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Old 05-07-2011, 11:03 AM   #21
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If any of you are Air Force guys, let me know how AF life is.
1. Not easy. Often extremely stressful.
2. Best 21 years of my life.

Cue Nords, who will commiserate over the occasional hardship of on-base golf course greens that haven't been properly fertilized.
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:12 AM   #22
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+1 Except, more years and probably less $$ because I was enlisted.
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:03 PM   #23
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1. Not easy. Often extremely stressful.
2. Best 21 years of my life.

Cue Nords, who will commiserate over the occasional hardship of on-base golf course greens that haven't been properly fertilized.
I was going to use the word "boring".

But heck, three of my best submariners got their degrees, got selected for commissioning programs, and promptly got themselves into the Air Force. They seem happy. However you're going to have to read the blog post that I have in the hopper for 12 April. I swear that I wrote it over a week before this thread came back to life.

As that famous aviator urban legend ends, "If you gotta ask which service is better... then have a good time in the Air Force!"
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Old 05-07-2011, 02:48 PM   #24
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PS, If any of you are Air Force guys, let me know how AF life is. I'm looking to be an Air Battle Manager or Air field ops manager. Thanks!
I spent four years active duty USAF and have been in the ANG almost seven years; I have enjoyed my time in both. My four years on active duty where spent in an AFSC which is aligned with Army maneuver and SOF units, so my experience was more with Army quality of life than Air Force. I can tell you that generally speaking Air Force quality of life exceeds Army.

I've only indirectly dealt with ABMs or their enlisted weapons director counterparts, but the job seems interesting. In short, their job is to bring aircraft together rather than keep them separated like ATC. They have weapons release authority for all situations except close air support. On active duty it is also a rated AFSC, so you will spend a good chunk of time performing your duties onboard an aircraft unless you get stuck somewhere like a CRC (control and reporting center); however, I think ANG ABMs seem to end up manning a lot of the ground stations--but that is only my perception.

ATC Guy is an Airfield Operations Officer, so he would best be able to explain that career field to you. Nevertheless, I can tell you that the performance of ATC duties as an Airfield Operations Officer is minimal (typically seems to be around 4-5 hours a month), if that is what interests you. In fact, as of about a year ago new Airfield Operations Officers won't be receiving full ATC ratings, at least as part of mandatory upgrade training.
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Old 05-07-2011, 07:23 PM   #25
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I don't know a single 60 year old retiree that says 'Damm I wish I had gotten out of the service at 3 years.' As I have said on this board, it was the best 20 years and the worst 20 years of my life, and I would do it again in a heart beat. I would do some things different, but I would stay until retirement. It's not even a question. After I got out of the AF I worked for an elected official. He was far worse to work for than any commander I had. Well maybe except one, and he was my commander for less than a month.
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Old 05-07-2011, 07:54 PM   #26
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PS, If any of you are Air Force guys, let me know how AF life is. I'm looking to be an Air Battle Manager or Air field ops manager. Thanks!
I don't know much about air field ops management in the USAF, but
I do the same thing as an AF Air Battle Manager, and deployed to the same place as the E-3 dudes last fall. Command and Control platforms are always in demand, so if you go that route, plan on being deployed. A lot. AWACS recently lost funding for a major upgrade program, but I'm not sure if that means it will see a 'sundown' within the next 10 or 15 years. The Air Force would rather spend on F-22 and F-35 (It's still a fighter-dominated service). Pilots (esp fighter pilots) still run the USAF, with navigators/WSOs frequently getting second class treatment. Unfortunately, that means the Air Battle Manager is sometimes a third class citizen. Hope you like Oklahoma City or Omaha.

As far as your mission, you'll have involvement in just about every major military activity, from gathering intel, to ensuring bombs get to the target in support of SOF guys. Very interesting career.
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Old 05-07-2011, 09:00 PM   #27
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I don't know a single 60 year old retiree that says 'Damm I wish I had gotten out of the service at 3 years.'
I know a 50-year-old retiree who frequently thinks "Damn I wish I'd gone Reserves at 10"...
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Old 05-07-2011, 09:17 PM   #28
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I'm a 53 year old reservist retiree who thinks "damn, I hope I make it to 60!" lol

edit: make that well beyond 60...
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Old 05-07-2011, 09:42 PM   #29
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When I was an Air Force captain 40 years ago, the guys from HQ USAF Personnel used to come around every other year or so and present info on the officer corps. I was a Titan II launch officer. What I learned at the briefing was that there were 700 general officers in the USAF (1970) and that only one was not rated as a pilot. That one was the head chaplain. By 1972 I was out and reading about the time being stretched for captains to make major and majors to make lt. col. This as a result of the wind down of the Vietnam War.
The current conflicts we are in will also wind down and the need for officers will decline. So, as a ground-pounder and thus second-rate officer in the air force, you will really have little reason to try to stay in. You are probably a reserve officer, and your chance of getting promoted enough to make a career is slim no matter how good you are or how good your OER's.

Regarding saving for a down payment on a house......if you get with the FAA, you are going to have to go where they send you. You can't predict what house pricing situation you will face. It could be low-priced mid-west regional center, or California high priced tower duty. The days of zero down are gone. You need to plan on having at least 10% of the house price, plus another 5 for closing costs. In a medium price area this could be 40 to 50k. And, you won't buy a house till you get to where you will be working after FAA training....
All this is to say that saving enough for the down in your last three years of service may be a stretch. Keep your eye on the goal. Live economically. Save all you can, and USAA CD's are fine in your circumstances.
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Old 05-08-2011, 09:11 AM   #30
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What I learned at the briefing was that there were 700 general officers in the USAF (1970) and that only one was not rated as a pilot. That one was the head chaplain. By 1972 I was out and reading about the time being stretched for captains to make major and majors to make lt. col. This as a result of the wind down of the Vietnam War.
All true. OTOH, most pilots don't make O-7 either. My goal was to make a contribution, enjoy my work, and make it to 20 as an O-4. I was very lucky to exceed that (being at the right place, having an unexpectedly good fit for a particular job, being in an AFSC with a significant number of senior officers, etc.) For example, it's dang hard to make O-6 as a weather officer, not because they aren't important or smart, they just don't have much "overhead" in that career field. Any wx officer with a burning desire for high rank would need to jump into another field very early and be lucky.

An O-4 or O-5 retirement check is still a great foundation for retirement, especially when the medical stuff and other benefits are added. I wouldn't let the lack of GO promotion opportunities be a big factor in any stay/go decision.
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:20 AM   #31
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Very true. As a non-rated type (ground pounder), I was absolutely delighted to be able to retire as an O-5. Probably had a good shot at O-6, but that would have meant an additional five years, and I was burnt out enough that I wasn't up for it then.
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Old 05-08-2011, 08:50 PM   #32
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During my service days I met a number of sergeants and T-sgts who had been officers with 15 or 16 years of service, who couldn't get promoted and were trying to get their 20 years in for retirement via enlisted ranks. Nobody starts out with that idea in mind.

Furthermore, while few can make the general officer level, why stay in an organization that says you cannot get there regardless of your contribution or ability.

As a missile crew commander I had to report to various Majors who were rated, but unable to pass the Board tests to be a crew commander. They couldn't fly any more, or really do much of anything....they did look good though.
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:48 PM   #33
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Why stay? Because, you enjoy what your are doing, you are paid well, and you have a solid retirement. I chose to remain a Forward Air Controler in the Air Force. I do not know a single FAC that stayed in that field that made it to O-6, and many did not make it to O-5. The AF played lip service to this field. However, it was great flying, higher up left you alone, and I really enjoyed the job.

In fact I believe it is 'why would we want someone that does not want to be a general' that hurts the services today. I know a lot of pilots that would stay in the service until 60, if they could just fly like air line pilots.
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Old 05-18-2011, 05:05 PM   #34
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In fact I believe it is 'why would we want someone that does not want to be a general' that hurts the services today. I know a lot of pilots that would stay in the service until 60, if they could just fly like air line pilots.
This question comes up in the submarine force every once in a while-- why not let the people who are happy at their rank and their job stay there? At the very least, why not let them homestead at their favorite port?

I think one reason is because the assignment officers fear a loss of control. We'd get comfortable and cocky and wouldn't want to transfer just for the "needs of the Navy" or out of fear at not being able to make a career goal.

While I was at my training commands (nearly eight years) I went through four assignment officers as BUPERS rotated 'em through the billet for "experience". When the latest newbie phoned to inform me he'd called to "discuss my options", I learned that he was commissioned six years after me-- although by this time he was one promotion ahead of me. By that point I knew the system almost as well as any assignment officer, and I only had to be an expert on me. I almost choked with laughter and had to ask to talk to his daddy boss. He might have picked up a slight whiff of disrespect for his attitude lack of experience from the tone in my voice... we never spoke again.
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Old 05-23-2011, 02:11 AM   #35
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In fact I believe it is 'why would we want someone that does not want to be a general' that hurts the services today. I know a lot of pilots that would stay in the service until 60, if they could just fly like air line pilots.
That's why the USAF needs to start appointing warrant officers again. I'm not overly interested in the commissioned officer route (although I have considered it), but I would be all over a warrant officer program. Since warrant officers are considered the technical experts of their fields, all a pilot warrant officer would do is fly.
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Old 05-23-2011, 06:56 AM   #36
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That's why the USAF needs to start appointing warrant officers again. I'm not overly interested in the commissioned officer route (although I have considered it), but I would be all over a warrant officer program. Since warrant officers are considered the technical experts of their fields, all a pilot warrant officer would do is fly.
I'd like to see that. When I was a lieutenant, there were still a number of warrant officers around. They were very highly respected, since they were better able to become true experts in their fields than either junior commissioned officers or senior noncoms. I got to work closely for several years with a couple of CWO4s, and I truly appreciated that opportunity.
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Old 05-23-2011, 07:18 AM   #37
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That's why the USAF needs to start appointing warrant officers again. I'm not overly interested in the commissioned officer route (although I have considered it), but I would be all over a warrant officer program. Since warrant officers are considered the technical experts of their fields, all a pilot warrant officer would do is fly.
The USAF traditionally hasn't been interested in having WOs because cockpits were where future GOs came from, and every one that was filled by a WO was one less prospective CSAF. With the number of airplanes on the ramp going down and the number of GOs not showing signs of much of a decline, I don't think we'll be seeing flying WOs very soon. A better case can be made for WOs in the technical fields (IT, information operations, etc). At least the little bit we haven't contracted out. That's where we could let a geek stay a geek without any pressure to take on very broad leadership responsibilities. The downside: The knowledge base in this area changes fast. Today's expert only stays an expert for a year unless he stays motivated and up-to-date in the field. Not to be an ageist, but I think it may be a young person's game (in general), and I know management will want and need the flexibility to let folks go if their skills aren't cutting-edge current. That sounds like a contractor, not a 45 yo WO.

The one prospect for "flying" (kinda) WOs is in UAV ops. Rated guys hate the assignments and there's no sign (yet) that the USAF knows how to build these assignments into some sort of career track--it's just a minor detour right now that officer pilots don't want to take. If not WOs, I suspect this job should be an enlisted AFSC, as I (think) it is in the Army.
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Old 05-23-2011, 08:41 AM   #38
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Agree strongly with at least staying in the guard or reserves. When I turn 60, in 6 1/2 yrs, my Air Force Reserves service & retirement will add $15k (today's $$) to my annual income. Since both my wife & I will have fairly modest 401k accumulations, and my ok but not huge federal pension, that $15k will be an important source of income for us. We don't anticipate much from SS, since I haven't paid in to it since the early 80's & she is a relatively low income earner. I'd stick around long enough to at least earn the retirement.
I second that. Spent 11 years Active but was then downsized due to RIF and the fact that the A-6 Intruder was being phased out (no large needs for NFO's). But I got into the Reserves and not only enjoyed myself but built up a nice pension at 60 (less than 2 years from now) which should add about $29K a year (and it is COLA'd!). Plus the medical insurance for the family at 60 will be a big boost also. Not to mention being able to stay at military hotels around the world, Space A travel, etc.

Think at least about the Reserves/ANG if you get out.
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Old 05-23-2011, 10:48 AM   #39
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The one prospect for "flying" (kinda) WOs is in UAV ops. Rated guys hate the assignments and there's no sign (yet) that the USAF knows how to build these assignments into some sort of career track--it's just a minor detour right now that officer pilots don't want to take. If not WOs, I suspect this job should be an enlisted AFSC, as I (think) it is in the Army.
The Army does use enlisted Soldiers (and more than a few contractors) to fly its UAVs. As for warrant officers, the majority of the Army's rated pilots fall into that category. Commissioned folks are definitely the minority in the community.
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Old 05-23-2011, 11:07 AM   #40
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The Navy has instituted flying WO's in recent years. I believe they are only in P-3's and some helos. However, it's not like the Army, where you can come in off the street, go to boot camp and some training and be a WO. In the Navy, you have to earn E-6 or E-7 first. So probably 8-10 years at a minimum before you can make W-1, and then you have to apply for a competitive board before going off to flight school.

Navy wants cheap labor, and they are trying to minimize the number of career aviators. Before 9/11, airlines had good jobs, so aviators got out as soon as possible. Now the airlines are a horrible place to work, so everyone stays in for the career and retirement.
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