Top 4 Reasons to be an Army Helicopter Pilot

When I found out I got selected to attend Initial Entry Rotary Wing training, I was beyond excited, dare I say even more than when I pinned on 2LT. It was like I had finally found my way home, so to speak. I have loved working with the CAV and couldn’t think of another better organization to have learned the officer ropes with (so much so, in fact, that I asked to stay in my current unit until it was time to PCS to Fort Rucker, instead of jumping ship to the aviation battalion right away).

My PCS date is still months away (9, to be exact), and I sit here pondering what about Army Aviation sits so well with me. I resisted putting a flight packet together for years, thinking that I should go do other things and work in different units. While I am happy to have learned the maneuver world and logistics support in the context of an IBCT, I often found myself missing my old unit. I have worked with great people everywhere, so it wasn’t that…but it was the mission. I felt a very special bond to medevac, and still do. I feel like it is what I was meant to do. Here are my top four reasons to be an Army Aviator.

  1. A directly transferable skill to the civilian world – A lot of times, we don’t always know what kind of job we can get after we retire. Being a pilot and having all the credentials the Army will give you, along with the fact that you will have an FAA rating, means you can generally find a job pretty easily if you want to keep flying. A lot of my superiors fly for airlines or for private companies, or teach.
  2. Always doing your mission – No gate guard duty here. If you’re a pilot, you’re going to fly. It was something I appreciated when I was enlisted – I didn’t have to wonder what I would end up doing overseas, I already knew: my MOS. It made training stateside even more valuable because I knew that whatever skills I was learning would transfer almost directly over to what I would do overseas.
  3. Stateside training opportunities – While ALL Guardsmen have the opportunity to be called for State Active Duty (fire season, floods, hurricanes, etc), aviators are almost guaranteed to be at the top of the list for who is going to work. My state also has a program, started by our current TAG back when he was still in the Aviation Battalion, that aids in search and rescue missions. Oregon is very mountainous and hikers are always getting lost. We have rescued several people, as can be seen here: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/01/nation/la-na-nn-hiker-rescued-mt-hood-20130401
  4. Always be “Above the Best”- The sentiments I express here are derived from my experience with medevac, but are applicable to the other aviation missions too. Nothing replaces the feeling that we are there, “so that others may live”, and that we will only stop “when I have your wounded.” I think that having a mission revolve around saving the lives of our brethren is the very best one out there.

Bottom line: It’s hard to fit everything I think about aviation into four reasons, but I think everyone gets the picture here. Above all, it is an honor to do a job where it is my mission to get the wounded out of danger. It takes the pilots, crew chiefs, medics, and all support personnel to get that job done successfully. If your mission is counter-drug, heavy lift, or otherwise, the same principles apply.

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8 thoughts on “Top 4 Reasons to be an Army Helicopter Pilot”

  1. Update: looks like I am going to be deploying instead of attending IERW…this could take up an entire article on its own to talk about, but suffice to say, things happen sometimes and we have to be ready to forge new paths.
    This happened on my own terms, though.

      1. You’re right about that, Chuck! In the Guard, we have to be aware of how our choices will impact every aspect of our lives. I am happy that I got selected, and it was a huge honor.

  2. You’ve got an awesome job, Candace. Not everyone gets to do something they love and serve their country in such a capacity all at the same time. You have the best of both worlds. The vital role helicopter pilots play in the US Military is second to none. With no room for error, military pilots are some of the most highly trained out there. Thanks for shedding some light on all that you do. Keep up the good work!

  3. It is important that you like your position. So many people end up with an MOS that they hate. I am glad you ended up with one you love.

    The fact is: a pilot is a pilot for life. Many of the other jobs in the armed forces do not have a civilian side. This is a big plus for going to flight school and becoming a certified pilot.

    I wish you the best in your flying and my you get a great job in the same field after you leave.

  4. What a great job to have in the Army, Candace. I must say that if I could do any other job in the Army besides slinging big bullets, Aviation would be it. Glad that you are able to serve in a caliber in which you love and have fun.

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