I was just over 19 when I entered the Air Force. I went through 7 weeks of Basic Training, and a little over 4 months of time in my Technical School, the Community College of the Air Force. This is a summary of my experiences
When I arrived on the bus coming directly from Basic Training I had no idea what to expect. I had heard that when you were going through Technical School that they were still very strict on a lot of the same issues that they were while I was in Basic Training, but the focus was more on the job you were being trained to do. They ushered us all into a large room full of desks, and we were divided into groups and given assignments to our dorm rooms. We were also briefed on what to expect from the particular area we were to be living in and the Technical Instructors that would be our caretakers while not in our classes. We still had mandatory Physical Education, and bedroom inspections, along with a little piece of paper that they called a "3-41". This piece of paper could be "pulled" from us for any reason, good or bad. We were instructed in how our room was to look, and that one of these pieces of paper was to be tucked under the pillow on top of our made beds. If this piece of paper was missing you were either getting into trouble for failing a room inspection or you were gettting praise for having a wonderful looking room. You were told that these pieces of paper were to be on you at all times, in uniform or not, and that at very least, you were to carry at least 3.
Then we were sent to look at a wall, a poster board that was riddled with long lists of names and what classes you were going to take, and whether you were a night schooler or day schooler. It also gave the offical date the class was starting and based on those things, there were other meetings to find out when you had your Physical Education, your free time (in uniform and on base), and your eating schedules. You would meet your roommate, and depending on what they had class wise, you may have had completely opposite schedules. That tended to make things a little difficult. I personally had night classes, and my first roommate had day classes. It made it harder on the staff to check our room. (Maybe that was a good thing for me, at least in the beginning.)
We were to be lined up, outside, in full blues (one of the more professional looking dress of the Air Force) unless we were told otherwise for special things we were doing in class that day. We had our Technical Instructors inspecting the lines, our uniforms, and we also had what were nicknamed "Ropes". The "Ropes" were people in our classes with us that were given certain amounts of authority over the rest of the troop. Ropes were earned by grades, time in the area, and special classes that the Technical Instructors would offer. When roll-call was taken and everyone was somehow accounted for, we began our two mile march to our class buildings.
Inside the classroom things became much more relaxed. You still made sure to call everyone by rank and last name, but you were able to act more like a student than a robot inside the class room. It was extremely odd for a teacher to take one of your pieces of paper, as they usually tried to work with you more on a human level to figure out what the issues were.
When it came to the classroom the biggest thing that I have to explain is this: you were taking a course that would have been a 2-4 year commitment, and instead it was very fast paced, and all of the information that would have been spaced out for months at most colleges was taught, and expected to be retained, in a few days to a week at the most. Many people found that this pace was too fast for them and had to retake a class or get re-trained (which meant they picked a different course for you because they felt that after your one and only second chance, you were not cut out for that job course.)
I was constently under pressure from all sides, the Technical Instructors that did the bed checks at night, and room inspections, and oversaw Physical Training. Your uniform was always to be cleaned, pressed, and all of your awards in the right place, and then the very, very fast course of the schooling itself. I thrived though, and many who had college experience in a very similiar field seemed to have more issues with the excellerated pace of the classes. You could not pass any class with anything lower than the equivalent to a high "C", and I believe that the lack of college experience before going into this was a bonus for me.
If I had to summarize I would say that overall the experience is life-changing and difficult, but it was worth every night I spent looking through flashcards while drinking coffee at the local Waffle House. When you graduate from something you know would have taken years to do in less than 6 months it gives you such a feeling of accomplishment and if you are like me, and go into something you knew nothing about, it makes you feel like you have done everything from the ground up. There is no feeling like knowing you are a part of the small percentage that makes it through something so taxing and rapid. I will carry with me the rest of my life that pride.
Written by former Senior Airmen Marlin, Nichole Marlin