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Hey all! First post on these forums, so let me introduce myself. I'm currently working on a PPL (solo'd in a Cessna 172P on 8 Aug 2015) and I'm enrolled at the University of Maryland (College Park), I hold a Private Pilot-Glider license, and have been chair flying on video games since the age of six. I'm a current AFROTC freshman cadet w/ a Type 2 AFROTC scholarship at UMCP and haven't been able to really get a nice straight answer from my Det on this: benefits and cool stuff about being a CSO. I'm definitely looking at being a pilot, but vision is likely to let me down (20/80 w/o glasses at my last checkup), so I was hoping on still flying anyway as a CSO. There are some really cool platforms I'd like to fly on, namely the Mud Hen, Bone, and MC-130 series, and I would just like to gain an insight from any current or former CSOs (or pilots/other aircrew) on those airframes and benefits of being a career CSO until the 2040s. In simple terms:

-Can I still have a good flight career as a CSO until the late 2030s-2040s?

-Benefits/other stuff like traveling, work life, and camaraderie as a CSO?

-Future of the F-15E, B-1B, MC-130 series of airframes until the 2040s?

-Any marketable skills to the civilian flight world? (airlines, aircraft development, even spaceflight)

Thanks for your time!

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have been chair flying on video games since the age of six.

Hahaha that's...well that's something I guess

So as a prior nav turned pilot - yes, you can definitely have a great career as a CSO. Unless you can't handle people giving you crap for being a CSO, then you're going to hate life.

The airframes you mentioned probably aren't going anywhere anytime soon, but things can and do change, sometimes very quickly. So trying to plan out over a decade away for airframes, that's difficult.

Marketable to civilian flight world...nope. At least not from a flying perspective. Development/engineering definitely. Just don't plan on being in the seat in the civilian world unless you get your civilian ratings, but then your CSO flight time won't count towards, so you have to account for that.

Don't let people talk you out of it because you're "not a pilot." I obviously haven't experienced every community out there, but from my little corner of the AF, it was a great time.

Also don't give up on being a pilot if that's what you really want. There's a waiver for just about everything, and it takes some digging to find something that will flat out disqualify you. If being a pilot is your dream, keep going for it.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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21 hours ago, hispeed7721 said:

So as a prior nav turned pilot - yes, you can definitely have a great career as a CSO. Unless you can't handle people giving you crap for being a CSO, then you're going to hate life.

This is very true haha. Somewhat of a second class citizen to pilots, but important all the same.

The previous poster covered most of the information that I would share, but another thing that you need to consider is how infrequently and/or competitive those particular airframes are to get. I'm currently a nav who graduated from UCT last year (looking into UPT in the future) and I can say from the numerous drop nights that I saw, the Bone and MC in particular are not so common. If a class is lucky enough to get one to drop, it usually is literally just one. The F15 almost always has at least 2 drop, but since they are the only pointy nose, there are a lot of people trying for them. My dad was an F15E driver and I know a couple dudes at each of those airframes and as previously stated, it doesn't look like they are going anywhere anytime soon. Just work your ass off in UCT and you shouldn't even have to worry about getting what you want!

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Go get your eyes cut (with an approved procedure to bring you to 20/20) and switch over to fly pilot for the Navy.  Fly helos, P-8's from the beach, or any of the lot of aircraft types from USS BOAT.....take your pick (actually it's about 10% desire, 50% grades....and 90% needs of the Navy...yeah, the math is done incorrectly on purpose).

I'm a little biased being a Navy NFO with some B-1B backseat time and a sh%t-ton of U-28 CSO time....I would still go Navy (been doing it for 23+ years).  Don't forget the USMC (Helo's/Harriers/Hornets...soon the F-35).  Plus, in Navy pilot/NFO type-model-series aircraft, the ratio of CO billets that go to single anchor (pilot) or double anchor (NFO) folks is about even.  From my observation it tends to be more pilot heavy in the command billets in the USAF.

 

Oh...and one last thing.....party your tail off and have fun at U of M regardless of what you do.

Cheers

ATIS

 

Edited by ATIS
Spelling...i dudnt do it so well

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I second ATIS...get PRK/LASIK and shoot for pilot.  I flew B-1s as a WSO (CSO) and have spent 22 years in the AF and wouldn't recommend anyone become any other kind of officer in the AF except pilot.  Don't get me wrong, I loved flying in the B-1, got to do some really cool stuff (dropping iron in Operation ANACONDA), and have even got to do some really cool things besides flying too.  However, realize, even if you do everything you the AF asks of you and excel even, the AF still hates you because you're not a pilot.  That's just the way it is.  From my limited experience around the Navy at nav school at Pensacola and in my previous joint staff job, the Navy treats its aviators more equally. 

 

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Really? I was under the impression the BONE community in particular had its fair share of WSOs in command... The EOG/CC during my Deid rotation was a WSO, and he was later the 7 BW/CC. I know the 34th had at least one WSO CC in recent years (no comment on his favorability ratings with the crewdogs). The 28 BW CC, CV, and OG/CC are all currently WSOs. The 7 BW CV and OG/CC are currently WSOs. There's a B-1 WSO commanding an electronic warfare squadron at Eglin right now. In my part of AFGSC (the BUFF), I've had two OG/CCs (including the current one) that were Radar Navs (CSOs). My current OG/CC is getting replaced by an EWO (CSO) this summer. In my previous life (AWACS) I had navigators as commanders at the squadron, group, and Wing level.

BL: Retention at the FGO and above level is so bad, I don't think the AF can afford to be biased against navs in command. I've only been in for 9 1/2 years, and I've consistently felt (from my interactions with pilot commanders as well as non-pilots) that my horizons were only limited by my work ethic and my bullshit tolerance. The former is decent, but the latter is weak, thus I have little desire for command (and I would recommend the OP pick based on mission, then location, /then/ command potential, if at all, because you have to get through the first decade of your career with some morale at all before there can be a second decade). I've never felt like a second class citizen because I'm a nav. The only time I've felt like a second class citizen was when for the life of me I could not get fighter dudes at Red Flag to understand that the AGM-158 is not a magic wand you can just wave to solve all your tactical problems. (My pilot weapons officers had the same struggle.)

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If you can afford it I would recommend the surgery and if you really want it, try to be a pilot.

 

That being said, if things don't work out and you end up as a CSO, don't fret as there are plenty of cool jobs and opportunities awaiting you.  Also don't let the "second class citizen" negativity get you down.  While this attitude exists in certain communities, it's not as bad as you may be lead to believe.  Speaking on behalf of AFSOC it's very common to see CSOs (FCO/NAV/EWO) in leadership positions.  Our last MAJCOM/CC (3 star) was an EWO, and current one is a Nav.  It's just a non-issue when commanders look past the wings and examine an officer's leadership potential.  Some communities haven't gotten there yet.

 

1. Yes, you can have a full career as a CSO.

2. You will travel, probably more than you will want to.  Locations and living conditions vary drastically between airframes, so choose wisely.

3. These planes will be around for a while.  To add onto what Jdmuehle said:

On 1/28/2016 at 8:13 AM, Jdmuehle said:

...MC in particular are not so common. If a class is lucky enough to get one to drop, it usually is literally just one.

The MC community often pulled CSO experience from the C-130 world, which is quickly transitioning to all J models.  They will need to find guys to fill those seats.  There likely won't be a ton of them dropping, but they should become more regular.

4. Kind of, but not related to being a CSO.  You will be marketable after a stint in the Air Force just through leadership and organizational experience.  Anything from getting hired back on as a civilian working for the military to a non-military 9-5 through a headhunting agency you should have no problem finding decent employment.  A good bachelors/masters and good squadron jobs only help improve the odds.

 

Best of luck!

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Several of the CSO's in my unit, the 158th AS out of Savannah GA, work at Gulfstream. Obviously they aren't flying but they are highly paid and valued.

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Some platforms (AWACS, JSTARS, the few remaining KC-135s), the writing's on the wall.  Guys with smashbug wings are going the way of the dodo.  Now, for platforms that a) drop ordnance or b) have an AFSOC mission, the outlook is good.  AFSOC is quickly phasing in -J model everything, including AC and MC-130s, and they specifically kept the CSOs on those aircraft.  For bombers, the jet doesn't work without us, so you'll have a full career there.  The Buff is slated to be around until the mid 2040s at the rate it's going.  As for being a second class citizen...most of the problems I've experienced have come from cocky straight out of T-38 young copilots who think they're God's gift to aviation.  By the time they make AC and especially IP, most of them have calmed down and come to accept that, at least for the Buff, the jet revolves around the offensive team.  If your offense team sucks, you don't make your TOT and your bombs don't hit the target.  Your potential in that kind of community is limited only by your work ethic.  Right now, the current 5 OG/CC is a radar nav, the incoming 2 OG/CC is an EW, and the incoming 2 BW/CC is a Bone WSO on a cross-flow program.  In my ops squadron tours, I had two CSO sq/ccs and two pilot sq/ccs, and in my current FTU gig, I've had one and one.  Marketable skills...there's no one-one correlation, but you'll have years of military experience and be an expert in weapons and sensors.  Jobs at Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, etc are usually pretty common post-AF.

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