Don’t be another clueless Lt

by 2nd Lt. Kay M. Nissen
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The bus grows silent and the riders glance at each other, half-smiling, trying to mask their ignorance. Then, breaking the silence, a young lieutenant throws his hand up, “Alright. I’ll be that guy. What is CAOC?” Capt. Ashley Roell laughs, not at his question, but at her own slip up in using an acronym and assuming the class would know it.

“CAOC,” she says, “is Combined Air Operations Center.”

Nods of understanding go around the bus. The riders make up the first class of FTOC ― First Term Officer’s Course.  The course was first conceived by Capt. Kelby Kershner, former Ramstein Company Grade Officers’ Council president, as a way to help junior lieutenants get acclimated on their first assignment.

The actual class, held Sept. 8, was put into action by Roell with some help from other company grade officers, senior enlisted personnel and civilians.

As a daylong event, the class of lieutenants was bussed around base, from the medical clinic to the education center, deployment line to the flightline, the JAG to the First Shirt, and from the Air Operations Center to U.S. Air Forces in Europe Headquarters. The class not only learned about each mission, but also how they were expected to contribute to the mission as young officers.

“If you know the mission, it helps you care more about your job,” Roell said, discussing the role of the “field trip” around base.

However, she also emphasized that FTOC is not meant to be a glorified Ramstein base tour or an extension of the Ramstein in-processing line, but a focus on general officer information. She shared an anecdote on meeting an officer who clearly did not take advantage of his lieutenant days – one of her many motivations to put the class together.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she encouraged the young butter bars as they started their day. “It’s better to look stupid now than later.”

“What is LRMC?” “A 1206?” An RRF?” “36-2618?” “Article 31?”

The questions asked would seem like basic information for anyone who has been in the Air Force for more than six months, which as most of the lieutenants noticed, seems to be everyone but them. Ranging from three weeks to eight months on their first tour, the second lieutenants were able to share their experiences as they got to know each other throughout the day.

Second Lt. Bonnie Jo Lange, 721st Aerial Port Squadron, was comforted to see she was having the same issues as her peers.

“We could admit to the elephant in the room, ‘Oh you had that experience, too? So it wasn’t just me,’” she said with a laugh.

“It’s good to get perspective on issues that people expect you to know but no one tells you,” said 2nd Lt. Doug Schulte, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He’s been assigned to Ramstein for about eight months, but found there was still a lot to gain from FTOC.

“It’s a great idea not only for butter bars, but also for other Lts just getting here and wanting to network,” said 2nd Lt. Anthony Caltabiano, 86th Maintenance Squadron and newly appointed CGOC president.

Col. Douglas Hammer, CGOC adviser, also stressed the advantage of networking to the FTOC class. He thanked the class for being proactive and taking the time to get involved and improving their abilities as officers.

Sept. 8 marked the first class of FTOC, and according to the CGOC, it will not be the last. While no specific date has been scheduled for the next class, the CGOC plans on continuing FTOC based on the demands of its members.

For more information on the next FTOC or any CGOC events, contact 1st Lt. Philip Warthen at