AU Advanced Research Elective

  • Published
  • Squadron Officer School, Air University, Maxwell AFB, AL


Please watch the introductory video first: "Research Elective."
Also see Air Force News Articles discussing some of the impacts the Advanced Research Elective is having:

The Air University (AU) Advanced Research Elective is an opportunity for a selective group of students to conduct independent research on topics of strategic concern. This is a five and a half week elective requiring approximately 20-40 hours beyond SOS curriculum. Selected students are assigned mentor(s) who guide research efforts and define deliverables. Student researchers receive a bullet on their AF 475 Training Report. Student benefits include advanced study on exciting topics, networking with communities of interest throughout the research experience, and opportunity to shape the Air Force's and Space Force's future.

The specific challenges for the next class and application instructions are below.

*Note: the Think Tank elective is a separate program with a separate application process.  Please only apply to the one that interests you the most.  Both are rigorous efforts that will be noted on Training Reports (AF Form 475) and both will expose you to different areas of Air University. 


Research Topics for Class 22D

Below are the descriptions of the AUAR research topics currently available.

AF Maker - Get your creative thinking cap on and help make progress on a current, relevant Air Force problem. Innovate to find solution(s). Investigate applications for additive manufacturing of rapid prototypes and potentially deployable solutions for various AF customer challenges. Additionally, if you have access to a 3D printer or design software, this elective is intended to connect with the growing community if AF makers under the mentorship of AFWERX SPARK Cell Lead, as well as a 3D printing nerd straddling the guard & civilian communities.  Don't know how to design and/or 3D print? We'll do our best to connect you to resources to take your ideas to print!

Barrier Analysis Working Group Collaborative -  In coordination with the Department of the Air Force's Barrier Analysis Working Group (DAFBAWG), Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College, students will leverage their experiences and expertise to help drive positive change across the Air Force through research aligned with current Line of Effort provided by the BAWG Teams. Students will have access to subject matter experts and mentors from across AU and from the BAWG Teams: Women's Initiative Team (WIT), Black/African American Employment Strategy Team (BEST), Pacific Islander and Asian American Community Team (PACT), Hispanic Employment Analysis Team (HEAT), Disability Team (DT), and Senior Leader Advancement Team (SLAT).

Financial MentorshipAre you interested in personal finances or want to know more? Have you seen Airmen within your unit struggle with their personal finances? This elective seeks motivated people to work together to determine what the biggest financial challenges our Airmen face and the current resources available to them. The end product will be a library of standardized digital products, backed by data, that can be used by front-line supervisors to mentor Airman and increase financial literacy across our units.

ISR Considerations for US National Security - In coordination with the ISR Chair at the LeMay Center for Doctrine, and the Air War College/Air Command and Staff College ISR Research Task Force, students will apply experience and critical thinking skills to research specific problems submitted by senior leaders and subject matter experts across the USAF ISR enterprise. Advisors will be made available to guide student efforts. For this iteration of the program, students will submit findings focused on China or Russia as a strategic competitor. If there are other topics of interest that students desire to focus on, these will be approved by the Next Gen ISR facilitators. Efforts will be scoped to a specific operational-level problem and the resulting strategic implications (for example, China's aggressive posturing for a takeover of Taiwan or a Russian incursion of a Baltic nation). Potential topics centered on an operational crisis will include:

  1. USAF and Joint Application of ISR
  2. The status of regional security partnerships
  3. Chinese or Russian military capabilities vs. regional US/partner military capabilities
  4. Adversary and friendly force information warfare/operations
  5. Competitor and/or US use of non-kinetic or cyber effects
  6. And many more potential avenues of research on China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, etc!

Technology Integration - In support of CSAF Brown’s Strategic Approach “Accelerate Change or Lose” (August 2020) and the supporting action orders: A) Airmen, B) Bureaucracy, C) Competition, and D) Design Implementation; Integrating Technologies is a topic geared towards exploration, discovery and collaboration of ways units can integrate technology in the short term for long term success. No experience or expertise is required. Pending acceptance to the program you will be assigned to one of the teams listed below which are the result of the previous class. One group will be selected to present at the end of the course to the Commandant. 

  1. Squadron Officer School (part of the Air University) phone application development
  2. Integrating health applications for increased Airman Fitness/Readiness. This group will decide on a strategy for motivating Airmen to increase their fitness with the integration of health applications. 
  3. Operationalizing AR/VR: This group is focused on looking for opportunities to find ways to employ and operationalize AR/VR use throughout the Air Force. 
  4. Artificial Intelligence to the squadron: Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool but why aren't we using it everyday for things that matter?

Social Media - Social Media seeks passionate storytellers to develop a social media strategy for the organization, preparing them to be the champions of their units upon their return. Students will work as a team to generate content that highlights their student experience, while also examining resources and constraints unique to a military organization. In short, AUAR-SM is a no-fail strategic communication mission that just happens to be a ton of fun.
End product will be the SOS 22D grad video, along with a presentation to the SOS Commandant to discuss their social media strategy, and the victories and challenges they experienced.

Application Instructions

Students can find the AUAR application on Canvas.  After logging into Canvas, click on AUAR, scroll to the bottom of the page and click SUBMIT HERE

Applications include a short 2-part prompt. Part A asks why you are interested in being an AU Researcher and any special skills/knowledge you possess that makes you uniquely qualified for the program(s) you are interested in, in 250 words or less. Part B requires you answer a specific question related to the program(s) you are interested in/each in 250 words or less.

Applications are due NLT 1230 CST, ED-2 (Tuesday, 19 April).  Students will be informed of selection per the calendar by ED-4 (Thursday, 21 April).

Thank you for your interest!

Squadron Officer School
125 Chennault Circle 

Building 1403
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112


Exception to Policy click here.

BLUF: Deadline for Exception to Policy (ETP) packages are due 10 duty days prior to day one of class.  The "end enrollment" deadline for SOS Classes is on the SOS Student Experience Page and see the deadlines for each upcoming class.

1.   IAW the SOS Exception to Policy Checklist, Exception to Policy (ETP) packages shall be submitted to SOC/ODP Org Mailbox,  Again, this is due 0730 CST 10 duty days prior to day one of class.  Any packages submitted after this deadline may be rejected but will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

2.  IAW SOS Enrollment Policy, Section 2., c., At 0730 CST 14 days prior to Class Start Date, the "end enrollment" date is effective and final.  This will allow TRQI managers to make changes without coordination with SOC/ODP until the end enrollment date.  

Direct all questions on these deadlines to SOS/ODP at DSN 493-3231, or email at 

Students attending SOS need to understand that compliance with the below eligibility requirements is mandatory and is the primary responsibility of the member.  Training managers should assist in the process but each student must ensure that they have followed all the reporting instructions and that they have an approved Exception to Policy (ETP) as necessary.   Training Managers should review current SOS Enrollment Policy and current SOS Reporting Guide.  Timelines under the policy are mandatory.  When an ETP is granted the member will receive an e-mail confirmation that they have approval to proceed to SOS.  The member should not proceed without this confirmation.  Anyone who arrives without being approved will be sent back at the unit's expense and their commander will be notified of the failure to follow proper procedures. 

  • ​Military: must be a Captain and CANNOT pin on Major while attending SOS. 
  • Students who pin on Major while at SOS will be sent home.
  • Civilians: must be GS-9 through GS-12.
  • See AFI 36-2656 for more info.

Students attending SOS are expected to be in top physical condition and should expect to complete a weekly 5K run, a 10K at the end of the course, and other strenuous activities including climbing, lifting, and hoisting one's body weight, in the central Alabama weather conditions.

  • We understand that due to COVID most students haven’t been able to PT test for the last two years. If that’s the case, bring your last PT test with no exemptions even if it isn’t the most recent PT test. 
  • You MUST have a current/passing PT Test WITHOUT EXEMPTIONS on file in AF Fitness Management System (AFFMSII) that lasts through your graduation date.
  • If you have one or more EXEMPTIONS on your AFFMSII printout, you must retest with NO EXEMPTIONS prior to attending SOS or get an approved Exception to Policy (ETP) to attend SOS, even if the profile that led to the exemption expired.
  • You will be REQUIRED to provide a hardcopy printout from AFFMSII showing your current score and expiration date on Day 1.
  • Additionally, if you are on a medical profile, even if it will expire during the class, you cannot attend SOS without an approved ETP.

Exceptions are further clarified in the Exceptions to Policy Explained.

****Expiration Fitness Assessment Due to Deployment of 90+ days**** Students with an expired PT Test who will attend SOS within 42 days after returning from a deployment of over 90 days MUST request anETP waiver and receive written approval to use the expired score. 


***Completed Waivers Form MUST be submitted to SOS Student Services NO LATER THAN 10 duty days PRIOR to class start date (see "SOS HOME" webpage for class start dates/ETP due dates).***  Any submission received after the cutoff date will be disapproved.

***All ETP Waivers MUST Be Signed By Your Home Station Wing Commander (or equivalent)***
    ETP are required for PT test exemptions, profiles, and waivers.   See chart below:


Current PT test has exemptions

Yes, unless the exemptions are due to pregnancy or 12-month post-partum deferment period. 

Expired PT test due to Deployment

Yes, if attending SOS within 42 days after returning from a deployment over 90 day must submit an ETP.

Medical Profile for physical activity


Medical Profile for Pregnancy

- Regular OBGYN care or appointments are not available through Maxwell clinic.
- Discuss with your doctors about attending the course without OB care.
- After Day 1, plan a time to speak with training health at the clinic to discuss SOS event participation.
- Some events pose a higher risk due to pregnancy.

Medical Profile for post-partum


Medical Profile with mobility restrictions

No, not required if your profile is only for mobility restrictions and you are able to and not restricted from; running, doing push-ups and doing sit-ups.

Total Active Federal Service Commitment


Other Issues

If in doubt, email
- Describe your situation and attach available documentation; AF-469, AFMS Fit Report


  • If you are on ANY medical waivers that limit physical activity, you must submit an ETP.
  • Students attending SOS with exemption on ANY component of their current PT Test, MUST request an ETP waiver (Fitness Waiver) and receive written approval.
  • ETP requests for students with PT exemptions that will limit their full participation at SOS are typically denied if the student will have additional opportunities to attend SOS after the issue is resolved.
  • Pregnant Students:
    • Maxwell AFB 42 MDG does not have the capability to provide routine OB GYN care.
    • You MUST coordinate with your home station OB GYN provider to determine whether or not you will require OB care during the class.
    • If you are cleared for the class, you MUST provide a 469 clearing you to attend SOS without routine OB GYN care.
    • If you will require OB GYN care while attending the course you MUST coordinate a referral between your home station clinic and a network OB GYN provider in the Montgomery area to receive care while TDY.
  • You are NOT required to submit a TAFSC waiver to SOS before attending the course.
  • All TAFSC waivers should be routed through your MAJCOM/A1 office. -- Note: Some MAJCOMS have delegated the approval authority for TAFSC waivers to individual Wing Commanders. Consult your MAJCOM A1.
  • SOS does not need to see your TAFSC waiver. 

ANG and AFRC students should consult the SOS Reporting Guide as well as the lodging and finance information on the SOS website Lodging and Finance Information

Please contact the AU Reserve Advisor at DSN 493-3290, or Commercial, 334-953-3290 if you have any additional questions. For questions regarding the Guard officer PME please contact DSN 493-3060, or Commercial, 334-953-3060.   For questions regarding orders, you may contact 908 FSS/FSO: DSN 493-9185 or Commercial 334-953-9185.


Per Air University Instruction 36-2315, if a TDY student reports for a course and is found to be ineligible due to failure to meet ANY eligibility requirements without an ETP, the student will be returned to his or her unit at the parent unit's expense.