Advice for someone about to join the Air Force

by Matt C Matt C (New) New

Hey everyone, I am a PCU/Tele nurse in New Mexico who had several years in the Army National Guard enlisted. I finish my BSN in a few months and I had a recruiter go over my resume and he told me that he could probably get me in with a rolling board. He said there is a huge need right now and my prospects are very good. So at this point, I am just curious, when it comes to getting ready for COT, does anyone have any suggestions? Like what COTSMAN is the most recent one? Is there any study material that people would suggest?

 And most importantly, does anyone know what hospitals have the most need? It has been impossible finding anything online that talks about hospitals with the most beds and I have heard that a lot of the hospitals from the past are now just superclinics so the openings there are very different than they were a few years ago. 

I know San Antonio always has needs. Same goes for Mississippi. But does anyone know anything about Nellis in LV? Travis in CA? Langley in Virginia? 366th in Idaho? What are my prospects for getting any of these with two years of civilian experience?

What have been your experiences with any of those hospitals? What would you do differently in your Air Force career if you could do it over again? Are you happy you joined the Air Force?

Side note, I love my country and miss the people I knew when I was in last time. The culture I saw when I was around the AF years ago was outstanding and I am really excited about the prospects of rejoining. Any input would be greatly appreciated. 


jfratian, MSN, RN

Specializes in Adult Critical Care. Has 10 years experience. 1,500 Posts

It sounds like you'll be trying to join the Active Duty Air Force as a med-surg nurse (46N3).  To determine if that's right for you, I would need to know what your personal life looks like as well as your underlying motivations.  What is your long term goal?  Go back to school?  Work towards a management role?

People interested mostly in the benefits tend to be unhappy.  People without flexible/understanding spouses tend to be quite miserable.  People without a solid long-term career plan tend to also do poorly.

As for bases, San Antonio is really the only place you'll see university medical center level acuity.  The rest are small 30-50 bed community hospitals catering to the military base population.  If acuity doesn't matter to you, I would pick based on where you want to live. 

Matt C

3 Posts

Yes as a med-surge, but I have heard they work in clinics as well. We aren't really bothered with the prospect of moving around. My motivation is to have a place where I can just lock in and move up in instead of using multiple hospital networks against each other just so that my kids can eat something other than "greater value" food. 


On 8/20/2022 at 10:47 AM, jfratian said:

People interested mostly in the benefits tend to be unhappy.

Not doing it necessairly for the money or the benefits.  I know that whatever I am signing up for, the government is going to get it back out of me. I like veterans and the community. I like working with them. I like working with people that are motivated and generally career oritented. I like people who make solutions instead of excuses. The benefits do matter. People think "well I see all of these posting for travel positions and they are offering...." A lot of travel nurses get stuck in dirty hospitals out in a high crime areas, dangerous patient loads, no supplies for patient care and they are living in a travel trailer. Then they get a gut punch when they see how much of that check goes to taxes. The military may deploy you, work you brutal hours, put you in bases that aren't ideal, but they don't do that. There are a lot of guys I know who left the military for DynCorp type jobs or the oil field because they saw the money offered, and they now wish they had stayed in. 

On 8/20/2022 at 10:47 AM, jfratian said:

People without flexible/understanding spouses tend to be quite miserable.

My wife is excited about the prospects of quitting her job and being a mom with a side hustle. The military works with that plan very well. 


On 8/20/2022 at 10:47 AM, jfratian said:

People without a solid long-term career plan tend to also do poorly.

When it comes to goals..... I had several different jobs other than the guard, and I know that life is what happens when you are making other plans. So I am open to management but would probably rather go in the direction of CNS or FNP.

I am in my 30s and being hooah is something I already got out of my system. It is not about acuities as much as it is being prepared for those acuities if I need to handle them. It is important for me to have the skills, but I don't always have to be the one directing the code or doing the chest compressions. I like how the military has so many training oppertunities, humanitarian missions, and bases everywhere. 

All of that to say, I am going for an advanced practioner position. I will work for it but I am not going to throw a fit if I don't get it. I know that the needs of the miltary come before mine and being angry about something I can't control isn't going to make my life better. I saw a lot of guys stall out in their career because they got grumpy when they were overlooked for a position they thought they deserved. And they just quit trying. 

The reality is that some people "want to be a wound nurse" and then will get really upset when they don't get it. In reality being a wound nurse may sound cool until you have to deal with one case after another of an IVDU with MRSA screaming in pain while you are trying to change a dressing so that their injection sites do not throw them into sepsis. 

So until I can see what management looks like in the AF vs advanced practioner, it is going to be difficult to say what exactly I am going to do. But I do have a direction I will be working towards on my own time. 

Thanks for responding BTW!



mirrorphantom, BSN, RN

Specializes in Postpartum/Newborn Care. Has 3 years experience. 1 Post

Hi! I am in New Mexico as well. No advice on the active duty nursing but I am curious if you could get me in contact with your recruiter. (If so PM me) I don't have alot of experience (1 year and 2 months) yet but I am currently AGR with the NMARNG and interested in active duty nursing options. I actually am already applying for the board in NOV Army wise.  I am kind of curious if I have met you in the NMARNG!

There is definitely something about military service that you either love or hate and it sounds like your heart is in the right direction. It is always scary going into something new but looks like you have thought through alot of the hurdles of active military service. I wish you luck and please let me know if you get it!

Edited by mirrorphantom

wtbcrna, MSN, DNP, CRNA

Specializes in Anesthesia. 5,090 Posts

I retired from AD USAF in January this year.

1. Nellis is trying to expand into a Level 1 trauma center. It’s going to be growing for a while and have plenty of opportunities. On the bad side Las Vegas schools are iffy at best and any services you might need for a special needs child or adult are sorely lacking and take months or years to get appointments/into.
I stayed away from San Antonio as there was always more politics than I wanted to deal with. That maybe something that doesn’t bother you or may not even notice at your rank.

JBER/Anchorage Alaska for us was a great assignment. JBER has a medium size hospital by USAF standards. 

You should qualify for any of the of the hospitals with med-surg with your experience, and will likely be one of the more experienced nurses when you do start.
2. There are opportunities everywhere, if you are sure you want to do NP look at bases that have just clinics. Overall, clinic work is more conducive to family life than working on the floor with rotating schedules and constantly coming in on your off shift/days for meetings and extra duties. You will need a minimum of 1 year clinic experience to do AFIT NP unless things have changed. The AF is way behind on properly utilizing CNSs. The majority of CNSs I’ve known/know are utilized as unit educators. 
3. The only issue I’ve really noticed with Army to USAF is that former Army alway expects there to be a policy that covers everything, but you’ll find the USAF often has policies (written and unwritten) that vary widely between bases. It can be a little aggravating, and after 8 duty stations every new USAF person assumes that their base/hospital policies are the same at every base or that X is done the same at every base..


St.BaptistRN, BSN

Has 9 years experience. 66 Posts

I’m current active ICU USAF, feel free to private message, I can discuss the overall experience