Air Force Special Operations - Officer Application Preparation

Special Ops programs for the officer corps in any branch of service are highly competitive, primarily due to lack of numbers needed and the huge interest in these communities. Typically, you only need one officer for every 8 to 10 enlisted personnel, so you have to really stand out in the applicant pool. Here is an email from an Air Force cadet seeking information about Special Tactics Officer preparation.

Stew, I am a freshman in college and a cadet in AFROTC. I wish to become a commissioned STO and was inquiring about good preparation habits as well as knowledge about building a strong application to become an STO. I am mainly looking for advice about the particular areas of the application STO is looking for, and how to put myself in a good position to succeed. If you have any helpful information for me, I would appreciate it. Thanks JJ.


You are smart to start preparing now as you can get the selection phases out of the way while still a cadet during your summers. Try to find a group of likeminded people in your unit and start training hard together to first ace the PAST. The STO PAST is a tough one: Pushups, Situps, Pullups, 3 mile run, and a 1500m swim plus a 25m underwater swim. Think of your job right now as a student to make good grades, be a good team player, learn to lead, and master this test. I think this test is the hardest of all entry level spec ops tests.

Here are the fitness standards: CALISTHENICS: Pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups -- exercise to time limit or until muscle failure   Minimums: 12 pull-ups in 1 minute 75 sit-ups in 2 minutes 64 push-ups in 2 minutes RUN: 3 miles non-stop - minimum = 3 miles completed within 22 minutes (22:00) UNDERWATER SWIM: swim and remain underwater for 25 meters - minimum = Successful completion SWIM: 1500 meters non-stop -- any stroke except backstroke (with or without fins) - minimum = 1500 m completed within 32 minutes While these are minimum standards, with such a highly competitive program, it is recommended to preform much better than all of the above. My personal recommendations are the following: 20+ Pullups, 100 situps, 100 pushups, sub 20 min 3 mile run, and a sub 26 min 1500m swim.

To become a Special Tactics Officer, you have to apply for Phase 1 Selection first, which is a board of STOs who think your application is good enough to pass Phase 2. Phase 2 is a week-long program in Hurlbert AFB in Florida, which will require a week of running, rucking, swimming with and without fins, pool skills, and drills like treading and drownproofing, and of course plenty of physical training (PT). You will also take the PAST again, so maintaining a solid score on that is your job between now and then.

From the Official Air Force STO Application Package

AFROTC/USAF Academy Cadets: Cadets should submit a Phase I package before they are classified in another AFSC, ideally, at least 12-18 months before the forecasted commissioning date. ROTC cadets must have successfully completed Field Training before applying. USAFA cadets should apply in their Second Class year. Senior cadets are not prohibited from applying, but these applications will be handled on a case-by-case basis with the Line Officer Accessions Program Manager at AFPC. In most cases, cadets will be allowed to attend Phase II on a contingent release from their assigned career field.

Good luck with the first few years of training. These first two years are important as you transition from civilian to Special Ops level conditioning. Depending upon your foundation of fitness and athletics, it will typically take that long to adequately prepare. Check out this program for ways to prepare for the PAST for Special Tactics Officers and Combat Rescue Officers.

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