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Customs and Border Protection Air Interdiction Agent

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Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations (AMO), is actively hiring military and civilian pilots for their Air Interdiction Agent Positions. AMO is CBP's law enforcement wing and is located along the borders, Puerto Rico, and certain urban locations.https://www.cbp.gov/careers/frontline-careers/aia

I have assisted with Air Interdiction Agent recruiting and attended multiple recruiting events. Inevitably, the same questions are asked time and time again. The purpose of this thread is to provide the answers to these frequently asked questions. The position is very military friendly and offers benefits many civilian employers do not. The biggest is the ability to buyback your military years into our retirement system if you separate from service. 

Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions, the reference, and if a reference is not available I provided the best answer I have. This is not an “official” forum, I am giving you my best answer. If you have additional questions, please post them to the thread or email me directly at rw_leo@outlook.com.  I am not a full time recruiter, I am a line pilot who assists with recruiting. Please allow a day or two for a response. 

If you would like to apply, please contact me at the email provided. DO NOT APPLY THROUGH USAJOBS! I can submit your application directly, it saves you time and establishes a clear line of communication. The hiring process can be very frustrating, we are doing our best to keep applicants informed.  

 

How many hours do I need before I can apply?

Flight hours can be waived down to 1000-hours for specific experience, contact me for more specifics. 

I am over 40 years old, can I apply?

Yes, if you are a veteran. You are permitted to complete twenty years as a federal agent to receive a retirement. 

“In instances where the maximum entry-age is waived, the corresponding mandatory retirement age for these individuals will also be higher because it will be reached after 20 years of Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) service for the entitlement to an immediate enhanced annuity.” See below, it is under Age Qualifications.

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/veterans-services/vet-guide-for-hr-professionals/

Should I get my ATP before I apply?

It is not required.

Do I have to take a polygraph?

Yes. If you have a TS/SCI clearance you are eligible for a waiver.  Legislation is currently in the Senate which permits applicants with a Secret clearance with a reinvestigation in the past five year to apply for a waiver. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/595

Are waivers guaranteed?

No.

Does Air and Marine administer the polygraph?

No.

When will I get called for my interview and checkride?

Once your background investigation is complete. 

Where is my checkride and what does it include?

The process includes an interview, oral evaluation, and flight check. (Similar to a commercial checkride.) It is conducted in Oklahoma City.

How long does the process take?

4-6 months

When can I apply if I am in the military?

One year from your terminal leave date, you can attend the academy on terminal leave.

When will I find out where I am assigned?

Approximately 2-3 months prior to your academy date. 

When will I find out my academy date?

Shortly after a successful checkride/interview. 

Do you carry weapons?

Yes, we are federal agents and serve in a law enforcement capacity. 

What assignments are available?

See USAJOBs and search “Air Interdiction Agent.” Location, requirements, etc are listed in the announcement.

How long do I have to stay in my first assignment?

Minimum time is three-years. After three-years, you can apply to relocate to locations with a vacancy. 

Am I guaranteed the transfer?
 

No, however agents leaving “hard to fill” locations take priority for assignment. FAA ratings, aircraft at the requested assignment, and manning will also be considered. 

What is a hard to fill location?

Laredo, TX, McAllen, TX, Sierra Vista, AZ, Puerto Rico, North Dakota, and one or two other Southwest border locations.

Will I be force transferred?

Everyone signs a mobility agreement and transfers have occurred. Generally speaking, most transfers occur to agents who choose to pursue leadership positions.  

What is my rank/grade? When do increases occur?

The position is entry level GS11 journey to GS13; GS11 your first year, GS12 your second year, GS13 year three. After GS13 you increase in steps unless you choose to pursue a leadership (GS14) position.  Increase in GS level is dependent on satisfactory performance. 

What is a step?

An increase in pay for years of service. “Each grade has 10 step rates (steps 1-10) that are each worth approximately 3 percent of the employee’s salary. Within-grade step increases are based on an acceptable level of performance and longevity (waiting periods of 1 year at steps 1-3, 2 years at steps 4-6, and 3 years at steps 7-9). It normally takes 18 years to advance from step 1 to step 10 within a single GS grade if an employee remains in that single grade.” 

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-systems/general-schedule/
 
What is LEAP? What does it do for my pay?

LEAP is “Law Enforcement Availability Pay” and it adds an additional 25% to your annual salary. Remember it is availability pay, it is not required to be worked. Quick example: My work day is 8-hours a day. If I have a 10-hour day for an investigation, I get paid 8-hours for my duty day and the other 2-hours are covered by LEAP. 

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration/fact-sheets/availability-pay/

How much money will I make each year?

Add 25% to the figures provided in this table. 

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2017/law-enforcement-officer/

How much leave do I receive annually?

This depends on years of service, which includes active duty years. Ex: If you have 5 years of active duty, look at the 3-15 year column.  This is hours per pay period which is two weeks. (Active duty retirees are in the 4-hour column)

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/fact-sheets/annual-leave/

Do I get any other leave?

Yes, we get 4-hours per pay period for sick leave. Also, qualifying military servicemembers receive military leave. This is discussed later. 

How does leave at the branch work?

Leave is not like the military, we can take 30-minutes to 8-hours. If you want a four-day weekend, you take 16 hours. Assuming you are working a normal Mon-Friday schedule. If you want to take an hour in the morning, take one hour and not 0.5 days. 

What is your schedule?

We are required to work 5-days a week for 8-hours each day. Ex: Mon-Friday, Sunday-Thursday, Tuesday to Saturday. 

Do I get paid the same for each work day and time? 

No, we receive differential pay for night and Sunday work. 

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration/fact-sheets/night-shift-differential-for-federal-wage-system-employees/

Do you travel a lot?

Not like the military, this really depends on your location and mission. On average, I would say 1-5 days a month. This includes missions and all training. 

What is my retirement package?

You must complete 20-years of law enforcement (LE) time to receive a law enforcement retirement. 

As federal employees we are entitled to the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). The system includes a defined benefit, thrift savings plan, and Social Security.  Explained further below:

Defined Benefits:

1.7% of your high-3 average salary multiplied by your years of service which do not exceed 20, PLUS 1% of your high-3 average salary multiplied by your service exceeding 20 years Ex: 20 years equals 34% of your high three. 25 years is 39% of your high three. 

Employees have to pay 3.1% of their salary into the FERS retirement.  

https://www.opm.gov/blogs/Retire/2013/5/13/FERS-Revised-Annuity-Employee-FERS-RAE/

Thrift Savings Plan:

Matched for a total of 5% (1% automatic agency, 4% employee match) 

https://www.tsp.gov/PlanParticipation/EligibilityAndContributions/typesOfContributions.html

Social Security:

Very individual figure, here is what the FERS guide states “You should go to your local Social Security district office to obtain information about your eligibility for and amount of these benefits. “  
https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/pamphlets/ri90-8.pdf

I cannot stay 20-years, do I get a retirement?

Yes, you recieve a deferred annuity.  My understanding, it is 1% per year and begins paying at 62 years old. You must serve a minimum of 5-years to receive a deferred annuity.

https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/fers-information/types-of-retirement/#url=Deferred-Retirement

Do my military years add to my retirement?

Yes, if you buy them back into the FERS system. (See below)

How much does it cost and what does it add to my retirement?

It costs 3% of your total estimated earnings for a FERS addition of 1% to your retirement per year.  Simplifying the process, you send a DD214 to DFAS. They determine how much you made over your active duty career and send it back. Once you receive your estimated earnings, you send it to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and they calculate your payment. Ex: I served 10 years and made 500,000$.  As an employee, you are required to pay 15,000$ for an additional 10% onto your retirement. 

https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/benefits-officers-center/webcast-presentations/military-deposits.pdf

Do I have to pay all the money upfront?

No, I currently pay 100$ a pay period. (2-weeks)

Can I stay in the National Guard or Reserves?

Yes, you are also authorized 120-hours per year to conduct military obligations. 

Do I lose my years I bought back?

No. If you choose to complete 20-years of military service those years you “bought back” are used for your DHS and DOD reserve retirement. Yes, you get two defined retirements. Good deal. 

What if I am deployed while in the military? 

You are entitled to five years of military service. It is unpaid and may be “bought back” like other active duty time. 

Some information is located here: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/veterans-services/vet-guide-for-hr-professionals/

I am receiving a 20-year active duty retirement; can I buy back years?

Yes, but you cannot simultaneously receive your DOD annuity. 

https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/fers-information/military-retired-pay/

I want to move into a leadership position, how does that work?

Internal announcements are posted for specific positions. These positions are competitive and most are GS-14 positions.

What will I fly?

It depends on the aircraft available at your assigned location. Most locations have one or two of the following rotary wing aircraft: EC120, AS350, UH1, or UH60. Fixed wing, most have the C206 or C210. Less common are the King Air, Dash 8’s, PC12, P3’s and the C550

How many aircraft can I fly?

Up to three, most AIA’s fly two.

I am dual rated and have not flown helicopters (or airplanes) in years, will I be able to fly both?

Most likely, yes. Ultimately, it depends on the needs of your branch and aircraft availability 

Will I fly a lot?

Depends on location, maintenance, weather, etc. Most fly from 200-500 hours annually. 

Are there additional/collateral duties?

Yes, but one is not mandatory like the military. Example: Firearms instructor, instructor pilot, maintenance pilot, safety, and operations. 

What do you do when not flying?

Studying, physical training, computer based training, etc. We also have quarterly, semi-annual, and annual requirements. Firearms, law review, etc

Will they send me to get my fixed wing or helicopter ratings? Flight Instructor?

This is very case by case and I do not know the correct answer. I have seen agents sent to training for their Commercial Helicopter, Single Engine, Multi-Engine, CFI, CFII, etc. Most likely, it depends on your locations needs.

Where is the flight training conducted? 

Depends. Most of our training is civilian contractor; Flight Safety, SIMCOM, etc. You are also required to take an annual checkride at your branch. 

Where is the academy and how long is training?

Initial training is at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, GA and lasts approximately 14-16 weeks. 

 

Below are a few pictures I got from guys in the field. 

 

IMG_0477.JPG

IMG00360-20120607-1110.jpg

IMG_1255.JPG

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GS-11 first year, 2 years to 13/step 1? That's a massive pay cut for a mil pilot off AD, and not very desirable locations additionally. Even some young guys who aren't flight leads are GS-13 in the guard, and the rest are bare minimum 12s.  

CBP needs to greatly step up their hiring baseline pay to even remotely be competitive with a shit load of other aviation opportunity out there for guys leaving AD. I can't imagine any pilot would be interested unless they were dead set on living in Laredo. 

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2 hours ago, brabus said:

GS-11 first year, 2 years to 13/step 1? That's a massive pay cut for a mil pilot off AD, and not very desirable locations additionally. Even some young guys who aren't flight leads are GS-13 in the guard, and the rest are bare minimum 12s.  

CBP needs to greatly step up their hiring baseline pay to even remotely be competitive with a shit load of other aviation opportunity out there for guys leaving AD. I can't imagine any pilot would be interested unless they were dead set on living in Laredo. 

Yup, especially if you're an IP coming off AD you could become an ART, get GS-13 and an increased step with a superior quals package and then have a 25% 3R on top of it.

 

By the way, does CBP get the same SSR that ARTs get?

 

Edit: SSR 0558 for GS-2181s is for Element : Department of the AF. More coin being lost out on.

https://apps.opm.gov/specialrates/2014/table055801012014.aspx

Edited by LookieRookie

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4 hours ago, brabus said:

GS-11 first year, 2 years to 13/step 1? That's a massive pay cut for a mil pilot off AD, and not very desirable locations additionally. Even some young guys who aren't flight leads are GS-13 in the guard, and the rest are bare minimum 12s.  

CBP needs to greatly step up their hiring baseline pay to even remotely be competitive with a shit load of other aviation opportunity out there for guys leaving AD. I can't imagine any pilot would be interested unless they were dead set on living in Laredo. 

Not just the money. There's a lot of info out there on a terrible culture problem in CBP Air that's just as bad if not worse than DOD Aviation right now. 

Cool mission with some badass opportunities, but you're absolutely right. They're going to need to fix their pay, locations, and culture if they want any shot at drawing dudes away from the airlines or even full time ARC jobs. If they hadn't gone full retard for 8 years hiring rotary wing or dual-rated only, they might not be in this mess.

Although  in all fairness to the money argument, you need to add LEAP in that comparison.  It's still not even close.

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5 hours ago, Buddy Spike said:

Not just the money. There's a lot of info out there on a terrible culture problem in CBP Air that's just as bad if not worse than DOD Aviation right now. 

Cool mission with some badass opportunities, but you're absolutely right. They're going to need to fix their pay, locations, and culture if they want any shot at drawing dudes away from the airlines or even full time ARC jobs. If they hadn't gone full retard for 8 years hiring rotary wing or dual-rated only, they might not be in this mess.

Although  in all fairness to the money argument, you need to add LEAP in that comparison.  It's still not even close.

LEAP 25% would be covered by the 3R all ARC pilots can get. 3R= Recruitment/Relocation aka when hired or Retention Incentive.

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14 hours ago, Buddy Spike said:

Any chance of getting a decent location, or is it still just West Texas or Arizona?  (Hammond, perhaps?)

 

After I left Active Duty I worked as an Aircraft Mechanic on the Customs aircraft. I was at Houston which is now closed. And Homestead. Here is a link to the current locations.

 

https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/air-sea/oam-operating-locations

Edited by MC5Wes

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16 hours ago, brabus said:

GS-11 first year, 2 years to 13/step 1? That's a massive pay cut for a mil pilot off AD, and not very desirable locations additionally. Even some young guys who aren't flight leads are GS-13 in the guard, and the rest are bare minimum 12s.  

CBP needs to greatly step up their hiring baseline pay to even remotely be competitive with a shit load of other aviation opportunity out there for guys leaving AD. I can't imagine any pilot would be interested unless they were dead set on living in Laredo. 

CBP offers a good alternative to military aviators who do not want to spend a career in the airlines, flying freight, HEMS, Oil and Gas, contract work, etc. I know a few guys in the agency who grew tired of the airlines after 5-6 years. I also know former AIA’s who left CBP for the airlines. It is  a great way to keep your active duty military years if you plan on separating or “double dipping” your years if you plan on staying in the Guard.

The job can be exciting and offers a great amount of diversity. It all depends on location, but you have the ability to fly multiple FW or RW platforms. It is a heavy RW agency (why we hired a lot of dual and RW pilots), but we now hire dual, RW, or FW pilots. We have also begun sending FW only guys to rotary wing initial. No guarantees, but I know of three or four this year.

Not sure of what your expectation is for aviation pay, but I have been with AMO for 8-years and grossed $135,000 this year. It is not active duty military pay, but it does not come with the commitments of active duty. I am home 95% of the year, I rarely work more than 8-hours a workday, and I leave every aspect of my job at the base.

GS10 or GS11 non-competitive to GS13 is standard for Federal Law Enforcement (LEO) Agents. Law enforcement agents are considered special population and are entitled to following compensation:

- An additional 25% for LEAP (Already discussed)

- Retirement calculated at 1.7% of high-3, 34% after 20-years. Most federal technicians get 1% a year. 

- Retirement is obtained after 20-years and over the age of 50 or 25-years at any age https://www.opm.gov/about-us/budget-performance/strategic-plans/retirement-strategic-plan.pdf)

- Our TSP matches at 5%

- We can withdrawal our TSP penalty free (under 62 years) after retiring https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2146)

- Servicemembers are entitled to 120-hours (3-weeks) of military leave to complete military obligations. 3-weeks of double dipping pay. 

Retiring from CBP and DOD entitles you to a great defined benefits retirement. Example: An AIA served 13-years AD and completed another 10-years in the Guard. After 20-years with CBP, they retire at 57 with a DOD retirement as an O-4 (for example) and a GS13 retirement calculated at 47% of their high three. (47% is calculated at 34% for 20-years with CBP and 13% DOD buyback.) Here are the dollar amounts in today’s dollar; 55-60yrs old: $65,000 from CBP (annuity plus Social Security Supplement). 60-62yrs old: approx. $65,000 from CBP and approx.. $36,000 from DOD. Older than 62: $50,000 from CBP, $36,000 from DOD and Social Security. (If it’s still available?)

Locations: Initially, locations suck if you are not from the SW border. If you can live in a “bad” location for 3-years, who cares? I have a plenty of applicants who want to live in McAllen, Yuma, Puerto Rico, etc. We have good locations also: San Diego, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Great Lakes, Hammond, Etc. (See map) One of our primary missions is interdicting illegal personnel and cargo crossing the US Border, these locations permit us to accomplish this mission. 

Leadership and culture: Quite a few issues over the years, but it is getting better. It is very dependent on location. If you have any interest, let me know and I will get you in touch with someone at a particular location. Culture, same thing. It is all about local level leadership. I have been at two locations, one sucked and one was great.  

AMO Operation Location Maps.pdf

Edited by RW_LEO
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22 hours ago, Buddy Spike said:

Not just the money. There's a lot of info out there on a terrible culture problem in CBP Air that's just as bad if not worse than DOD Aviation right now. 

...

Out of curiosity, can you give a few sentence summary of the culture problem there?  I have only known one CBP pilot and he said it was a good deal and seemed to like it.  

 

I am also sort of asking for a good friend who is an Army Guard helo guy who is looking to get into something bigger/better.  

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3 hours ago, JS said:

Out of curiosity, can you give a few sentence summary of the culture problem there?  I have only known one CBP pilot and he said it was a good deal and seemed to like it.  

 

I am also sort of asking for a good friend who is an Army Guard helo guy who is looking to get into something bigger/better.  

https://www.airlinepilotforums.com/military/100650-cbp-aia-new-thread.html

 

There are also other threads on it and some info on other boards out there.  But that seems most relevant and recent.

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Lots of info (good, bad & ugly) on the AIA job over on www.APTAP.org forum too.  I left CBP after almost 9.5 years as an AIA and two duty locations to fly ISR King Air 350s down range on 60/60 rotations.  I can now live anywhere in the world I want, work half the year or more if I want to make more $$$, no additional duties, just fly the plane, and have zero interaction with the company for half the year during my time off at home.  

I'm still tossing around the idea of going to the Majors, but not sure if the 121 world is for me.  (Caveat....I'm an Army RC-12 & C-12 bubba by trade.)  IMO...CBP is a perfect gig for the helicopter only guy, someone who wants to fly UAVs, someone who loves the Southwest Border or Puerto Rico, or is looking for a pretty stable government job & pension.  CBP has it's fair share of "ups & downs" and "pluses & minuses" but it just wasn't the place I wanted to hang around for another 10.5 years to just collect a pension.  It was almost the same exact feelings I had & why I left active duty at around the same time point in my Army career.  Feel free to ask questions or PM me if you want any info and I'll try to give you my view.  Good luck & fly safe!

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MHS hit on a lot of the reasons guys decide to leave; schedule, location, etc.  A lot of it is personal preference and what is best for you and your family. 

Air and Marine was a merger between Border Patrol(BP) and Customs Air about 12-years ago. A lot of the leadership has an allegiance to their roots and not those of Air and Marine. Ex: When a branch is led by a former BP pilot, the branch spends an enormous amount of time patrolling the border. Even when the border is wide open, negative "something" Fahrenheit, and no where near a populated area. When the branch is directed to use it assets this way,  the traditional customs missions of multi-agency support, covert surveillance, etc are not supported.  With AMO I have supported USCG, Secret Service, ATF, DEA, FBI, State Police, Dept of Forestry, etc. These agencies tend to use air support towards the end of very long investigation, we fly one or two missions and receive credit for very little work. Leaders fail to adjust to their new environment and the branch suffers.  

It is extremely frustrating when the branch policy prevents us from getting arrests, seizures, drugs, and other statistics which validate our hard work and hours flown.  Guys become frustrated and look elsewhere, within the agency or outside the agency. About 5-years ago the Norther Border was drawn down for this exact reason. Senior leadership pushed the BP mission, tons of hours with no statistics, and lots of guys were moved or quit. If we had used the NB assets properly in an investigative support role, I believe they would have had the stats to remain in the locations. 

I have seen an enormous shift in our leadership since I entered 10-years ago. As time passes, the legacy Customs and BP pilots retire and those who grew-up in AMO are moving into these positions.

What is causing the culture problem: Leadership. Guys who can show-up, fly, do their job and go home are the guys who stay. Guys who get frustrated because "thats not how its done in the military, PD, etc" are bound to be disappointed and will most likely leave after a few years. Defined benefits pension, good pay, 40-hours weeks, could definitely be worse. 

 

 

Edited by RW_LEO

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Hello all! I'd like to know what the typical day of rotary wing flight is like? Do you essentially have a patrol route? Flight modes? I'd assume mostly VFR. Thanks for any insight!

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I would consider it as a post retirement thing if it wasn't for the requirement to do 20 physical LE years in order to retain the 1.7% multiplier. That's a big sting right there, the fact that they don't honor it outright is a non-starter for me.

One of the more critical reasons they had to wave the white flag in the AFRC side and start retrofitting back to AGRs after the unholy mess of a whipsaw we endured with the "ART conversion" fiasco of 2010-2015, was OPM's unwillingness to address that ghastly FERS 1% multiplier (don't get me started on the post 2014  4.4% annual fee for new hires). It was simply non-competitive compared to straight GS LEO civil servants like CBP, let alone the direct competitor, the AGR peer demographic (yours truly). Even the ART -2181 SSR table can't compete @ 1% multiplier, versus the straight GS lower salary @ 1.7% multiplier.

Of course, in reality the biggest thing that caused lack of traction in the AFRC situation was the inability of people to mil-drop/USERRA the airline gig into an ART. But that's title-V for ya, nothing can be done about that.

I looked at it for a nanosecond as a potential gig to get me home to PR post-military, but the tax situation as a federal employee in PR is a complete disaster. For those who don't know, that's 33% above 61K, with no deductions, no exemptions and no discounted tables for married vs single. In other words, PR residency incurs an income tax liability greater than almost all (federal+state) tax situations in the CONUS. It's not as bad up until 61K, but every dollar above that it goes off the charts quick. I did the math on my current income, assuming all taxable for argument sake (since normally mil has a lot of unreported gross via BAH), and I came up with 241% personal income tax of what I pay as a Texas resident (federal + 0 state). And then I read OPM pays PR at the "rest of US" locality rate. Fog that. I can't afford that kind of sunshine tax, so I'll have to figure out other ways of managing the aging parents angle going forward.

For the little time I would  have left until age 57 (11 years in my case post AD retire), neither  the airline nor civil service (@ 1% FERS and joke 4.4% vesting fee) would be an earth-shattering solution. My point is that a 1.7% multiplier would sweeten the pot vice the airline, since NB FO pay and a B-fund wouldn't be as robust for such short duration employment. Alas, OPM doesn't look like they're willing to deal, if my interactions with that office regarding the ART fiasco in the ARC is any indication.

Just a n=1 data point to consider from someone who would be in the target demographic but sidesteps as a result of all the aforementioned. Maybe they can look at these issues and find more interested candidates, if willing to address it. Good luck to all. Lord knows I don't know what I want to do when I "grow up". lol

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The new job announcement permits applicants to count up to 1250-UAS hours towards the 1500 hour requirement. Here is the link and text from the announcement :https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/479811700

Flight Logs/Hours:  You must submit clear copies of your flight records showing a total of 1500 flight hours AND;
250 Manned Pilot-in-Command hours
75 Manned Instrument hours
75 Manned Night hours
100 Flight hours within the last 12 months

Predator A (MQ-1), Predator B (MQ-9), Global Hawk (RQ-4), or predator based variant flight hours will be credited toward satisfying the 1500 flight hours and 100 flight hours in the last 12 months.

 

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Anyone interested in CBP's AIA position needs to be informed of the latest policies and their implications.  They have enacted a policy of directed relocations that are based on "first-in-first-out", also known as reverse seniority. The Assistant Commissioner has seen fit to move senior pilots or sensor operators to the "hard-to-fill" locations, thus keeping the newer pilots from quitting and going to the airlines.  This is possible because of the lack of a union.  The recruitment propaganda says that new hires can move around, or stay in their same location, but the truth is less concrete.  If your current location is hard-to-fill, you won't be forced to move.  What could have been a great organization has been destroyed by the current leadership, or lack thereof.  Pilots are jumping this sinking ship, as they should, at unprecedented numbers.  If you don't mind less desirable locations, the work isn't that bad (patrol or surveillance, one or two bags of gas), but the current leadership doesn't care about the employees in the least.  Senior Executive Service bonuses take precedence over what is best for the country, and for the government.  The non-pilots running the organization don't appreciate the skill level required for the position. There is actually talk of a 10% bonus for all AIA's, and a more imminent 10% bonus for the hard-to-fill locations.   I am, admittedly, a bit jaded, but getting your seniority started in the airlines is a safe course of action.  On the plus side, for now you can get all the flight time you want.  On the continued negative side, there is talk of changing the retirement system to best-of-five instead of best-of-three, and getting rid of the current social security supplemental portion of the retirement, which gives law enforcement retirees the equivalent of social security until they are eligible.  If you are set on getting in, better get in soon.  I would be happy to expound on any point in this message.  I want any prospective recruits to be informed of the current circumstances.  I don't mean to sound all doom-and-gloom, there are definitely positives to the job.  These days, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives.

Edited by airsigncutter
accuracy

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AMO recently relocated two Agents from the Plattsburgh Air Branch to Puerto Rico and McAllen. It was part of a 5-year Northern Border Realignment plan which was briefed to the Plattsburgh Agents in 2011. Plattsburgh, NY had over 30-pilots and McAllen, Texas had less than 30. Headquarters made a decision to fill an operational gap, the Souther Border had a shortage of personnel and aircraft. My opinion, it was something that needed to be done. (I was in Plattsburgh at the time and chose to move) All personnel were provided multiple opportunities to relocate, these two individual were local and decided to holdout and let HQ relocate them. First-in-first-out was initially briefed as a method to relocate personnel. Ultimately, headquarters chose to relocate based on position and current operational requirements. 

Supply and demand. There is currently a limited number of pilots and airlines are offering great benefits to new pilots. (http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/27/news/companies/pilot-shortage-figures/index.html) Basic economics, when supply is limited an organization must pay more to meet manning requirements. HQ has discussed the possibility of a 10% bonus for both hard to fill locations and an across the board retention bonus. It is no different than the airlines, EMS, etc. Both Customs and Border Patrol pilots received a flight pay bonus pre-911. We still have two BP pilots at my location who still receive the bonus, the rest of us do not.  

The retirement conversation has been discussed for many years, nothing has happened. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association is like a union but members can hold the organization accountable, we pay our dues annually based on their performance: https://www.fleoa.org. It has about 25,000 members and has addressed the reduction in retirement proposals (not even legislation) with multiple members of Congress. 

Is this the perfect job, no. Is it a good job that pays very well, yes. Do we have leadership challenges, retention problems, etc? Absolutely, what organization does not? The military has service obligations for this exact reason. 

There are still plenty of legacy Border Patrol pilots who feel Air and Marine ruined a good thing. There are also many legacy Customs pilots who feel Border Patrol ruined a good thing. Everyone has an opinion, much of it is based on emotion and half truths. I recommend anyone considering a position with Air and Marine read all the forums (APTAP.org is a good one), and read as much about pay a retirement as you can. Also, use the links I provided above (vs emotional rants) and deal in facts.

Good luck if you choose to pursue a career outside the military. If you are interested in a position with Air and Marine, please feel free to contact me with any questions. If I can not answer your question, I will get in touch with some who can.   

Edited by RW_LEO

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I heard that it was Puerto Rico and Laredo, and that there were several pilots who were issued directed relocations from various locations, but instead resigned.  I agree that emotional rants should be taken with a grain of salt, but sometimes emotional rants just expose the unsavory truths that no one else cares to.  Facts are facts, and opinions are opinions. I would be more than willing to discuss either. 

It isn't a bad job, the pay and benefits are very reasonable.  Right now, there is all the flight time a pilot could wish for.  I just think prospective employees should be informed.  It isn't PC to air dirty laundry, but I believe it is worse to lure innocent prospects into a job without all the facts.  New hires are going to "hard-to-fill" locations. Undeniably reasonable.  New guys have to put in their time.  Every other aviation and law enforcement organization use normal seniority to make decisions in regards to personnel.  AMO enacted a precedent that negatively affects the senior employees.  By all means, do your research, and by all means apply for the positions, but do it with all the pertinent information. RW_LEO is doing a great job as far as recruiting is concerned, emphasizing the positives, but I believe it is important for someone to enlighten potential employees when their future is on the line.  I would like to re-emphasize...by all means, do your research and apply if it is right for you.  Just do it as an informed candidate.

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What it comes down to is that most qualified guys just don't want to do the job, irrelevant of the airline hiring.  If this was all about the airlines hiring then you wouldn't have a problem hiring rotorwing guys since RW Army WOs aren't just walking into the airlines...rather they are seeking medflight jobs which aren't paying any better than the job you're offering (in most cities they pay worse).

 

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3 hours ago, HeloDude said:

What it comes down to is that most qualified guys just don't want to do the job, irrelevant of the airline hiring.  If this was all about the airlines hiring then you wouldn't have a problem hiring rotorwing guys since RW Army WOs aren't just walking into the airlines...rather they are seeking medflight jobs which aren't paying any better than the job you're offering (in most cities they pay worse).

 

Pretty much this.  I don't really relish the idea of living in Laredo TX or Deming NM after I get out of the military.  Yeah maybe down the road you can transfer to San Diego or Tucson but who knows when or if that will ever happen.

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On 7/29/2017 at 10:33 PM, RW_LEO said:

Locations: Initially, locations suck if you are not from the SW border. If you can live in a “bad” location for 3-years, who cares? I have a plenty of applicants who want to live in McAllen, Yuma, Puerto Rico, etc. We have good locations also: San Diego, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Great Lakes, Hammond, Etc. (See map) One of our primary missions is interdicting illegal personnel and cargo crossing the US Border, these locations permit us to accomplish this mission. 

You aren't transferring anywhere at three years. That is a standard recruiting line they tell everyone. Make sure you do your research and are well informed if you plan to go to CBP. If you don't mind living in a bad location then the job can be descent. If you think you're going to transfer to one of the very coveted prime locations then save yourself a lot of heartache and buy a lottery ticket because you have a better chance of winning the powerball!

 

On 7/29/2017 at 10:33 PM, RW_LEO said:

CBP offers a good alternative to military aviators who do not want to spend a career in the airlines, flying freight, HEMS, Oil and Gas, contract work, etc. I know a few guys in the agency who grew tired of the airlines after 5-6 years. I also know former AIA’s who left CBP for the airlines. It is  a great way to keep your active duty military years if you plan on separating or “double dipping” your years if you plan on staying in the Guard.

The job can be exciting and offers a great amount of diversity. It all depends on location, but you have the ability to fly multiple FW or RW platforms. It is a heavy RW agency (why we hired a lot of dual and RW pilots), but we now hire dual, RW, or FW pilots. We have also begun sending FW only guys to rotary wing initial. No guarantees, but I know of three or four this year.

Not sure of what your expectation is for aviation pay, but I have been with AMO for 8-years and grossed $135,000 this year. It is not active duty military pay, but it does not come with the commitments of active duty. I am home 95% of the year, I rarely work more than 8-hours a workday, and I leave every aspect of my job at the base.

GS10 or GS11 non-competitive to GS13 is standard for Federal Law Enforcement (LEO) Agents. Law enforcement agents are considered special population and are entitled to following compensation:

- An additional 25% for LEAP (Already discussed)

- Retirement calculated at 1.7% of high-3, 34% after 20-years. Most federal technicians get 1% a year. 

- Retirement is obtained after 20-years and over the age of 50 or 25-years at any age https://www.opm.gov/about-us/budget-performance/strategic-plans/retirement-strategic-plan.pdf)

- Our TSP matches at 5%

- We can withdrawal our TSP penalty free (under 62 years) after retiring https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2146)

- Servicemembers are entitled to 120-hours (3-weeks) of military leave to complete military obligations. 3-weeks of double dipping pay. 

Retiring from CBP and DOD entitles you to a great defined benefits retirement. Example: An AIA served 13-years AD and completed another 10-years in the Guard. After 20-years with CBP, they retire at 57 with a DOD retirement as an O-4 (for example) and a GS13 retirement calculated at 47% of their high three. (47% is calculated at 34% for 20-years with CBP and 13% DOD buyback.) Here are the dollar amounts in today’s dollar; 55-60yrs old: $65,000 from CBP (annuity plus Social Security Supplement). 60-62yrs old: approx. $65,000 from CBP and approx.. $36,000 from DOD. Older than 62: $50,000 from CBP, $36,000 from DOD and Social Security. (If it’s still available?)

Locations: Initially, locations suck if you are not from the SW border. If you can live in a “bad” location for 3-years, who cares? I have a plenty of applicants who want to live in McAllen, Yuma, Puerto Rico, etc. We have good locations also: San Diego, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Great Lakes, Hammond, Etc. (See map) One of our primary missions is interdicting illegal personnel and cargo crossing the US Border, these locations permit us to accomplish this mission. 

Leadership and culture: Quite a few issues over the years, but it is getting better. It is very dependent on location. If you have any interest, let me know and I will get you in touch with someone at a particular location. Culture, same thing. It is all about local level leadership. I have been at two locations, one sucked and one was great.  

AMO Operation Location Maps.pdf

 

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Airline hiring is playing a huge factor on the pilot shortage industry wide, not just CBP.  Example: The Air Force has been forced to offer increased bonuses to maintain their pilots: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/04/06/us-military-airline-officials-to-discuss-pilot-shortage.html.  

Completely agree, a lot of guys do not want this job or available locations. There are also plenty of pilots who do want this job. In the past 2-3 months, I have submitted applications from an airline pilot, S76 corporate pilot, Army WO (who is currently in the academy), and two Navy Officers. I also know of three Army Warrant Officers who are currently-in or getting ready to start training in the Envoy https://www.envoyair.com/pilots/rotor-transition-program/ and TRANS STATE rotor to airline pilot programs http://www.transstates.net/careers/Pages/Rotor-to-Wings.aspx. The pilot shortage has eliminated many of the certificate and flight hour requirements of previous years, pilots are very easily crossing into other sectors (Airlines) of the aviation industry. 

Read the thread above regarding pay and benefits. There is a substantial difference between an entry level EMS pilot and an Air Interdiction Agent, especially one who bought back their active duty years. 

I started this thread to present an alternative for pilots who want an option other than airlines, EMS, corporate, etc. Many have replied and a couple have submitted applications. There may be many qualified guys who are not interested, but there are also plenty who are interested. 

Edited by RW_LEO
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With CBP allowing up to 1250 hours of MQ time to count toward flying your totals, will pilots with mostly MQ time be made to fly MQ only or will manned fixed wing be an option?

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