“No” wouldn’t stop TMG exec from applying for OTS

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kenny Edwards
  • 53d Test Management Group
I was a 33 ½ year old staff sergeant (with a line number for tech) when I first went to the base education office to inquire about Operation Bootstrap and officer training school. 

Thanks to the gentle nudges from my wife, Maureen, and good friend, then-Senior Airman Charlie Owens (who was currently in Operation Bootstrap and working his own OTS package), I had made the decision to at least ask about the programs. 

I thought I would be too old for the programs. You must be commissioned by your 35th birthday and unfortunately, I still had 11 classes to complete. 

Without doing any real research, I relied on the expertise of my education office POC. When I explained my situation and desire, he confirmed what I had already thought. 

I was disappointed to learn I was indeed too old for OTS and could not enter the programs. 

I had missed my window. 

Unsatisfied with this answer, Maureen and Charlie both continued to urge me to do more of my own research. 

Amazingly, a little research went a long way. I began to think I wasn't too old after all. 

I continued researching as well as working with my college to lay out a plan to know exactly what I would be expected to do educationally. A few months later, armed with the guides, a college plan, OTS selection board and class schedules, I headed back to the education office with a little more enthusiasm and a lot more knowledge. 

This time I knew that I had a chance to go to (and graduate from) one and only one OTS class before I turned 35. 

With much more determination than my previous visit, I laid out my plan to the education office POC. He agreed that I did have a chance at one OTS class before I turned 35 and we started the paperwork. I had finally met with success, but it wouldn't stay that way. 

To complete my package and be officially entered into the program, I would need a signature from the education office manager approving my application with the intention of applying to OTS. It was a signature she was not overly willing to give. 

My new challenge was this: the only OTS class I could graduate from before I turned 35 began in April 2002, but I could not officially graduate from my college until May 02. 

The education office believed I would not be eligible to apply for OTS without completing my degree before the class start date, and was therefore hesitant to sign off on my package. 

It was very frustrating to think that I had almost missed my window once and now, because of one (additional) person's doubt, I was perhaps not even going to get an opportunity to apply for these educational and career broadening programs. 

To my benefit, I had already spoken to the Officer Accessions office at Maxwell AFB, and got clearance to submit an OTS package with a signed statement from the school indicating they would allow me to finish all requirements early, but not actually graduate me until the May commencement ceremony. 

It took several weeks, but finally, after speaking with the Dean of my school and each of my instructors, I was given school approval to finish all graduation requirements 30 days early in order to go to the April OTS class if selected. Consequently, Igot the letter I needed for my OTS package. 

Even after all the work I did to get approval at every level, the education office was still reluctant to sign the package, stating they still thought I would not be eligible. 

With the full backing and support of my supervisors and superiors, I made a request for the Officer Accessions office to call my education office directly. They confirmed they would accept my OTS package without an actual diploma, but incredibly, the education office manager still doubted my eligibility. 

It was only after three more days and the drafting of a letter expressing education office concerns that my Bootstrap package was signed and approved. 

Finally, I met with total success (in that I was approved for Operation Bootstrap and could apply for OTS) and my career path changed forever. 

In August 2001, I began my full time job as a college student finishing my bachelor's degree. It was truly an amazing program that allowed me to attend college full time while still getting paid to take care of my family. 

In December 2001, my vice wing commander called me at home to congratulate me on my acceptance to OTS. 

My wife and I were elated with the news. My friend Charlie, while very excited for me, was perhaps not as elated. In a strange twist of fate, he had also been accepted into OTS, but due to my age, I was put into the class just prior to his. I was, in effect, his upper classman for six weeks! I can tell you that I enjoyed that far more than he did. 

It's been over four years since I graduated from OTS and I am now a captain. Had I listened to myself initially, the education office POC or the education office manager, I would not be where I am today. 

My advice to anyone else looking to advance their education and/or career is this:

Listen to your spouse and friends who positively support you because they probably know more about you than you do.

Don't take no for an answer without doing some research to back it up. 

Do your current job and do it well because it will help you in the future. 

Lastly, take the time to thank the people who help and support you in your career - both during the good and bad times. 

I know I can be whatever I want because of the support my wife gives me. We all can be whatever we choose to be because of what people like Charlie give all of us. 

1st Lt. Ray Charles "Charlie" Owens was killed in 2005 along with his eight crewmates on a C-130H mission. 

He was doing what he loved so we can continue doing what we love.