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Advice for 17-year-old looking to become a crew chief

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Hi all, this is a second post and user in this forum. Hopefully someone with experience in Aviation and Army recruiting will see this.

I am a Dad, former Army myself. Sorry guys, not Aviation. I was OCS, MI, Mech Infantry, Cold War, Fulda Gap.

My 17-year-old son has just finished high school and wants to join the Army with a 15T or 15U MOS. Since I am still his guardian, I want to take advantage of my right, on his behalf, to pick this forum's brains on how to help him. Hopefully all you seasoned pilots can point a youngster in the right direction.

My son's short term goals are learn the airframe, become a crew chief and fly a lot. He's leaning a little towards Blackhawks but he thinks Chinooks are cool too. Medium-term, the idea is qualify for educational assistance and do university/college and a technical degree.  Long-term is military pilot although he's on the fence fixed-wing or rotary. He and I agree he's not grown up enough to have a realistic chance at WO training straight out of high school. With luck he'll take the ASVAB in August.

He's overall an average student but definitely stronger on technical subjects like math and computers. He's into cars and sports (swims competatively). Good kid, not a pothead, not a criminal. He doesn't want to go to college right now, he wants to do something real.

My evaluation as his Father and a former serviceman is that he would perform and enjoy himself better in a field/real mission environment, and worse in a garrison/office environment. He's pretty good at avoiding work especially if it's in a classroom or unsupervised, but as I recall the Army has a lot of practice dealing with that.

His ASVAB practice scores are below the cut off for 15T/15U. But not by much. The recruiter is saying his practice scores are good enough to qualify for aviation MOS like 15W (UAV operator) or 15X (Apache Avionics Repairer). This was a couple of months ago and he's been working his way through an ASVAB practice book since then. The way I read the score cut offs you need a Mechanical Maintenance (MM) score of 104 or better to qualify for 15T/15U, and 102 to qualify for 15W/15X.  

Here is a possible wild card: Although he's overall low-to-mid average on ASVAB scores, my kid scores off the charts on Assembling Objects (AO). He goes through the section in about half the time necessary and unless he bubbles in the wrong space gets everything right. 

So now the questions:

- If when crunch day comes and my boy doesn't score high enough to rate 15T/15U, what MOS would you recommend as as alternatives? He would prefer to stay within the Aviation but the reality is he might not get that, and the more information we have on alternatives the better. If the non-flying Aviation MOS aren't particularly challenging, then maybe he should think some kind of combat arms (although his Mother sure wouldn't be thrilled about that).

- I've dug around in the internet a lot and I can't figure out what effect, if any,  the AO score has on MOS qualification for a new recruit. As a civilian looking at the recruitment process from the outside, if a kid came in and scored ho-hum on his ASVAB, but blew away AO, then a rational recruitment process would somehow take that into account and try and push the kid into an MOS high AO scores show potential for, which is basically complicated mechanical and technical tasks. But this is the Army and I wouldn't be surprised if the only point to the AO section is to give the recruiter information about what direction to steer a potential recruit, and nothing more. Anyone out there know for sure?

-   From where I sit my kid's score on the practice ASVAB for MM, about 102, and what he needs to qualify for 15T/15U, about 104, looks like not very much, only two points. My basic question here is, true or false? More generally, I guess there is some kind of scoring curve working. Maybe MOSes the Army is pushing hard to fill (looks to me anything involving UAVs, for instance) allow the recruiter to accept lower scores than the official minimal cut off. Maybe MOSes where there are a lot of people trying to get into them, and that has to include 15T/15U, the Army allows recuiters to pick and choose, effectively raising the actual minimum MM score above the theoretical 104 minumum. Anyone able to make this less guesswork, I'd really appreciate your input.

- Am I getting normal service standard from our recruiter, and if not, what should I do? We are living in East Europe for my USG job and we are communicating with an SFC recruiter in Wiesbaden, now for about five months. This guy's email response is slow and usually only after I call him. Information is pretty limited and I get very little feeling the guy is particularly interested in putting out any more than the minimum effort. I get that a 17-year-old recruit with ho hum ASVAB practice scores living outside Germany wouldn't be a big priority, and I also get that recruiting overall has to be badly confused with the pandemic and travel bans. But I have to consider the possibility that this recruiter for whatever reason isn't behind my kid's recruitment process, like he should be. I have no way of knowing one way or another so if anyone can help me become better informed, again, much appreciated.

- Finally, thanks to whomever decided to read this far, and a request. As my boy moves into the early months of service life, hopefully in Aviation, I have no doubt whatsoever that I am going to have more parent-type questions. For sure I am going to hear something about an SOP or a supervisor or the work the Army is making my kid do, and I am going to start wondering whether that's normal or a red flag. 

 If anyone out there wants to volunteer to be a mentor for a Dad looking at his son becoming a third generation military member, I would really appreciate it.

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Push your kid to score better and get that 15T/U slot. As a prior enlisted infantryman and current aviator I can promise he’ll enjoy it more. I find the back of a chinook far more comfortable and to be honest I think Chinook crew chiefs have more expected of them so I’d shoot for 15U, although I’m a Blackhawk guy myself. 15X means literally anything in Aviation. Do your due diligence and make damn sure you know what MOS he’s signing up for. Avoid any Apache related jobs as they DO NOT fly. Let me say that again, if your son gets a job as a 15R or 15Y (to include 15X bc you don’t know where he’ll end up) HE WILL NOT FLY. same thing for 15P and 15Q. Let me be clear, the only jobs that can ALMOST guarantee that he’ll fly are 15T and 15U, but even then there’s no guarantee. He might get stuck in a maintenance company and not get to fly. Also avoid all backshops jobs (15B,H, etc. look them up cause I can’t remember them off the top of my head), they do not fly unless they’re lucky. Push your son to study and don’t take sh*t from the recruiter. He works for you not the other way around. Finally there’s a waiver for everything, if he says you can’t get the job you want, find another recruiter and ask them bc there’s a solid chance they just don’t want to do the waiver paperwork. That being said often times the current policy is that they won’t accept waivers for certain circumstances, so if you get a “no” from multiple recruiters, ask to see the policy letter prohibiting that specific waiver. If you can’t get into aviation, there’s always good old fashioned 11B baby! Good luck!

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Hey there pops, 

Here is an important question for you and your son. Do you think at 18 he lacks the aptitude to be a Warrant Officer, or do you two simply think he would not get selected? 

Here is food for thought. I know an 18 year old and a 20 year old (19 when he was selected) who are in flight training with me at this very moment. Both street to seat. The latter individual I know from this forum. 

Your son getting selected is not outside the realm of possibility depending on his relative maturity and aptitude. The Army *really* needs pilots right now. He could shoot for a 110 GT score - not a stretch from 104 - and qualify to apply for WOFT. 

I applied and was selected at 26. Looking back I wish I would have skipped college, tailored a year or two of my life towards becoming a good potential candidate, to get selected around age 20-21. With decent GT and SIFT scores, great PT scores and *a great essay and letters of recommendation* its at least feasible for him to be selected in the coming year or two. 

Whatever he decides to do, he needs to study for the best GT score possible. There are 4 sections of the ASVAB that comprise the GT score which can be specifically studied for. I only scored what I did by studying with specificity. Ill link those 4 sections below, feel free to message if you two have any questions.  

GT score formula:

"The formula is 2VE+AR+MK. Your VE, or verbal expression, score is a combination of your paragraph comprehension and word knowledge scores (VE=PC+WK). That is then doubled and your arithmetic reasoning (AR) and mathematical knowledge (MK) score are added to that."


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Hey Seminole,

Thanks for writing. That's an interesting question.

The short answer is that when he takes the ASVAB for real we'll see if he theoretically qualifies for street-to-seat or not. So we can cross that bridge if and when we come to it. He's studying now and the practice tests show he's improving. We'll see how much.

But to answer your question in long form, even as his biased Dad it looks to me like the kid has pilot potential. He's really detail-focused when it's mechanical, he really likes cars, he's a competitive swimmer, he built a computer and a bicycle for fun, he doesn't like reading unless it's about cars or airplanes, he speaks three languages fluently, and his best subjects were computer programming and math. My instinct is that he would pick up the hands-on part of flying fast. He learns new sports skills quickly, he's physically coordinated, he doesn't rattle easily, he follows instructions well and he is honestly interested in how machines work. True he has next to zero sense of personal safety and self-protection, but who does at that age? 

The problem is discipline to study and master subjects that aren't exciting: I have to admit that here he still needs work. My instinct is that right now he would be in over his head academically in WO school. If and when he learned to study and master classroom material he would be an outstanding flight school candidate, but only if and when.  

If the ASVAB and the GT decide different than my instinct, then I agree skipping college might make a whole lot of sense - and I got the Army to buy me an Ivy League Master's degree. There are times when a spiffy diploma really helps in life and there are definitely times when it's not worth the advertising, is my experience.

Once he's 18 of course what he wants to do is up to him. But the way I figure it, if he starts working in Army aviation age 17-18 then a 2-3 year tour will give him plenty of time for him to decide whether he wants seriously to try to be a helicopter pilot, or just do his time and then take the college money and become a civilian. 

If he decides to try and fly helicopters then surely if he is inside Army aviation as an enlisted that's a pretty good place to buff up his PT score, aviation knowledge, make friends with crusty WOs to be his LOS writers and so on. If he wants to skip/delay college he can do that just as easily in or out of uniform. On the flip side, if he decides he wants to fly but not Army helicopters (TEN years service commitment?), then as far as I know all the other services have college as a pilot candidate prerequisite. 

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