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Downsides of Army Aviation?


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#1 John Denver

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 12:52

I am a 30 year old male turning 31 this July. I have been in the Air National Guard for 11 years as an F-16 Crew Chief. I've lurked on this forum for several years and am working on getting a package together. In my research into getting picked up for WOFT, I have had countless individuals both online and offline tell me how great being a warrant officer is. As someone who has always wanted to fly for the military, it seems like a perfect opportunity.

However, I know from looking back on my prior service career that it isn't all the sunshine and rainbows you think it's going to be when you first sign your contract. Though I don't regret joining the military one bit, I do wish I would have paid more attention to the downsides of the job I selected. I know there are upsides and downsides you can't truly comprehend until you are in them, but I do want to be as informed as I can about what I am really signing up for, especially with what I've heard about the exodus of Army aviators leaving bonus money on the table to go fly for the airlines.



My main question is what are the downsides of Army Aviation and the Army in general? In your experience are they worth the upsides?

Hidden figures f*cked my life. I'm not even sure I got a single one right lmao. It was like the most impossible shape to recognize, and it didn't change the whole time I was taking the test, like on the practice test they have easy ones like a house. Mine was a house that was engulfed in flames with a giant dragon running out of the garage. sh*t was insane. The figure it was hidden in looked like a thousand lines to me. I felt stupid.- luofynerd


#2 takefootoff

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 15:35

You might actually have to do PT if you go green, like good Ole PT formations...might even sing a jody or two.
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#3 cwil7280

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 08:55

I miss being an E-4 in the Air National Guard lol. The pay is better as a warrant, and flying is fun most of the time, but the Army is is really good at making everything suck even when it doesn't have to. There are little things that I didn't expect when I made the jump. For example, in the Air Guard I had never heard of someone sharing a hotel room when TDY. When I got to flight school and thrown into honors detachment, I was surprised to find out that to save money, the Army will put two people in each hotel room. Don't expect the Embassy Suites like you're probably used too either, you and your battle buddy get to share a $60 room at the motel 6. That's Army Officer life.

 

It's a petty example, and obviously that wouldn't be a deal breaker for being a pilot, but expect life to be a lot more frustrating. The living conditions are generally worse, the leadership is overall less competent, there is a higher workload with less personnel, and the overall quality of everything in the Army is just lower. But, you get to fly helicopters! and after your ADSO, if the Army isn't your thing you can always jump back to the AF as a commissioned guy and fly for them. Especially if you have some contacts already in your current job.

 

Bottom line, I love flying helicopters. It's a great feeling when you are actually doing real world missions, helping the ground force, and watching porta potties blow away in your rotor wash as you come in to land. It's awesome. Unfortunately, that's only about 10% or less of what you'll be doing. The rest of the time you will be doing a job (or several more realistically) that is totally unrelated to aviation and that you have received literally zero training on how to accomplish. That would be my biggest complaint. The rest I pretty much expected when I joined the Army.

 

Oh, and no one takes your trays for you when you're done eating at the DFAC. I didn't know that my first time on an Army post lol.


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#4 Thedude

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 12:28

Being a pilot is one of the last things on the list of duties you’ll have as a warrant officer. You’ll struggle to make the minimum flight hours and fly a machine that would be grounded in any commercial fleet that actually had safety regulations and a bottom line to maintain. It’s a fun job most of the time when you get to fly but the rest of it can be a morale killer. Upside is pay is pretty good andrew it’s almost impossible to get kicked out. You can pretty much be an oxygen thief right now and will still get retained and promoted.
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#5 SBuzzkill

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 18:29

Don't get too wrapped up in the "how it used to be" or "how it should be" stories.  There's a lot of unhappy campers in Army Aviation right now and they're going to tell you non-stop about the good old days.  It's a very boom or bust business and if you get sucked into the negatives you're going to hate it even in the good times.  

 

Having said that, I'm fortunate to have ended my time with a great gig but I do look forward to getting out.  Here's why:

 

  • Additional duties can be soul crushing in the wrong unit.  If you are short manned and have a "no-fail" commander, you're going to be spending long days just trying to keep your head above water as you take on more and more tasks.  The flip side is that in a healthy unit they can be very rewarding and you can see a direct impact in your unit's performance.
  • PT tests, in particular height and weight is just added stress for a guy like me.  I have wide hips and a skinny neck, which is extremely unforgiving for the Army's tape test.  And unfortunately even in my best shape I always had to get taped.  Most people don't have a problem with it, but for me it's just a part of the Army experience that I completely hate.  On the flip side, I'm an oddball and have always enjoyed unit PT.  Imagine that.
  • I'm tired of living in out of the way places.  I knew coming in that I'd have a duty station or two that weren't the best.  Rucker to Drum to NTC has been kind of a drag.  The flip side is that I have greatly enjoyed many things about every place I've been.  But I figured I'd get at least one cool assignment in there.  HA!
  • Army Aviation is an after-thought.  Being a good Aviator is very demanding, but you're going to be so buried in 350-1 training and additional duties that you will struggle to stay on top of your true purpose on the battlefield.  Aviation units are generally very small, but are expected to accomplish all the same tasks that any other company in the Army would do.  When the COMET team comes down to inspect your footprint they will evaluate you with the same scale as a larger unit and it doesn't matter that you have 5 other jobs and are the only armorer.  I don't think it'll ever change.
  • Your flight time will be half that of your peers who didn't choose to fly in the military.  You'll get out after 8 years as an aviator and be competing for jobs against folks who started flying 2 years ago.  You may or may not be at an advantage.  The flip side is that you'll be well-rounded, and you'll have been earning a paycheck from day one that allows you to support a family.  In fact you'll live quite comfortably.
  • My last major reason I'm getting out is my family.  I am ready to put down roots, not have to leave home for 9-12 months at a time, and spend quality time with my family in my home state.  We have missed out on so many things these past 9 years, it feels like we just sort of put our original lives on hold and we're getting ready to press play again. 
  • Oh I forgot.  Politics.  I'm serving a country that is asleep at the f*cking wheel.

So anyways, I can't recommend this job to everyone, as it takes a certain type of person to do it well.  But if you have the right character and drive I think it's a great deal.  I have learned so much, made lifelong friends, and am proud of what I've done.


Edited by SBuzzkill, 14 April 2018 - 18:30.

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#6 mike0331

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 22:20

I have to laugh at the hotel issues. The AF really busses your tables?
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#7 cwil7280

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 00:45

The AF really busses your tables?

 

Yeah, on every AF installation I've been on they do. I went to Ft. Dix TDY once, ate on the Army side of post, and left my tray behind when I walked away. Some Staff Sergeant started yelling at me saying, "They don't teach you to clean up after yourself in the Air Force?" and I said, "You don't have people for that?"  Turns out they don't.


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#8 mike0331

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 09:50

hahahaha. I remember I considered it a bonus when they found any permanent structure for us to sleep in. I've been in a hotel courtesy of the USMC once, and it was like 5-6 of us to a room. 2-3 per bed. 

 

Mike


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#9 SBuzzkill

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 12:02

That depends on your unit and leadership.  I've flown across the country quite a few times and while we did often double up to save space, which hotel we stayed at was always at our discretion (within reason).



#10 Thedude

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 12:28

Commands will always try to cheap out on TDY expenses. Fortunately there’s this thing called JFTR that says what they can and can’t do if you want to make them do it right.
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#11 Dnr032

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 07:43

There are certain AF AFSC's (ie MOS's) that support the Army and are therefore assigned to Army Installations.  These are Air Force Weather and Air Support Operations Squadrons (coordinate the CAS for the Army Commander).  When assigned to and living on Army Installations, these AF guys receive additional pay for 'sub-standard living conditions' from the AF. 

 

Draw your own conclusions.....


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#12 niner5

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 11:37

I miss being an E-4 in the Air National Guard lol. The pay is better as a warrant, and flying is fun most of the time, but the Army is is really good at making everything suck even when it doesn't have to. There are little things that I didn't expect when I made the jump. For example, in the Air Guard I had never heard of someone sharing a hotel room when TDY. When I got to flight school and thrown into honors detachment, I was surprised to find out that to save money, the Army will put two people in each hotel room. Don't expect the Embassy Suites like you're probably used too either, you and your battle buddy get to share a $60 room at the motel 6. That's Army Officer life.

 

It's a petty example, and obviously that wouldn't be a deal breaker for being a pilot, but expect life to be a lot more frustrating. The living conditions are generally worse, the leadership is overall less competent, there is a higher workload with less personnel, and the overall quality of everything in the Army is just lower. But, you get to fly helicopters! and after your ADSO, if the Army isn't your thing you can always jump back to the AF as a commissioned guy and fly for them. Especially if you have some contacts already in your current job.

 

Bottom line, I love flying helicopters. It's a great feeling when you are actually doing real world missions, helping the ground force, and watching porta potties blow away in your rotor wash as you come in to land. It's awesome. Unfortunately, that's only about 10% or less of what you'll be doing. The rest of the time you will be doing a job (or several more realistically) that is totally unrelated to aviation and that you have received literally zero training on how to accomplish. That would be my biggest complaint. The rest I pretty much expected when I joined the Army.

 

Oh, and no one takes your trays for you when you're done eating at the DFAC. I didn't know that my first time on an Army post lol.

You can be in honor guard during flight school? I thought all you did during flight school was fly. At least this is what my recruiter said. He also said that warrant officer pilots didn't do much else other than fly their assign aircraft. 

 

Not mitigating the importance of honor guard BUT do they really spend millions of $$ to train pilots and tell them to go to funerals? 



#13 Nic.kirkland

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 12:22

You can be in honor guard during flight school? I thought all you did during flight school was fly. At least this is what my recruiter said. He also said that warrant officer pilots didn't do much else other than fly their assign aircraft. 

 

Not mitigating the importance of honor guard BUT do they really spend millions of $$ to train pilots and tell them to go to funerals? 

 

Flight school students are on details supporting funerals, SERE school, and some other administrative tasks during holding periods between phases of instruction. Those periods usually range from 2 weeks to several months.



#14 Thedude

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 14:14

You can be in honor guard during flight school? I thought all you did during flight school was fly. At least this is what my recruiter said. He also said that warrant officer pilots didn't do much else other than fly their assign aircraft. 
 
Not mitigating the importance of honor guard BUT do they really spend millions of $$ to train pilots and tell them to go to funerals?


I spent close to six months on funeral detail at Rucker in bubbles after BOLC and after selection. Your recruiter probably didn't lie to you on purpose, he just doesn't know what really happens in aviation. As a junior warrant you will do everything and flying will be a secondary job.

#15 Tradewinds

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 18:03

You can be in honor guard during flight school? I thought all you did during flight school was fly. At least this is what my recruiter said. He also said that warrant officer pilots didn't do much else other than fly their assign aircraft. 

 

 

Is it considered rude to Laugh for a prolonged period of time.


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#16 SBuzzkill

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 19:58

You can be in honor guard during flight school? I thought all you did during flight school was fly. At least this is what my recruiter said. He also said that warrant officer pilots didn't do much else other than fly their assign aircraft. 

 

Not mitigating the importance of honor guard BUT do they really spend millions of $$ to train pilots and tell them to go to funerals? 

 

 

Do a bit of reading and searching around this website.  I averaged ~16 hours a month during my 9 years in the Army, generally flying about 3-4 hours per mission.  I'll let you do the math on how often you'll be in the air.


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#17 highside7r

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 05:26

JD, why not stay ANG and find a UPT slot in a system you are already familiar with? I was reading age waivers are typically a go now.  I was AD Navy and came over with 2 wars going on and the Army needing guys. The only bonus then was for select AH-64 tracks and a buddy tried to convince me to convert! I was able to watch the transition from always being gone to deployed "garrison" and as mentioned the "old school" WO ways. I'm grateful to have had those guys as my mentors early on, mustaches and all.

 

If you set on going Army, look at RC or ArNG units verse going active given many of the reasons listed above. I was able to work with them as an active guy and they always seemed happy, flew a lot more than I did, and didn't have to move all the time. I even tried to go back Navy and called an AFRC unit that had slots, but no age waivers.


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DUSTOFF

#18 mike0331

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 08:58

I will say based off what I've read my decision to go Guard seems constantly reinforced. Haven't been there yet, but my guard friends fly a lot, get school slots (IP, HAATS, etc), and don't do much other stuff save a couple days a year of mandatory SHARP classes and APFTs and whatnot. Also seem to be ample deployment opportunities. 

 

Mike


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#19 Fox 21 Alpha

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 22:51

 

Yeah, on every AF installation I've been on they do. I went to Ft. Dix TDY once, ate on the Army side of post, and left my tray behind when I walked away. Some Staff Sergeant started yelling at me saying, "They don't teach you to clean up after yourself in the Air Force?" and I said, "You don't have people for that?"  Turns out they don't.

My tech school for the Navy was on an air force base. Me and some of my classmates went to dinner at towards the end of the meal hour when it was pretty empty. We walked around with our trays for 5 minutes looking like idiots trying to find the "scullery/dishwasher" window that we always had to take our trays to. The AF guys there found it pretty entertaining


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#20 mike0331

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Posted 21 April 2018 - 06:55

My college didn't even bus our tables. 

 

Mike






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