Out of shear curiosity during my deployment to Afghanistan, I started reading through the topics and questions regarding becoming a successful WOFT Applicant. I've screened and endorsed dozens of successful applicants and discouraged just as many. Here's a short list of successful attributes I and my fellow WOs looked for when interviewing.
The caveat is I speak only of active duty, and inter-service applicants. The Guard and Reserves do things a little different but no less thorough.
Getting Started: I get stopped and sharp-shot periodically, even in the chow hall with "What do I have to do to be a pilot?" The answer is much longer than can be explained in one sitting. I realize you have to start somewhere, but in the era of the internet, there's absolutely no piece of information you can't find on your own. As some others have stated, if you don't have the intiative to at least familiarize yourself with the prerequisites, I'm not going to spoon feed them to you. I have also had applicants show up for an interview asking more basic questions than I asked them. If you went for a corporate interview for a potential six-figure job, knowing nothing of what the company did, you'd be shown the door.
Recruiters: I know most recruiters are less than helpful for WOC applicants, as they get nothing out assisting you with your packet. That said, you can complete most of the process without their assistance. During the process you only need to work with them to take the ASVAB/AFAST,flight physical, and obtain the correct digital forms. Also, being proactive and persistant is in your best interest. Do not expect them to walk you through the process. Some will, most won't. You can't reasonably expect an E-6 infantryman recruiter to be able to help you become an aviator, so don't rely on him to. With the resources available online, you can conceivably come up with a plan and guide the recruiter through what you need to do.
My recommendation is not to make the recruiter your first stop. Every form and link you might intially need is at the warrant officer recruiting websitehttp://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/index.htm. next, I would surf www.kiowapilots.com, but tread lightly, most of us on the site are senior warrants, and a good number are IPs at Rucker. However, they have a great collection of WOC/flight school information. www.aptap.org is another Army Aviator centric site, although tailored more for current aviators. Again,it's filled with crusty, knowleagble warrants, lurk quietly.
Like everywhere else in life, networking is the key. There's nothing that says you can't respectfully request assistance from one of the WOs you talk to via forums to assist you in taking the AFAST, interview, etc. I've had a few applicants I knew only via email, travel several states to come interview. Although it was several years ago, I travelled from CA to VA for 2 days to get a LOR from a CW5 that made my application a slam dunk. Persistance, professionalism, and intiative will pay you back ten-fold. Find the nearest Army Airfield. I guarantee if you act professionally, just about any WO will take the time to talk to you and help you with the process.
Ft Rucker: I'm fresh off a briefing from the Aviation Branch Warrant Officer (head CW5). It was only about 5 years ago, that the Army couldn't get enough WOCs through the doors. From the start of WOC school until being winged, it wasn't uncommon to be in and out in 13 months. Now, Flight School 21 is bogging down the system created long waiting times for Primary to start, and in between each phase. The average is 2 years now, which in turn has forced USAREC to restrict the acceptance process. This is accomplished by enforcing a minimum cut-off score for AFAST, PFTs and board evaluations. The cut-off is known only to the selection board, but it fluctuates based on how many WOs they need in a particular FY. All other things being equal, if you don't score well on your PFT, ASVAB, and AFAST it very well might be the key discriminator. Don't get frustrated, everything in the military is cyclical. 3 years ago, you had to be half blind to not get accepted, now you have to be rated in the Space Shuttle to competitive, in another year or two it will ebb the other direction.
AFAST/PFT: Many variables will be beyond your control; your eye sight, needs of the Army, not having the resouces to pay for flight training, the opinions of the board, etc. However, there is no excuse for not mastering the PFT and AFAST. These are well within your scope of influence. You don't have to know anything about flight, memorize the Arco AFAST Study Guide and you will get at least a 120 on the test. The PFT is no secret, plan and train accordingly to get a 300. If you master these two items, you've eliminated in your favor, any discriminators the board members may use to pick one packet over another. "I'm just not a good runner" doesn't cut it.
Also, quantative evidence of demonstrated leadership and being well-rounded speaks volumes to an interviewing officer. While civilian flight time is nice, unless you actually have a license and a couple of hundred hours, it doesn't mean much. Save your money and take more college classes. After instruments everyone, even the previously rated pilots all fly about the same. The Army teaches you everything you need to know. I had several hundred hours in airplanes and other than talking on the radios and making ground school easy, it didn't significantly change the course of my career.
Networking: Lastly, I've had several aspiring WOCs contact me via PM with such endearing greetings such as "hey", and "Dude", using incomplete sentences, and asking questions without so much as leaving their name or email address to respond. Nobody expects 'Sir", etc, my first name is fine, but if you aren't able to type a coherent, professional letter (email) using correct grammar, spelling and composition without using texting short hand, you will get an equally curt response. I can say this will most likely be the case for most any officer you ask for help. Remember that written correspondence is often the first impression you make. Unfortunately there's undoubtedly been a few outstanding and qualified candidates who never made it past an email because they wrote like they were texting buddies at school.
I do not have to personally know you to write an outstanding letter of recommendation. However, a face to face meeting is usually required. I don't know of anyone who will write a letter via phone interview unless the appliant can personally be vouched for by a friend, etc. A professional resume, prefaced by email or calls and showing up for the interview in the same attire you would interview in for a corporate position will result in you leaving with a winner in your hand. Most of us in the WO Corps are genuinely interested in helping those who will strengthen Army Aviation, and discouraging those who won't. It benefits us all to have good pilots sitting next to us. I have on occasion, had applicants not show on time, get frustrated when I will not help them study for the AFAST, or they choose to skip their interview entirely, but still want a letter. With that guidance, I have yet to have a sincere applicant not get accepted.
Edited by Stearmann4, 15 September 2010 - 17:44.