Student to Lieutenant Series – Part 2: Snowbirding
We’re continuing our discussion thread in the series “Student to Lieutenant.
This week’s post tackles an awesome topic from the community. This is a common sticking point in the space between Phase 1 and Phase 2. SNOWBIRD STATUS!
Phase 1: Receiving your #Branch to #Commissioning
Phase 2: #Commissiong to Reporting to #BOLC
Phase 3: Graduating #BOLC & Follow-on Schools
Phase 4: Arriving at your first Unit & first Assignment
For those that don’t know, a “snowbird” is a BOLC student waiting for their BOLC class start date. (A “blackbird” is a BOLC graduate waiting to PCS to their first duty assignment… more on that much later in the series.) The term (as far as I know) is not derogatory, but it is a status that should be avoided. Let’s talk about why and how.
First, let’s cover why snowbirding might be good for you, as there are only a few very specific reasons:
1. You were a college football linebacker or Olympic curling competitor. Now, you need to be 150lbs lighter and 6 minutes faster on your 2-mile run. If you didn’t quite get there during graduation leave, snowbird, stick with a plan, get Army fit.
2. Similar to #1, but different, you injured yourself during graduation leave. If it’s a real injury, snowbird, get healthy before your start BOLC.
3. You are getting married the weekend before class-up… Okay, on this one, I have very little sympathy for you, as weddings and engagements are things that you plan. But, if for some unforeseen circumstances, your wedding and BOLC coincide, it MAY be appropriate to snowbird for a bit and get your newly married household settled before starting BOLC.
4. Similar to #3, but the opposite. Family emergency. Legit unexpected. Legit sorrow. Take some snowbird time, get your mind right, start BOLC in the right mental state for success.
If you are not in a unique scenario worthy of special consideration, as listed above, you should not WANT to snowbird. Your lieutenant timeline is a ticking clock. You need to get through BOLC as efficiently as possible to get to your unit and continue to gain knowledge and experience that will make you a better Leader.
Okay, but your orders say your BOLC starts in August and you report in June. Now what?
That’s easy! Show up ready!
Most (I can’t say “all”) BOLCs are NOT beholden to starting you in the class listed on your orders. BOLCs have a recognized reasonable time window from TRADOC to transform newly commissioned officers into BOLC graduates. Once you report, that clock (known on the schoolhouse side as “Time on Station”) starts ticking. Think, “Hey, LTC Bolic, why does this LT have 400 days’ time on station at Fort Trainemall!?! They needed that LT at Ft. Bragg 100 days ago!” “Well, GEN Madascanbe, we waited 60 days before we put that LT in BOLC… No, excuse, Sir!”
So, show up ready to start BOLC. Tell the cadre you are ready to take the first available course start date. There is a very high likelihood they will place you in the next available course date. Additionally, most BOLCs have a small attrition rate (1-4%) early in the course due to National Guard no-shows, APFT failures, height and weight failures, International Student no-shows, etc. If you are ready to start the course, you could fill one of those slots.
Okay, you did everything right. You showed up ready. You told the cadre you were born ready for BOLC. Unfortunately, the class is full. Now what? What is the life of a snowbird? Well, it varies. You will have half-days and you will have weeks in the field on support taskings. You may have opportunities to do additional schools prior to starting BOLC. I have seen snowbirds do rehearsals for ceremonial duties in full-dress uniform for two-weeks straight. I have seen other snowbirds get slots to go to Air Assault and Combat Dive School… The advice here remains the same. Be ready! Volunteer to support the unit, and when an open slot for XYZ School becomes available, they’ll think, “Hey, let’s send LT Alred Reddy, the one that crushes PT every morning and always volunteers to help out.”
What questions did I leave unanswered? Do you want to know how to be the one to gets that slot to Combat Dive School? Ask me about it in the comments.
The Student-to-Lieutenant Series
Part 1 – Phase 1: Receiving your Branch
Part 2 – Phase 2: Commissioning and Reporting to BOLC (Snowbird Status)
Part 3 – BOLC and Follow-on Schools
Part 4 – Operating Expenses and Where to Live
Part 5 – Operating Expenses and Where to Live (part 2)
Part 6 – Phase 3: Graduating BOLC & Follow-on Schools
Part 7 – Phase 4: Reporting to your First Unit