By Master Sgt. Chance Babin
/ Published October 15, 2018
A pair of F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, fly above snow capped mountains. The Air Force Reserve Command has opportunities to fly this aircraft and many more. Read a step-by-step on what it takes to become a pilot in the Reserve. (Courtesy photo)
Becoming a pilot in the Air Force Reserve can be a challenging yet rewarding career opportunity and it is available to more people than one might think. If someone has an interest in flying for the Air Force Reserve, there are more than 100 units out there looking for qualified, motivated individuals.
Current applicants include Air Force officers, officers and warrant officers from other branches, enlisted folks from almost every branch of service and individuals who are wishing to serve for the first time.
“For someone who isn't currently a member of the Air Force Reserve, your first step should always be to contact an Air Force Reserve recruiter,” said 2nd Lt. James Ring. “Your recruiter can be a very helpful asset in navigating your route to success. Your recruiter will ensure that you meet the basic eligibility requirements to join the Air Force Reserve.”
Ring is a former enlisted Airman who was formerly the officer accessions program manager with Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service and is currently awaiting school date to complete his training to become a navigator. He is currently in the Directorate of Air, Space and Information Operations, also known as A3, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. So he has seen the process to becoming a rated officer from both sides.
For those who are not currently a pilot, whether in the Air Force or another service, the initial step an applicant will need to do is take a couple of tests. The first test is the Air Force Officer Qualification Test. The AFOQT ensures applicants meet the minimum standard to be an Air Force officer. The test consists of 12 subtests that make up the scores for five areas.
Additionally, the applicant will need to take the Test of Basic Aviation Skills.
“The TBAS is less knowledge based and more a test of spatial ability and multitasking. It is a computerized test more akin to a video game than traditional tests,” Ring said.
Upon completion of these tests and if the applicant meets minimum standards, the recruiter can assist in scheduling a commissioning physical. For individuals who are not currently serving, this is most often accomplished at the Military Entrance Processing Station.
“Once you have cleared this hurdle, then the hard part is behind you,” Ring said. “Now you just need to figure out in what capacity you want to fly, what you want to fly and where. Do you want to be a fixed wing pilot, helicopter pilot, fighter pilot, or unmanned aircraft pilot? The airframe chosen will determine the location where you could serve.”
When the applicant determines in what capacity he or she would like to fly, it helps narrow down the location available. There are also other opportunities to fly as a rated officer besides being a pilot, such as Combat Systems Officer (CSO) or an Air Battle Manager (ABM). Just talk to your recruiter about these opportunities.
Once you have narrowed down how you want to fly and what you want to fly, your recruiter will provide you a list of the hiring officials for the Reserve units and you will set up interviews.
“Different units do it differently,” Ring said. “Some units have all of their applicants come in on one or two days a year and they meet a board. Other units have each individual come in and they hold an interview similar to civilian companies.”
When it is determined which aircraft you will be flying and where you will be serving, the next step is to get a flight physical to assure you meet all Air Force requirements to attend flight training.
“Once you have passed your flight physical, your application will be evaluated by the Air Force Reserve Command Undergraduate Flying Training Board. Once selected, you can start your training,” Ring said. “The process can be long and at times frustrating but it is totally worth it the first time you get into an Air Force aircraft and start your training.”
“When the board receives your complete application package, you will be evaluated based on the whole-person concept,” said Gordon Olde, undergraduate flying training program manager with A3, Robins AFB. “Parameters such as flight time, sponsorship status, academic grades and test scores are taken into account. If you are selected for a flying training slot, you will be notified by your commander or recruiter and will enter the training pipeline soon thereafter. If you are not selected, you have the opportunity to re-apply to the next available board, provided something in your application (e.g. flight hours, test scores, etc.) has changed. If serving your country as a rated Air Force officer appeals to you, we encourage you to apply!”