kind of bag you should bring. At OTS, that is out the window. Feel free to bring a large rolling suitcase or a bag in any color of your choosing. It really doesn’t matter at OTS. You might choose to bring a bag of essential items and put the “nice to have” items in another bag to leave in the car. There is no maximum number of bags you can, but be smart about it – you’re going to have to lug them across the field. Regardless of if you’re prior or a non-prior, upon arrival, you’ll be required to show two forms of payment for the items you’re about to buy (whether you buy them or not). I had one on me and then was told I had to go back and grab another. They will also grill you as to whether you’ve called and told your bank that you are located in Alabama and about to spend $2000. Whether you’re buying everything or not, it’s always a smart idea to call in this “vacation” notice with the bank so they don’t put a hold on your card. Side note, I love how the website tells you that if you can’t afford to pay, get an AAFES Military Star Card. It costs money to make money, right? Just keep telling yourself that. You will be charged for the pre-positioned items upon checking out at the mini-mall, whether you want them or think you need them. This might be different down the road though, as our Student Squadron Commander was trying to see if we could reuse the hand-me-downs of previous OTs, versus requiring everyone to buy them. The beauty of OTS Air Force is that you can have friends and family send you anything you need or you can hit up Amazon and have it shipped to you. Unlike BMT, no one is checking your boxes or criticizing their contents.
Read on for the Air force OTS laundry list!
AAFES In-Processing List (a.k.a. Your Shopping/OTS Packing List)
This is the list of items you’ll need to buy at OTS (if you’re a non-prior) or have on you if you’re prior service. I took this time to upgrade many of my items, and I purchased almost everything before going to OTS. I did so because I didn’t want to be pressured to buy on someone else’s time and therefore be forced into sizes or items I wasn’t comfortable with. I’ll explain along the way. Also, please know that removing stripes off uniforms frequently results in unacceptable “shadows” from the thread holes. Try as you may, you’ll probably have to buy new shirts and jackets.
Duffle Bag – I brought one (my BMT one), and ended up buying a second so I could keep one perfect for display. We took one to our field exercises, and I didn’t want a dirty one on display.
Blue Tie or Tie Tab
Shirt Garters – The Y ones are my favorite.
U.S. Lapel Insignia – Remember to buy the officer ones.
Ribbon(s) and rack – Non-priors need a single National Defense one to start and a single ribbon rack, unless they get Marksman. Some of the other OTs opted for thin ribbons, but I don’t have enough to make that worthwhile at this point. They look great though!
White Gloves – Wait and just buy them there, so you get the correct ones. They are the cheap all-cotton with a metal snap on them.
Two pairs of ABUs – I upgraded to the lightweight ones since I was there in the summer. You might want to stash an older pair in the car for field exercises. I didn’t and it worked out fine.
Two short-sleeve blue shirts– Ladies can choose between the regular and the princess cut. For ease of wear, I went princess. Just know that you’ll have to tuck it in for parade or open ranks, regardless of the cut. A male OT in my flight splurged on the iron/wrinkle-free ones and said they were money well spent.
One long sleeve blue shirt – I don’t think we ever wore this when I was there.
Blue service coat – I bought mine before I left and had it tailored at my home base. Prior to going to OTS, I was still able to get the alterations for free since I was still enlisted – insist on that! Also, put your ribbon rack and insignia on before you leave. Even if they make you take it off, the holes should still show.
Flight Cap – Make sure you get the officer one, which is pretty awesome to sport anyway.
Lightweight blues jacket (Oct – Feb) – I didn’t have to buy a new one, fortunately. I’m hoping to salvage my old one.
Blues wool pants– These were the kind you were issued at BMT.
Blues poly pants– I had never worn these before, so they were new for me.
White v-neck t-shirts – Required for males, optional for females.
Two packs of sand t-shirts – I purchased Duke brand 50/50 poly cotton shirts and they were awesome for rolling – like a dream!
ABU cap– I ended up with three of these. Have at least two, just in case, especially when you need to sew on rank in the end.
Four pairs of PT shirts/shorts – I opted to spring for the IPTUs for OTS, which were nice and comfy. The shorts are a pain to fold though, just be ready.
PT jacket/pants – While this might sound unnecessary for the summer, I was so thankful I had them. The dorms are freezing and I wore these as pajamas. While IPTUs aren’t cheap, this was money well spent.
ABU boots – There are no requirements here, so pick a pair that works for your feet, comfort, and budget. Having two pairs helps in case one gets wet along the way.
Low quarters – You can choose to bring your dull BMT ones or corframs. I upgraded to corframs, but my first pair was a total lemon. Spend the extra $10 and get the nicer ones, trust me.
Sage green socks – Get comfy ones, you’re going to want them. Ditch those cheap BMT ones.
Black dress socks – I went for nicer ones here as well. Socks are important, folks!
White crew socks – While the list says crew, the short ones are fine as well, although they are a pain to roll and make look nice. Maybe bring a pair of the crew and the rest short if you so prefer. I rocked crew the entire time, BMT-style, pulled up!
Name Tags and Tapes – You’ll get these at alterations if you don’t already own them or have them sewn on.
Privilege Shirt– This is a rough, cheap cotton polo shirt you’ll be required to wear until you’re allowed to wear civilian clothes when going off base or out of the dorms. It has an embroidered OTS logo and the name of your squadron on the sleeve.
Khaki Pants – Bring your own from home. As long as they’re professional-looking, you’re fine.
Brown Belt – Interestingly enough, the rules were changing while I was there and they said black belt and black privilege shoes. However, we all had brown belts and shoes. If you drive, do yourself a favor and have both in the car, ready to go. A professional looking slip-on shoe will save you the heartache of having to tie them tightly for inspection. Bring coordinating socks for those shoes, if you don’t want to have to wear your black uniform socks.
Optional Shoppette Items Airforce OTS
These ones are up to you, and you can split some of them with your roommate(s).
Shower shoes – I didn’t actually wear these in the shower, but eventually, we wore them around the dorms.
Boot/shoe insoles – Your call.
Deodorant – Please. Bring some. You can also feel free to bring body spray, perfume, or cologne.
Shaving kit – Probably going to be necessary to be in compliance with AFI 36-2903, gentlemen. Ladies, this isn’t like BMT, you can shave whenever you please, as long as you have time.
Detergent– You can split this with your roomie if you desire. I ended up splurging on a fancy smelling one. Again, simple pleasures.
Cotton balls/q-tips – Take them or leave them.
Dryer sheets – If you please.
Wristwatch with a stopwatch – Yes, have some sort of watch, you’ll want one.
Toothbrush/toothpaste – Don’t leave home without it! Just like BMT, the ones in the stand-up container are helpful for inspection.
Cough drops – Most OTs use them to stay awake in class, as opposed to soothing a sore throat.
Shampoo/body wash – Feel free to bring full-sized bottles. The rules are not as stringent here at OTS with making them look spotless while on display.
Pain/allergy medication – The Alabama allergies can get to some people, so you might want some meds if you’re susceptible. Bring pain meds for sure. You’re not at BMT anymore, Dorothy.
Washcloth – Pass, seriously. Another inspectable item.
Hand sanitizer – You might want some, especially if you’re trying to avoid using your pre-positioned hand soap.
Lysol wipes – You’ll want cleaning supplies for your room. There are generally some in the supply closet on your floor, but you may end up buying some of your own. You can share amongst your roommate(s). Many people in my squadron also bought shower squeegees for fast clean-up.
Starch – There’s usually some in the supply rooms, so I would hold off on buying a can.
Fabric softener – If you must, go for it.
Tide pens – Always handy while in blues!
Field wipes – You might want a pack, just in case. We used ours often.
Hair accessories – Ladies, bring what you need to get your hair in compliance with AFI 36-2903. The rules aren’t nearly as strict as they were at BMT, but try to put some excellence into it.
Hygiene items – You have a lot more room at OTS than you did at BMT, so feel free to bring your own sunscreen, face wash, makeup, and any other hygiene items you might want. Another OT and I even had essential oils in our belongings.
Undergarments – Just do it. Bring compression shorts/spandex for your PT shorts while you’re at it.
Eyeglasses strap – If you wear glasses, you will need these for certain activities. You can certainly wear contacts the entire time as well if you so choose.
Armband ID Holder – You’re going to get tired of wearing this thing, let me tell you.
Attache Case – I’m surprised I didn’t see more of these in the trash by the end of OTS. I tossed mine in the back of the closet. You’re going to also get sick of lugging this thing around. Gone are the days of the satchel that attached to your canteen web belt that held your BMTSG.
Flashlight – A decent flashlight, in comparison to the Lackland Lasers.
Hangers – Total waste of your money, there are tons in the dorm storage rooms.
Large Rubbermaid – This is where you’ll store excess items under your bathroom sink. You could take it home with you, but if you fly like I did, you’ll donate it.
Laundry Bag– Pretty straight forward.
Mesh Bag – Yes, these again.
Liquid Hand Soap – The AAFES store brand version of Dial Gold, in a bottle with no pump. I ditched this as soon as I could and replaced it with a real pump hand soap. It’s the little things!
Lock – I never used mine after I finally got a Speed Lock [more on those later].
Lint Roller – This is on the list, but we had to buy ours separately. Very odd.
Plastic Cup – Practically for display purposes only, initially, although you’ll use it for drinks and coffee in the dorms down the line.
Squadron Reflective Belts – You’ll wear this thing out, let me tell you.
White Towels – These weren’t prepositioned for us, at least that I remember. Make sure you acquire at least three of these. One in your drawer that you never touch, one on the bar you never touch, and one that you actually use. Don’t bother with a washcloth, it’s just one more inspectable item.
Small Rubbermaid– You’ll use these for snacks and your uniform accouterments.
Prop and Wings – You’ll get these…eventually. Gotta earn ’em first!
Watch Cap (Oct – Feb) – I was there during the summer, although I wished I had one because the dorms are freezing.
Black Hydration Pack – Affectionately called “juice bags” in our class. This thing will be permanently attached to your back.
Additional Items to Bring/Buy for OTS training
The following items are based on my experience and general practices observed while at OTS. If you drive, the sky truly is the limit, so feel free to stash it in your trunk if you think you might want it. We had people who brought their GoPros, expensive camera equipment, frisbees, etc. I even saw an upperclassman with a foam roller in his civilian luggage, which was just genius.
Study materials – Index cards, notebook, pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. Whatever you need to study, bring it. Taking notes in class, either on your computer or pen and paper, will help keep you awake.
Ruler – For correctly setting up your uniforms.
Clear packing tape – You’ll use this to “laminate” your HAWK and OTS MAN, two books you’ll be required to have on your person at all times.
Sharpies – A black and a silver, to mark things if you so desire. Marking wasn’t as common at OTS as it was at BMT.
Scissors – They come in handy, but you could split a pair with your roommate(s).
Laptop – Ideally a lightweight one, as you’ll end up carrying it everywhere in your attache. You need a computer while at OTS, as everything is done through Blackboard. If it’s not in the budget, they do have some computers you can borrow, but you’re going to probably want your own. Make sure you have the Microsoft Office suite loaded, with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
Printer – This is optional, but something for you to consider. Most all academics are conducted paperlessly, via Blackboard, but I still ended up printing out schedules, practice tests, study guides, and various decorative items (door placards, desk placards) early on. HP sells a $30 no-frills ink jet that is great for this purpose and served me well, although I did borrow a friend’s scanner at one point.
Flash drive – You’ll want one when the internet is slow and you need to send a document on to someone else.
Hot Spot – The internet is notoriously horrible in the dorms, and it can be a problem when assignments are due. You might consider a hot spot for your cell phone. I sucked it up and it was doable, but many grew frustrated and tethered their phones. Remember to password protect it so you don’t have any leeches!
Lighter– You’re allowed to have a lighter at OTS, and these are so convenient for burning off threads on uniforms, versus cutting everything. It really speeds up the process!
Pillow – Depending on how high maintenance you are, you might want to bring your own pillow. Plenty of people did it, I had no problems sleeping without mine.
Civilian clothes – Once you’re finally allowed to wear them in the end, you’ll want them. I ended up having to go to the BX and buy things to wear because I was tired of what little I had with me.
Headphones – You’ll want them in the dorms and in the classroom.
Snacks– Bars of some sort are great to have in your room. Times will arise when you are starving and need more food, or when your cold MRE is just impossible to choke down. A male OT in my flight was consuming a few protein bars a day to supplement his diet. Mio or another liquid beverage enhancer was also a nice to have item for relaxing at the end of the day. Just remember that until you receive permission, they can’t be caffeinated.
I’m a 31 year old Navy sister, Army wife - Air Force wife to a prior service Marine/Soldier, and an Air Force Reservist. I am a happy wife and mother. My husband switched branches and joined me in the Air Force Reserve. We look forward to a future of dual military service!