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Life as an Army Helicopter Pilot


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I'm considering applying to be a Helicopter pilot in the Army. For those in the know, please tell me a bit about life as an Army pilot.

 

One of my greatest concerns is that I have a 2yr old daughter, how often would I be able to see her?

im with you on this one sort of... i have a two year old at home also and wife and a newly purchased house... would it be feasable to keep the new house and leave them at home here in arizona while i go play army pilot and come home on my leaves or what are your thoughts army warriors...???

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During your training, you will get to see your family plenty. When you are assigned to a unit, it will depend on their deployment cycle. I enlisted in the Army when my daughter was three months old, followed by an unaccompanied tour overseas. I was able to be home for her first birthday, but she was 18 months old when I got home.

 

When I went to Warrant Officer Candidate School, my son was one month old. I moved my family to Fort Rucker after WOCS and got to enjoy much of his first year. Before the current conflict, getting to spend time with your family was easy. Deployments or field exercises lasted from a week to a month and a half. All bets are off now. Right now, the deployment cycle isn't easy. You have to balance your desire to fly for the military with what you want for your family.

 

Family separation isn't easy. Historically, the United States Army shared the divorce rate with the rest of the country. Right now, I believe the Army is way ahead. So, I'm not going to say that leaving your family is a good plan. If you leave by choice, it "says" something different than if you leave because the Army makes you. All parts of the family unit need all the other parts of the family unit.

 

If you use up your leave to see your family during training or while you are at home station, what leave will you have to see them with when you're deployed?

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I'm here at Rucker now. A lot of my friends are doing just that. Their wives and families are at home and they see them on leave. I'm in a little different situation. My wife is Army too and we're stationed apart. She's only about 6 hours away so I get to see her every now and then. If I were you, I would try to find a way to get your family there too. You'll be at Rucker for a while. In most cases, it's worth it. As far as what life is like as a pilot. Someone else will have to help with that. I'm still too new to know.

 

Blake

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Thanks for the replies gentlemen. My situation is; I'm recently divorced. I have my little one 3 and a half days per week. Should I apply and be accepted into WOFT my little girl would stay with her mother. So they would not accompany me to where I was stationed for training and beyond that point.

 

Can you pick where you might be stationed when not deployed? Please forgive my ignorance, but I would be applying through the "street to seat" program and my knowledge of how and where someone is stationed is limited.

 

Considering my specific dynamic, how often would I be able to see my little girl? Can you do video conferences and if so, how often?

 

Thanks

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You have some choice, but ultimately, it comes down to availability of your airframe at that location and the Army's need for pilots at that location. Your ability to choose is also affected by that unit's deployment cycle. If they are currently deployed and have left only recently, you won't be able to fly for a while, and odds are you will not deploy to meet them.

 

In the Army, a Soldier earns 2.5 days of leave a month, or 30 days a year. Depending on how far away your daughter and ex-wife live, will also determine how much leave you will use up, versus how many passes you will take.

 

Overseas, there is video conferencing, but it is setup between the deployed location and the home station. Other than that, most people use an instant messenger with video to stay in touch. The quality of the video depends on how much bandwidth is available.

 

The bottom line is that, if you apply and are selected, you will not be able to spend anywhere near the time with your daughter that you get to spend now.

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NO.

Believe half of what you see and nothing they tell you.

 

I'll take that advice, thanks.

 

So, what is the truth behind the "street to seat"? The recruiter says that I need to take the necessary tests and pass with the appropriate scores, submit my application along with my college credit, get recommendations, and go before a review board.

 

Should the review board decided to accept me, I will allowed into WOFT. How much of an over simplification is this?

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For the original guy there, have you maybe checked into the guard? I know AZ has a decent amount there cause they run WAATS, which is our centralized training school (transitions, etc).

 

That'd get you both flying for the Army & stationed at home with the time to see your kid, but it's also not a full-time gig in most cases, and it's still basically 2yrs away from home training before you come back to that situation. Still, sounds like a better overall fit.

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dnall,

yeah i checked into it for the same line of thinking that you are having. the bad part is im a little hesitant about signing up with a different MOS then pilot and then getting shafted into never going to WOFT. if i join the military it'll be to fly and fly only, otherwise im staying civilian.

 

p.s., i live like 5 minutes from WAATS. they fly over ALL the time

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dnall,

yeah i checked into it for the same line of thinking that you are having. the bad part is im a little hesitant about signing up with a different MOS then pilot and then getting shafted into never going to WOFT. if i join the military it'll be to fly and fly only, otherwise im staying civilian.

 

p.s., i live like 5 minutes from WAATS. they fly over ALL the time

 

I understand that thinking, but it's BS. I came here to fly & refused to accept anything else & that's what happened. If you contract for active duty WOFT and don't make it at Rucker, guess what happens.

 

We're short on pilots in the guard. Some units more than others. Mine as an example has over 30 entry-level WO slots that I literally cannot find qualified (pass an ASVAB/AFAST & physical) non-douche people to fill, and that's my job. I got training seats every quarter and some of them end up getting turned back to NGB cause I can't put butts in seats. And this is an outstanding unit flying Apaches.

 

Yeah the fact is you have to enlist for something. I can't get around that. But, we deal with people off the street that are enlisting expressly to apply for WO pilot slots. We can qualify them before they enlist, and we track them through the whole process. The fact is I need a qualified WO pilot about ten thousand times more than I need one more mechanic or whatever else.

 

I'm not a recruiter. I don't care if more people join the guard or not. The fact is the guard overall is overstrength. My state is over by more than 2000 people. And, my unit is something like 120% on the enlisted side too. My HHC here is almost 200% strength, but again we're critically short of pilots. I care about putting people I want to fly with for a long long time in cockpits.

 

We don't screw people over. People sometimes screw themselves over. I see people enlist saying they're going to go WOFT & can't make a GT score or can't pass an AFAST or have some medical issue that blows a physical or end up in legal trouble. And every time they want to turn around and blame the Army for their problems. I got no sympathy for that. If you're qualified & stay that way then we'll get you to training.

 

If you're scared of sitting in an enlisted job forever, enlist on a 1-2 year contract. If it doesn't work out, you're gone. If you decide you still want active duty, then go ahead and put in your WOFT packet. We have to release you to that & the selection rate for enlisted versus civilian is about 3 times better.

 

Is there a risk, sure but it's a really tiny one that's almost entirely in your control as long as you do your homework & keep working to achieve your goals. And you can do a lot to mitigate that. We got a couple tricks in our bag too. If this is what you want to do then go it. If it's going to jack up your family & life, then don't. That's your call.

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that I literally cannot find qualified (pass an ASVAB/AFAST & physical) non-douche people to fill,

 

 

That has to be the best quote in a while... dnall... send me a PM with your email address. I know a few guys that are qual'd Apache CE's, are now Chinook FE's, and want to put in a Warrant Packet. Good dudes, just not sure they will get a slot here.

 

Are you out of WAATS?

 

 

CHAD

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That has to be the best quote in a while... dnall... send me a PM with your email address. I know a few guys that are qual'd Apache CE's, are now Chinook FE's, and want to put in a Warrant Packet. Good dudes, just not sure they will get a slot here.

 

Are you out of WAATS?

 

 

CHAD

 

Sent. I'm in Houston.

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ok so for HOOKER and POGUE...

 

if you were to start over from scratch and lets say you were gonna go AZGaurd... what mos would you pick and what would be the terms of your joining, i.e., contract signing negotiations... basically if you could have a clean slate and join the gaurd what would you do from step one all the way to flight school... that would help me out tremendously.

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ok so for HOOKER and POGUE...

 

if you were to start over from scratch and lets say you were gonna go AZGaurd... what mos would you pick and what would be the terms of your joining, i.e., contract signing negotiations... basically if you could have a clean slate and join the gaurd what would you do from step one all the way to flight school... that would help me out tremendously.

 

 

That is a hard question... because this is for ME, not anyone else.

 

 

I would pick 15U Chinook Crewchief because I absolutely love chinooks, and once they get experience, our crew dawgs fly with us. I would make sure I got E3 (or E4 if you have a degree) and make sure I got a bonus... Then start talking to everyone (mostly my supervisor, S1, and the Battalion Commander) to start working on my packet. You can put a packet in as soon as you get back from BCT/AIT

 

 

Again, that's what I would do, my opinion, any nothing more.

 

 

CHAD

Edited by FLHooker
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Well, first of all I'd look at the various National Guard web sites for general enlistment information. Then check out the http://azguard.gov for the Arizona National Guard.

Find out what kind of units the state has and where they're at.

For aviation, if you want to live in Tuscon the WAATS is closest, so you would be looking primarily at AH-64D, although I think they've still got a couple of OH-58C's as well. If you're looking at the Phoenix area, that's where the UH-60A's are at. Be advised that you can always travel for drills.

My smarta$$ 88M comments aside, the MOS is not a show stopper, but I would go for an aviation MOS that you would enjoy doing for a while. 15R and 15T are Apache and Blackhawk Repairer respectively and would give you some operational background that wouldn't hurt later on. However any aviation (15 Series) MOS works if there's something that interests you. Non aviation MOS's can be selected as well, so if the unit you decide you're interested in only has slots for fuel handlers at the moment you might not want to rule that out. Remember, you will work in your MOS and how well you do that job is going to be a factor in getting those recommendation letters you'll need. While you're looking at units, find out what their deployment schedule is.

You will need to talk to a recruiter - find one who's office is at the aviation facility you decide you're interested in. That makes it a lot easier to get access to the unit. Get all of your testing and physicals -including the flight physical- done before you sign up.

This is going to sound stupid, but I'm not sure what the current initial enlistment terms are. I enlisted years ago in the Navy and then used the "Try 1" program that was available for prior service to check the Guard out. There are generally minimum service obligation requirements based on schools. I just re up every 3 years, myself.

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Reality check.

 

You're not going to get on at WAATS. It is a schoolhouse, and they don't have positions for WO1s. You are actually going to be talking to 1st Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment. It is an Apache Longbow battalion located next door (still at Pinal County Air Park). I was an enlisted soldier in this battalion in the early 90s.

 

There are no OH-58A/C aircraft that belong to the Battalion. The OH-58A/C at the WAATS are training birds for RAID programs.

 

The AASF#1 in Phoenix has UH-60 aircraft.

 

When I left that unit and enlisted to go Active Army, the career counselor asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that I wanted to become a Warrant Officer. He told me that I needed to stay near the people who would be able to help me get there. If you're going Guard, any aviation MOS is going to keep you around aviation. Whether that puts you in touch with people who will help you remains to be seen.

 

The Guard is a different world. It isn't civilian, and it isn't quite military...or rather it is subjectively military, as in as military as it suits whomever at the time. I say this with all due respect to those who are currently serving in the Guard and posting on this board, but it is a different animal and my experience has been that because it is caught between the State and its Federal obligations, it really is its own world.

 

Caveat emptor and good luck.

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awesome. thanks for the pointers guys. that helps me out alot. so basically pick an mos that has to do with aviation like crewchief or repairer or something like that. that will keep me close to and in contact with the ppl i need to help me go to WOFT. and thanks for the website ideas about the gaurd and units as well.

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I don't really think it's important to have a 15-series MOS. I do think it's very helpful to be in an aviation unit with the officers/WOs that can help you. There's a lot of non-AV MOS's in an AV unit though, especially HHC. I don't want to dissuade anyone from a 15-series job, just that the schools are kind of long compared to the alternatives.

 

As far as a 15-series job... mechanic jobs are going to help you with systems when you get to flight school, but you won't be as exposed to pilots. Crew chiefs in 60s/47s (not 64s) will fly with the airframe, so that's bonus. I personally recommend 15P. That's going to help you on the flight planning side, puts you in the S3 section where the operations/training decisions are made, and I think expose you to more pilots in a pilot setting (versus greasy mechanic fixing my bird - no offense to greasy mechanics). Plus, it gives you mobility to different units/airframes if there turns out not to be a slot where you are.

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If you have a collge degree, there are other options beside Army WO. The Navy has AOCS, which guarantees you an aviation spot and a commission as an Ensign once you finish AOCS. It may be slightly harder to get into, but allows you to skip the enlisted time prior to AOCS.

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