I am a former Vietnam-era AF air navigator with degrees in History and Economics. Areas of interest include aviation and military history.
The Air National Guard
The National Guard offers men and women the opportunity to train and help defend their country while also having and home and civilian job. For some, the Air National Guard offers the opportunity to fly military aircraft—and for a select few, being a weekend warrior involves being a jet fighter pilot.
In this article, I will discuss how to investigate opportunities to be a part-time fighter pilot in the U.S. Air National Guard.
I served in the Air National Guard a number of years ago. I was a navigator on a KC-97 tanker whose mission was mid-air refueling of fighter planes. My job was to find the fighters with my radar and direct them to us so that we could refuel them and allow them to remain airborne longer, thereby enabling them to fly longer and farther.
Air National Guard: The Air Arm of State Militias
The Air National Guard is the Air Force counterpart of the 50 state militias. As such, there are one or more Air National Guard units located within each of the 50 U.S. states as well as in the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands.
Like the Army National Guard, Air National Guard units are state units and each state unit has the governor of the state, not the President of the U.S. as their commander in chief. Officers in the National Guard receive their commissions from their respective state legislature and not the U.S. Congress (although all pilots and most other officers also receive commissions as reserve officers in the USAF from Congress).
While Army and Air National Guard units are under the command of their respective state governors. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution (which reads: "The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States") allows the President of the United States to temporarily take over a state Army or Air National Guard unit and place it under his command during a war or other national emergency. Because of this, most officers in the Air National Guard have both a state commission and a Federal commission as a reserve officer in the U.S. Air Force.
Current Air National Guard Fighter Aircraft
Kinds of Air National Guard Fighter Aircraft
According to the Air National Guard's recruiting information website, GoANG.com, the Air National Guard currently flies four types of fighter aircraft, and these are:
- F-15 Eagle
- F-16 Falcon
- F-22 Raptor
The Air National Guard also flies the following other types of military aircraft:
- KC-135 Air Tankers
- C-5 Airlift
- C-17 Airlift
- C-130 Airlift
- UH-60 Special Missions aircraft
- C-21 Special Missions aircraft
- B2 Bombers
Since individual units only have one type of aircraft, a person wishing to become a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard will find their choice of units limited to those which are assigned one of the four types of fighter aircraft listed above.
If the unit near where you live is not a fighter unit, you will have to seek another in your state or in another state that is a fighter unit. Unless there is such a unit nearby, you would probably have to relocate in order to be able to perform your duties without having to commute extensively. Since Air National Guard service is part-time reserve service, having to move would be contingent upon being able to find a job in your civilian career field in the new area.
A second hurdle here is that you can only get into specific job, such as fighter pilot, in a unit if there are openings in that job category.
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Limited Openings for Officer Candidates
Assuming that you can find a fighter unit with open positions for pilots in an area where you live, the next step for a non-prior service applicant is to apply to join that unit as an officer and pilot candidate.
According to the GoANG.com website, most Air National Guard officer candidates are selected from the pool of enlisted personnel in the unit. However, the site goes on to state that there are opportunities for outsiders to apply for a commission.
Basic Requirements for Admittance
The basic requirements needed in order to receive an appointment as an officer in the Air National Guard are:
- Be accepted for officer training by the state in which the Air National Guard unit you are trying to join is located, and then meet the general requirements set by the U.S. Air Force for commissioning as a USAF officer, which are:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be a college or university graduate
- Take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT)
- Pass the Air Force Physical Fitness Test
- Be between the ages of 18 and 35 (however, pilot candidates must be no older than 28 1/2)
Since you will be accepted into the unit as a pilot candidate, you will also have to meet the minimum Air Force requirements for pilot training before being admitted into the unit, and these include all of the above pluses:
- Be under age 28 1/2
- Have a score on the AFOQT that qualifies for pilot training
- Meet the Air Force pilot vision requirement of 20/50 (this changes and is 20/70 on some USAF websites), and the vision must be correctable to 20/20. The vision requirement also excludes from pilot training anyone who has had Photo Refractive Keratectomy (PRK), Radial Keratotomy (RK), or Laser In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) eye surgeries.
Officer Training and Flight Training
After meeting these requirements, the candidate will be sent to the ANG Academy of Military Science, which is located at McGhee-Tyson Air Force Base in Knoxville, Tennessee, to complete a six-week officer training course.
Upon successful completion of the ANG Academy of Military Science, you will be sent to one of the Air Force's Undergraduate Pilot Training Schools for basic flight training. After successfully completing undergraduate pilot training and receiving your wings as a pilot, you will be sent to advanced flight training in the aircraft flown by your unit.
Training and Flying Slots
Finally, after successfully completing this process, you will be a member of the small but elite fraternity of Air National Guard fighter pilots.
As a pilot in the Air National Guard, you will be required to attend once monthly weekend drills along with two to three weeks of annual training with your unit either at your unit's location or another, usually Air Force, base in the U.S. or abroad. You will also have additional required flying time.
When I was in the Air National Guard, we had a certain number of four-hour slots which we selected from a schedule in advance to fly training missions with others in the unit. In my unit, these were generally in the evening and on weekends, and we could choose the ones we wanted that fit within our civilian work schedules. To maintain our flying status, we had to fly a certain minimum number of hours per month.
We were also able to volunteer for additional flying assignments with our unit or neighboring units flying the same aircraft when these were available and so long as such assignments did not exceed 180 continuous days, which would have put us into active duty status which would have resulted in making us eligible for various GI Bill benefits.
I was in graduate school at that time, so this was a great opportunity for me to earn some extra money. It was also a good opportunity for many of our pilots to make some extra money as many of them were laid off from their civilian jobs as airline pilots.
Possibility of Fighting Overseas
While there are many financial and other benefits to flying for the Air National Guard, it should be remembered that, despite being civilian or part-time soldiers, you are in the military and have sworn an oath to respond when called to fight. From colonial times to the present, with the exception of the Vietnam War, it has usually been the National Guard (Army and Air) and reserves that have been called up first when the nation goes to war.
In the present War on Terror, much of the burden of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has fallen upon the National Guard, with many units having been called up more than once for tours at the front. While members of the National Guard have willingly responded to these calls to duty, this has resulted in heavy sacrifices to their families and civilian careers.
While they may be known as weekend warriors in peacetime, when the nation is threatened, members of the Army and Air National Guard become full-time warriors at the front lines of war.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2009 Chuck Nugent
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on February 28, 2011:
Wonderful hub. Really enjoyed it. GBY
Cleanclover from Piece of land! on December 07, 2009:
I was in indian air force school for a year and loved being there. :-)
CoolBlueWater on November 09, 2009:
Very Cool. Thanks! Great Photos too!
suzanne_writes from United States on November 07, 2009:
It is most important hub for those who have interest to be a pilot. It is an enthusiastic work to collect such beneficial factors of knowledge. I think that this habpage had served the people in multiple manners. Pictures appended therein are really very acquit.
samsungbeholdt919 on November 05, 2009:
very cool , thank you for the info
Chuck Nugent (author) from Tucson, Arizona on October 30, 2009:
Vizey - I think that your question refers to the age requirement for pilots (all pilots not just fighter pilots). As I interpret it, the requirement is that, in order to qualify as a pilot candidate, a person's age has to be be 28 1/2 years or less at the time they join the unit as a pilot candidate.
If my interpretation is correct then one has to start the process (i.e., being accepted into the unit and scheduled for officer training) at an age no older than 28 1/2 years which means that they can enter pilot school shortly after that age provided that they started the process on or before that age.
Vizey on October 30, 2009:
Very informative hub about national army. Can you clear my doubt about the requirement for fighter pilot is it comes every year or specific?
Chuck Nugent (author) from Tucson, Arizona on October 30, 2009:
ocbill, Carol the Writer - thanks for your comments and speculations about physical requirements for pilots.
Personally, I am convinced that supply and demand play a role here. When I graduated from college the Vietnam War was on and the military draft was in effect. The military had all the manpower it needed via the draft or draft inspired enlistments. Officer positions, which one has to volunteer for, were difficult to come by as most branches of the service had more than enough volunteers for them. Aircrew slots were among the few positions with openings, but the standards were very high.
I was rejected for pilot training because my eyesight in one eye was slightly less than 20/20 and they did not allow anyone to correct their sight with glasses or contacts as they do now. I ended up becoming a navigator because the sight requirements were, as they are now, a little less stringent.
I believe that the relaxation in requirements is due to the fact that, in the absence of a military draft, there are not only not as many people volunteering but it costs a lot more in pay, benefits and enlistment bonuses to recruit so by relaxing the physical requirements they are expanding the pool of possible candidates which helps to reduce the amount of financial incentives needed to fill the available slots.
Carolyn Blacknall from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2009:
Lots of great information. The Air National Guards may soon change their laser eye surgery restriction, as even NASA now allows astronauts who have had LASIK surgery. - Carol
Carmen Borthwick from Maple Ridge, B.C. on October 30, 2009:
Good stuff for those interested, lots of great info.
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on October 30, 2009:
good to see the requirements are not as flexible as you'd think. I think they may alter the age though since most cities upped the age limits for police and firefighters recruits. Maybe age is a factor here since they are in the air but then that argument is put to rest with the NWA pilots..LOL