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!