I am a Danish and not a USAF pilot, but our training patterns are pretty similar.
To a large extent they do their own planning. In certain cases like if their formation is part of a larger package of aircraft they have to follow a certain flow for deconfliction purpose. But still in that case a lot is left up to the various formation leads. If you are referring to fighters they hardly ever fly around as single ships. So yes, if you are just a wingman you pretty much do as you are told. You will however quickly become a lead yourself and be the one making the decisions.
You have rules, regulations and standards you have to follow, but they leave you a lot of different options, so you are allowed to "vary off course" Otherwise you would end up with a bunch of narrow minded pilots that couldn't think for themselves.
Most of the time we try to make every second of our flying hours into valuable training and the training itself is most of the time a joy in itself, but there is still time for a little cloud chasing every now and then.