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25 years old, college grad, considering applying to military aviation


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Hello,

 

Thank you all for taking the time to read this thread; the purpose of which is to help myself make a decision as to whether or not I should apply to be a military aviator and give up the civilian life.

 

I graduated from college just 4 months ago from a very difficult healthcare program and am now gainfully employed and making a salary of around 100k/year. While it is a great luxury to earn this kind of income at this young of an age, it conflicts with the fact that military aviation is something I've been strongly drawn to for the last 10-15 years and don't want to regret not doing it while the window of opportunity is here.

 

I think that being a military pilot (either rotary or fixed wing), is the absolute coolest thing in the world. I admire every aircraft in the current inventory and also airframes from the past. I'm drawn to the military for several other reasons as well. For the past 10-15 years, this is what I associated myself with and wanted to do. The branch I was considering the most strongly was Army WOFT. In 2009 I began putting my application packet together but then decided to finish my 4 year degree first and got excited about making a good income instead. Now I feel like I lost some of my identity.

 

Meanwhile, my current job is beginning to feel mediocre. After only 3 months of doing it I am already bored of the routine and just really don't see myself being satisfied doing this for a whole career (especially if I sacrificed the military pilot experience to do this instead).

 

As of right now, the only factor holding me back is the good salary I am making. Understandably, some of you may scoff and say that if money is holding me back then I am not dedicated enough to be a military aviator. Please understand that I am only trying to think long term in my life and would like to be financially secure (because I grew up in a financially insecure home and saw how many problems it cause between the parents). I am single, fully healthy, in shape, and without children. The rigorous healthcare program I went through gave me a lot of discipline, integrity, and professionalism. These traits are valuable and I am 100% happy to offer them to the military.

 

If any current/past aviators reading this could share their thoughts or words of wisdom to help, then It would be greatly apprecaited. Please tell me if there is any futher information I can provide that you may believe to be relevant to making an informed decision.

 

Thank you again,

 

-Chris

Edited by droz88
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Droz88,

I am not currently in the army, I'm on this month's board. That being said the advice that I would give you is to pursue your passion. I am 31 and always knew that I wanted this but like you, graduate college and was making a pretty good living but the itch to pursue this never went away even as I made more money. So in short I suggest going for it if it's what you really want, trust me you'll be in your 30s soon and pushing the age limit. Lol. Just my 2 cents.

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As said, follow your passion. When it comes to pay, the Army actually takes pretty good care of you. The benefits are excellent and the retirement is about as good as it gets. If the pay is what's holding you back, I'd suggest looking into the pay scales and benefits that are available online. They add up quickly and particularly if you are single, you'll have plenty of money to be secure and still have fun. When I was a brand new E-2, I didn't know what to do with the money I had and WO pay is significantly better. Will you be making tons of money? No. But you'll do well and be doing something you love every day. It's up to you, but for me it's a no brainier

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Plus 1 what AKscott said. Fly civilian. Or go guard! I'm telling you now...I've met several who were in like situations...made a good living, had good career potential. Now they've been reduced to WO1s and get treated like children. It's hard on them. Most don't get the professional respect they should...the military doesn't work this way. It's all about how long you've been in, not what you've done or earned in the past. For me, even my 8 years + enlisted didn't help. It just made it easier for me because I understood what was coming and how to deal with it.

 

Take it all with a grain of salt, but it would be extremely hard not to regret WOFT coming from your situation. Especially with no conflict in sight and the ones we are in dying down.

Guard would be a viable situation...you'll be utilized in a stateside capacity if needed (depending on airframe) and a national one. I'm at Carson now, and the guard is super busy with the flooding and the last fires this summer. My CAB helped, but it was in a smaller capacity.

 

Good Luck. In the end, serving is something one should never regret! It's an honor, but it's also a sacrifice.

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Droz,

 

I certainly felt the same way you did in regards to salary. From my first job at 15 to my current job now, I've always been in pursuit of the next big raise, or promotion, constantly "chasing the dollar." At 21 I am not far off from you in salary, and on track to be in the same position as you by 25. But I've come to the realization, that not doing what I love now, will make me kick myself later. Like Joe said, a good paying job will always be there, if this is really what you want to do, then do it! I came to the realization that my potential for a large salary was meaningless if I was going to be spending the majority of it on flight training, only to land a job that pays peanuts compared to a WO's salary. However, I do agree with the others in the sense that a desire to serve needs to be an important factor, the military is no place to get rich.

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What's your future earnings potential like? Did you end up working your way into a starting job that's already near the top of your salary range or are there career paths that could have you earning $200k+ by the time you retire? People are going to value job satisfaction differently so you'll have to figure out how much that's worth to you, but the money for pilots in the military isn't bad. If you're capped out at low 6 figures you're not giving up much.

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Keep your job. Fly civilian.

 

You are already setup for more success than most of us.

Depends on how you value "success". Serving an inner call to duty could reward you with life experience and memories you'll be fond of later in life.. When I was an NCO I had 2 Soldiers both with Masters making 100+ they were in their early 30's and enlisted to do one 4 yr service obligation.. The military is all I know, I'm a 22 yr old in flight school with 4 years TIS. My opinion.. Look into the guard you'll get to tickle that aviation itch and live with that salary. If the military life is something you want more of there are programs to go active duty!

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Awesome responses so far guys! Thank you all very very much for the opinions.

 

For reading the posts abovei I am counting 5 saying to go for it and 5 says to fly civilian/go guard. So it's a 50/50 split right now which is where I was to begin with.

 

Yes, the guard is something I am also considering. This route theoretically gives you the best of both worlds. I know the guard applicants go through the same exact training process as the army applicants. However, the 1 weekend/month committment doing basic training/proficiency fIying I wouldn't figure to be anywhere near comparably to the experience you'd have in the army doing it full time and flying real missions. Is this a correct assumption?

 

As for just flying civilian...I thought about it but quickly decided against it. When I took my discovery flight in a Schweizer 300, the flight instructor with me (also 25 years old), told me that hands down the best pilot training you will get in the world is through the US ARMY and, although he said he was currently putting his WOFT packet together, he regretted not doing it from the start and instead paying for all his flight lesson himself. The impression I got was that a civilian flight school will teach you how to fly to varying degrees of proficiency, but Fort Rucker will guaranteed give you top knotch training and make you a real pilot. So in response to this option, I would say no thanks. I'd prefer to get the best training. If you find yourself flying a helicopter as a civilian one day and something goes wrong with the aircraft or find yourself in a tough situation, woudln't you like to have expert training under your belt so you can handle it the best way and possibly save some lives?

 

All in all, very good responses from everyone and some good points (regarding the wars dying down but you never know what's gonna happen with Syria and Iran next). I'll still be pondering this heavily over the next few days but in the mean time am passively starting the preliminary work of putting the packet together.

Edited by droz88
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What's your future earnings potential like? Did you end up working your way into a starting job that's already near the top of your salary range or are there career paths that could have you earning $200k+ by the time you retire? People are going to value job satisfaction differently so you'll have to figure out how much that's worth to you, but the money for pilots in the military isn't bad. If you're capped out at low 6 figures you're not giving up much.

 

Future earning potention is roughly $130k/year. Yes the pay does not increase a whole lot from here in my career field. I see that the current pay for WO1-WO2 is around 3k/month to start and tops around 3.8k/month after a few years. Is this tax free? What other perks are included that can be added to this? I know there is flight pay and hazard pay and various other things like that but those are only a few hundred per months. Do most AD guys not have to pay for food and housing either because those are huge expenses as a civilian. I'm currently trying to estimate the overall compensation package. Is there any information you could share which may not be found online regarding this?

 

Edit: So according to this link:

 

http://militarypay.defense.gov/mpcalcs/calculators/rmc.aspx

 

WO's get a total financial compensation package of around 50-70k/year depending on years of experience. This does not include healthcare benefits, retirement benefits (if you stay 20 years), etc. Considering I make about 65-70k/year after taxes and then have to pay for everything else, I wonder if i'd be giving up any pay at all? Wow...

Edited by droz88
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I'm just a W1, but I'd say go guard if you can keep your same job. That way you just have one weekend a month of equal opportunity, sexual harassment, and resiliency classes instead of all week.

 

Plus 1 what AKscott said. Fly civilian. Or go guard! I'm telling you now...I've met several who were in like situations...made a good living, had good career potential. Now they've been reduced to WO1s and get treated like children. It's hard on them. Most don't get the professional respect they should...the military doesn't work this way. It's all about how long you've been in, not what you've done or earned in the past. For me, even my 8 years + enlisted didn't help. It just made it easier for me because I understood what was coming and how to deal with it.

 

Take it all with a grain of salt, but it would be extremely hard not to regret WOFT coming from your situation. Especially with no conflict in sight and the ones we are in dying down.

Guard would be a viable situation...you'll be utilized in a stateside capacity if needed (depending on airframe) and a national one. I'm at Carson now, and the guard is super busy with the flooding and the last fires this summer. My CAB helped, but it was in a smaller capacity.

 

Good Luck. In the end, serving is something one should never regret! It's an honor, but it's also a sacrifice.

 

Rob and AW1985,

 

Great posts and good points. I spoke with an army helicopter mechanic a few years ago and he said that the ARMY is full of so much BS and inefficiency that it made him hate some parts of it. What you both just said runs along the same line as what he said. Do the WO pilots get treated poorly or disrespectfully at all? Or have to put up with a lot of senselessness?

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Thank you for the link and a double thank you for the PDF file outlining the process of applying to WOFT. Very valuable information and really shows your committment.

No worries, glad I could help!

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Rob and AW1985,

 

Great posts and good points. I spoke with an army helicopter mechanic a few years ago and he said that the ARMY is full of so much BS and inefficiency that it made him hate some parts of it. What you both just said runs along the same line as what he said. Do the WO pilots get treated poorly or disrespectfully at all? Or have to put up with a lot of senselessness?

 

Nobody is going to accurately describe to you what it's like to be in the Army. It's something you're going to have to take a leap of faith into.

 

Yes I have been treated poorly and disrespectfully. That's what happens when you're the new guy. If you're a good dude you will quickly be brought into the fold and that will go away. From then on you will begin to build your experience and your reputation and will soon become looked at as an expert and professional. Just realize that it doesn't happen overnight.

 

It's a good job and there will be many things you enjoy about it. There will be many things you don't. There are so many variables it's impossible to tell you what kind of experience you are going to have. I have loved mine and have absolutely no regrets.

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Not to mention individual experiences will vary. Nothing is more true than what buzzkill just said, the only way you'll know is if you just do it. I jumped in 7 years ago and got out in 2009 with zero regrets and am eagerly awaiting a phone call right now hopefully telling me I'm coming back in. Take that as you will.

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As for just flying civilian...I thought about it but quickly decided against it. When I took my discovery flight in a Schweizer 300, the flight instructor with me (also 25 years old), told me that hands down the best pilot training you will get in the world is through the US ARMY and, although he said he was currently putting his WOFT packet together, he regretted not doing it from the start and instead paying for all his flight lesson himself. The impression I got was that a civilian flight school will teach you how to fly to varying degrees of proficiency, but Fort Rucker will guaranteed give you top knotch training and make you a real pilot. So in response to this option, I would say no thanks. I'd prefer to get the best training. If you find yourself flying a helicopter as a civilian one day and something goes wrong with the aircraft or find yourself in a tough situation, woudln't you like to have expert training under your belt so you can handle it the best way and possibly save some lives?

 

Civilian training can be as good as you want it to be. There are places out there where a ppl can get advanced training (Western for instance) and be just as capable as any military pilot. Besides being an awesome pilot in a Blackhawk doesn't mean you'll be an awesome pilot in an R44!

 

Just sayin? :D

 

Best of luck to you!

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Civilian training can be as good as you want it to be. There are places out there where a ppl can get advanced training (Western for instance) and be just as capable as any military pilot. Besides being an awesome pilot in a Blackhawk doesn't mean you'll be an awesome pilot in an R44!

 

Just sayin? :D

 

Best of luck to you!

But it must say somthing when awesome R44/22 pilots (like two of the top seeds on todays board) can't wait to fly blackhawks (or kiowas) :-D

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