National Guard Flight School Information

National Guard Flight School…it is the highest goal that one joining the military may strive for.  After all, many progress through the rigors of WOCS or OCS/ROTC to become a Warrant Officer or Commissioned Officer just to be a pilot.  So what is it like?  What are the phases of the course?  These are all questions that I hope I, an Armor Officer, can try and answer.  I think this post will paint a pretty decent picture for you, but I definitely urge you to talk with a recruiter or pilot to find out the nuts and bolts details you may be looking for.

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Step one, basically, is earning your Commission or becoming a Warrant Officer and branching Aviation to become a pilot.  Sounds easy, right? Well…not exactly.  Upon earning your commission, Aviation Officers attend Officer Basic Course (OBC) at Fort Rucker and are indoctrinated into the Army aviation field. OBC teaches Aviation Officers basic Soldiering skills required to be a leader and an Officer in the Army. Officers will also learn the basics of the Aviation branch. But let’s assume you are already there…

Aviation-specific training begins with going to the two survival training courses: Helicopter Over-water Survival Training (HOST) and the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course (SERE-C).  Then, you will move on to the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Course. This is the school in which you learn, well…how to fly helicopters. The school is basically broken into four phases: primary, instruments, basic combat skills, and flying while using night vision goggles.  As you complete these courses, you will spend many, many, MANY hours in the classroom and the simulator studying and learning the rotary-winged aircraft inside and out. Also, you will learn basic flight physics, flight systems, emergency procedures, aircraft instrumentation and FAA flying rules.

After you have mastered the basic flight skills needed, your next classroom becomes the cockpit, where you will learn basic combat flight maneuvers and piloting in all types of weather conditions. This, I believe is the most rigorous part of Flight School for most.

Then…FINALLY! Once you pass both of these “phases” of the curriculum, you will specialize in piloting a specific helicopter.  Then…hours and hours and hours of flight time practicing what you have learned and gaining experienced actually flying the bird.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Being a helicopter pilot is an extremely difficult and technical job.  I have actually always wanted to be a pilot but have the worst eyes you could imagine.  While the schooling is long and rigorous, it is definitely worth is to be able to call yourself a U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot!

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “National Guard Flight School Information”

  1. I love the idea that you can be an Army pilot and have a civilian career at the same time. Articles like this make me want to join the Army!

  2. Flight school sounds awesome. I think being a pilot in the ARNG or USAR is the best of both worlds. You can do something else for a day job and then one weekend a month do something really cool.

  3. Candace Ginestar

    Every SAAO is different for how they consider flight school candidates. Generally, it is helpful to be willing to spend some time in the military before applying (this tends to be different for ROTC cadets, obviously). From what I’ve noticed, some documented leadership experience is very helpful. If you have civilian experiences that are equivalent to military leadership/management, and can document that on your resume and application, that will be very good. Civilian pilot experience is also something they are willing to look at, and some may consider that highly.

    In general, my state prefers WOC applicants to have spent some time enlisted and have at the very least, WLC (which is the basic warrior leader course that one goes to before/right after making SGT).

    One of my buddies that I deployed with was a LT, then resigned his commission and came into my unit as a SGT in order to be around the aviation mission, learn about it, and get some experience overseas before applying for flight school. If this is your life dream then you should be willing to do what you have to in order to increase your chances! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. This is an awesome article and the follow-up reply is just as awesome; this is quality information. I do have a quick question, is this pretty much the same track someone with no military experience will follow should they desire this job or is that track a little different?

    I have been considering joining the National Guard and attempting/applying for a pilot spot for the last say 4 months and so you can imagine my excitement when I saw this article. Thank you for the information.

  5. Candace Ginestar

    Some things to consider (I used to work in the State Army Aviation Office and helped with a myriad of tasks, some of which included helping people PCS to Fort Rucker and getting our quotas projected) –
    Throw everything you know about the active duty process for branching Aviation out the window. The Guard operates on a different schedule. We project our school quotas a year out, and once NGB gives us our seats, we generally plan our our boards (depending on the state, Oregon does 1-2 per year unless situation dictates otherwise). The packet process is pretty rigorous. If your state will pay you (mine doesn’t), you will go to your nearest active duty base and get a class 1 FDME (flight duty medical examination). This is something you will have to do every year (at your state’s medcom with their dedicated flight surgeon/aviation medicine NCOIC) so you may as well get used to it. Even if your PULHES is normally all 1s, it’s not guaranteed you will pass your physical, as the aeromedical standards are different. You MUST get it stamped FFD and in your packet to proceed. The process can be a pain in the rear end (Been working on mine for about a month now and it hasn’t even been sent to Rucker). LASIK is accepted, but you need to be at least 90 days post op, bring all your paperwork with you so the flight doc can look for your visual acuity pre and post op.
    Don’t even worry about that unless you can pass the SIFT. It used to formerly be the AFAST, complete with study guide. The SIFT is designed for you to not study ahead of time – it actually wants your aptitude. Passing score is a 40, you should be proficient with math, physics, spatial apperception, reading comprehension and other things similar to the ASVAB.
    You will have to gather a ton of paperwork, most of which should be in your iPerms or your admin NCO can access it for you (RPAM, PQR, etc). You will want to get letters of recommendation, preferably from aviators, and preferably from the career path you want to go down (CW4/CW5 for WOC applicants, LTC and above for officers).
    Every state differs on their waiver policies, but if you are trying to go to WOCS and have excessive speeding tickets, be prepared to work on a moral waiver (this is going to be important for the fed rec process). Age waivers and the like are at the discretion of the SAAO.
    You will also need to get released from your current chain of command and obtain memorandums from them indicating their support.

    Enlisted Soldiers who make it through the IERW board will get fed rec’d and then once they complete WOCS, they will PCS to Fort Rucker for the duration of their training. Officers who aren’t branch qualified will attend BOLC, and I believe ones like me and Justin who are already branch qualified will attend some kind of JOPD. CPTs can go to flight school, but my state won’t send you =)

    They used to do SERE-C at the end of flight school, but due to the number of people who showed up drunk, failed out, or other stupid things, they decided to move it up to the front. Pass all the crappy stuff, then you get to fly ;)

    Your state will probably tell you your track and what unit you will be in upon your return, but that can change while you are at school. If you have the gut wrenching desire to do a specific mission or fly a specific airframe (like me returning to medevac), it is great to express that to the board and make your desires known, but one should be willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goal of flying, if that is the goal.

    Bottom line – most everything is common across all the states, but get in contact with the Army Aviation Recruiter in your state if you want to learn more about your state’s specific process and what you need to do to prepare for the board.

    “Above the Best”

      1. Candace Ginestar

        Thanks Chuck…sometimes I have crazy typing fingers when it’s something I have information on!
        I guess you could say the program is very near and dear to my heart.

  6. Now, besides being a tanker and sending big bullets down-range…I think THIS is probably the ONLY other job I would prefer to do in the Army. Being a helicopter pilot is pretty “sexy” as far as jobs go and, as we have discussed before, as a WO you just fly and fly and don’t have to deal with all the BS a CO or NCO deals with. What a sweet deal!

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Justin, how old are you? Can you get LASIK? Do you even want to get LASIK? Just saying…there are options =)

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