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Old 08-27-2009, 06:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Thinking about the Air Force Reserves

Hello,
I am a 22-year-old grad student in aerospace engineering, working on my ph.d, which I hope to finish by the time I'm 26. I've got 230 TT, including PPL, instrument rating, and I'm working on my commercial.

Here's a thought I have had lately, and I'd like to hear your opinions:
After I finish my ph.d, take a year or two, join the Air Force Reserve and try to get a pilot position. (I think I will be fairly competitive). Then, go after a civilian career while hopefully doing Air Force Reserve stuff no more than 2 weekends a month and the occasional longer gig when I can get vacation time from work.

I plan to work in Atlanta for some years after I finish my ph.d and join the air force reserve, and there are two AFB's within driving range: Dobbins and Robbins.

Now time for the questions:
1. I'm ambitious. Will being in the Air Force Reserve stifle my civilian career?
2. After my initial training (I can set aside about 2 years for that), is a few weekends a month realistic for a day-to-day commitment?
3. For those of you in the Air Force Reserve, what has been the hardest part?
4. If my civilian job offers me a promotion to move out to CA or something, and there are AFB's within driving range there, how difficult is it to change squadrons?
5. For those of you in the Air Force Reserve, what is your ACTUAL commitment, both on a monthly and yearly basis?

OK, thanks for all the help,
-Will
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Old 08-27-2009, 07:51 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Will, I'll try to answer the questions as well as I can. Some others on the board may have different views than I do.

1. Depends on your career. I can only answer as an airline pilot. So it has helped my career. Looking back being a trougher was probably the best part of my career so far.
2. A few weekends a month is not realistic. Initially they will want you around the squadron quite a bit while they get you up to speed. Then as your experience grows you can start spending less time keeping your currencies. I would say 5-6 days a month is what you can expect to spend working with the reserves, not counting exercises, deployments, and the like.
3. The most difficult part about being a reservist is the time spent away from family and friends.
4. Depends on the a/c you fly, and whether or not the squadrons in the area are hiring.
5. The commitment is much more than advertised by recruiters. Like I stated above at least five days a month on a quiet month. Then you'll have annual sims which can be another five days a year. An annual deployment which can range from 2 weeks to 90 days.

I'm not trying to be discouraging, but it is a large time commitment. I joined the reserves ten years ago, and I believe it has been one of my best decisions. I serve my country, and I do it with people that I call my friends. I'd say that's a time commitment with pretty good job satisfaction.

good luck
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Old 08-27-2009, 08:14 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
1. I'm ambitious. Will being in the Air Force Reserve stifle my civilian career?
That depends entirely on what your civilian career is. Airlines? Won't hurt one bit.

Corporate America? Won't kill you, but it will dampen your promotion opportunities some because they know you will be gone at possible inconvenient times.

Academia? Would probably not hurt you, since you could focus your annual training during the summer break.

Note that you never have to use vacation for reserve duty. You do as much reserves as you want/need to and legally they cannot hold it against you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
2. After my initial training (I can set aside about 2 years for that), is a few weekends a month realistic for a day-to-day commitment?
For a reserve flying job, you probably need at least 4+ days/month but they don't necessarily have to be all in a row. For a non-flying job 2 days might be OK.

Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
3. For those of you in the Air Force Reserve, what has been the hardest part?
It is usually initial training, life is much better after that. But deployments to the middle east might not be a load of fun either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
4. If my civilian job offers me a promotion to move out to CA or something, and there are AFB's within driving range there, how difficult is it to change squadrons?
If there is an opening in a squadron that flies the airplane you are trained on, not too hard usually. But odds are you would have to travel some distance or get retrained on a new airplane (time consuming, and the unit may or may not be willing to pay for it).

Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
5. For those of you in the Air Force Reserve, what is your ACTUAL commitment, both on a monthly and yearly basis?
Actual legal minimum for all federal branches is 2 days/month and two weeks (12 day) per year. But most military reserves (flying or otherwise) do more than that. If you don't drill enough you will not get promoted and could get asked to leave. Note that the military has an up-or-out promotion system...generally if you do not make O-4 (Major / Lieutenant Commander) you will not be allowed to stay long enough to earn the retirement.
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Old 08-27-2009, 10:27 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Will,

From reading your post I get the impression that you may not fully understand the commitment that will be required of you to be an AF reserve pilot. Let's run down a plausible timeline that would meet the criteria you set forth.

Will is 26. Gets hired by a reserve unit in GA. Off the top of my head I think there may be C-130's, not sure but that's not really important. The selection process if pretty tough but since you are "competitive" you should have a good shot. However, any unit who hires a guy off the street is going to expect some serious up front time commitment.

Will goes to OTS for 12 weeks. Next he goes to UPT for 52 weeks. Following UPT he goes to his follow-on training for his aircraft specific indoc. This can last from 3 months to a year depending on what aircraft you will fly. Once Will shows up to his unit with wings on his chest 2+ years have passed since his PhD. Will is now 28+.

Next, your unit will want some payback on the investment they have made on you. I can't speak for all units but in the C-17 world new hires are expected to be on orders (read full time) for a majority of their first year or two. This allows the unit to train, equip and ready you for global operations in the hope that some day you'll be sitting in the left seat calling the shots.

At this point you are roughly 3 years from your start point in becoming an Air Force reserve pilot. In the meantime, you will not have been able to hold down a corporate job and the demands on your time from the Air Force will have been invasive. If all these thoughts have already been considered then I will say the guys above have done a good job of answering your questions and I have nothing to add.

Good luck in whatever path you choose!
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Old 08-27-2009, 11:05 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Man, those recruiters will tell you anything, it seems like.

The recruiters on chat on the website had me convinced that in a year away from my civilian job I could be fully trained and active as a weekend reservist pilot [returning then to my civilian job], flying a few weekends a month and some other pseudo-optional activities during the summer.

The notion of having 3 years away from my civilian job isn't necessarily deal-breaking, but it's upsetting that the recruiters hardly agree with one another, much less with people who've actually been through the process...

Last edited by runge; 08-27-2009 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 08-27-2009, 11:15 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Maybe 3 years is on the conservative side but when you consider the following:

OTS - 12 weeks
UPT - 52 weeks
MWS training - 12-26 weeks
SERE - 2 weeks
Unit mission qual training - 6-12 weeks

If you take the minimum amount of time above you are still looking at 1.5 years just to be considered a "weekend" reserve pilot. Guaranteed, there will be breaks in time between each one of these events, often measured in months and not weeks.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but recruiters will tell you anything in order to get their quotas met.
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Old 08-27-2009, 11:20 AM   #7 (permalink)
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What is MWS? And SERE?
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Old 08-27-2009, 11:31 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
What is MWS? And SERE?
MWS is training on your specific aircraft type IIRC.

SERE is Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. It's only two weeks but it seems much longer...probably the least pleasant part of the whole training process.
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Old 08-27-2009, 01:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runge View Post
What is MWS? And SERE?
Will -

Take EP11's above advice to heart and think long and hard before etching any plans in stone. As a former Reserve baby C130 guy, based at Dobbins ARB, he is spot on with what will be expected of you. Shacked it...same deal at every base.

I got lucky and had the timing down - they needed to send a local-yocal fresh-fish to UPT, and I happened to be a Marietta boy and fit the bill (keep in mind I'd flown for ASA for 2.5 years and had 4000+hrs)...who knows how many apps they have on file now? -

Right place, right time.

Good luck to you and stay away from the airline business. PM me when you get enough posts if you'd like.

J
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Old 08-27-2009, 03:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I am not an Air Force reserev Officer. i am an Army reserev Officer in Atlanta and I can tell you these guys are right on the money. Yes, Dobbins is a C-130 training base. Its home to the 94th Airlift Wing. Robbins is an active duty base. They have a big Air National guard unit there though.

Maybe you spoke to enlisted recruiters. Whenever you speak to recruiters, make sure theyare officer recrutiers. enlisted recruiters arent really trained on officer programs so they really cant discuss them with great knowledge. its not that they are trying to fool you. They just honestly dont know. MAke sure you talk to an officer recruiter first.

Even as an army non aviation officer, ispend at least 10 hours a week doing military stuff. Its not neccessarily all at once but cumulitively. I can just imagine what pilots have to go through.

I think you implied thathaving a PhD makes you a shoe in for selcetion.it doesnt. The Air Force doesnt need PhD's to fly airplanes. They need pilots to fly airplanes. So having a PhD is good but Idont think its going to set you that much apart fromsay a guy without a Phd but who has an ATP.

Good luck with whatever youdecide to do. ican tell you that I have enjoyed serving my countrypart time for 20 years. its given me balance.
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