Air National Guard Offers Opportunities as Part Time Fighter Pilots
The Air National Guard
In a previous Hub I discussed, in general terms, what is required to become a fighter pilot.
That article dealt with the general attributes and requirements for joining the fraternity of elite aviators serving in aerial combat wings of various armed forces around the world.
Space considerations limited that Hub to a general discussion of what it takes to join this elite fraternity of aviators.
As a result, I was not able to include detailed information describing the specifics of where to go to enlist as a fighter pilot candidate in one of the various branches of the military in the different nations of the world
However, a recent comment on that Hub asked how to go about becoming a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard in the United States.
USAF KC-97 Air Tanker
This is a much narrower and more specific request so I will be able to provide more direct information for this.
Also, as I did serve in the Air National Guard a number of years ago I do have some first hand knowledge here.
Admittedly, 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 is the Air Arm of State Militias
The Air National Guard is the Air Force counterpart of the fifty state militias. As such there are one or more Air National Guard units located within each of the fifty 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
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:
The Air National Guard also flies the following other types of military aircraft:
KC-135 Air Tankers
UH-60 Special Missions aircraft
C-21 Special Missions aircraft
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 unit 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 you 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.
Only a Few Openings in Air National Guard 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:
- First 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 plus:
- 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.
Flying With the Air National Guard Following Commissioning and 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.
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 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 4 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 which 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.
May Be Called to Fight 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.
© 2009 Chuck Nugent