Upon being told in late April that I would need to cancel all my vacation for the summer and spend two months in the sweltering heat of Montgomery, Alabama – I blankly stared. After recovering from the fact that I would need to cancel my Running with Bulls trip and tell my poor sister that she would need to navigate Harrogate, England without me…I started to think of the two month training as less of an order and more of a paid vacation back to America.
It had been two years since I had spent longer than a week back in the states. A fact that I honestly did not think much of until I stepped off the plane in Atlanta (aka Hot-lanta). I do not know what it was, possibly the upfront, slightly pushy nature of the TSA staff directing us to immigration or the fact that one lady boldly complimented my shoe choice (Brit’s don’t really do that) or possibly it was the diversity of the airport that made me really feel at home. England is lovely, but they don’t have the raw, boisterous, straight forward nature of an American that you just can’t help but love. I was so excited I nearly hugged everyone that greeted me with a “hello” and “this way”.
But lets get more to the interesting part of the story – why, may you ask, did I get sent to Alabama?
In the Air Force they have something called Squadron Officer School or SOS. This two month training (sometimes 5 weeks, other times 8…the Air Force can’t decide how long to make it) is meant to instill every Captain (officer in for about 6/7 years) with leadership principles as well as test them through a series of obstacles and “team leadership problems”/ TLP’s.
Sound like fun? Actually, it is a Hell of a lot of fun. I basically get paid to run around in the morning jumping through hoops, climbing walls or playing some sort of dodge ball game called FLEX (field leadership exercise…we love our made up acronyms)
FLEX demo (also known as Icarus): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGkk3M66yHg
I consistently look around at what I get to do through the military and the Air Force and wonder how I get paid to do these things. Yes, SOS does take you away from home for 2 months and forces you to learn about communication and leadership principles (FRLM)..as well as forces you to play fake games that are supposed to test your leadership ability..but it is basically two months where your schedule is 9-3pm with half of that time spent outside solving puzzles.
Picture: Project X – A series of obstacles involving limited resources, a lot of water and high walls.
Dos Gringos, SOS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF0Nki4_azk
Of course there are always those people that find it a waste of time (which they have a point with our hard working 6 hour days and 2 hour lunches), but I ask you, if the Air Force is spending thousands of dollars to invest in training you to be a better leader and giving you two months to reflect on this ability – why not take it?