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admdelta

Approaching waiver territory, trying to weigh a billion options

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I turn 29 in July. Unfortunately I was a bit late in the game deciding I wanted to fly for the Air Force, and by the time I did, it took me ages to actually correspond with an officer recruiter (like almost a year). I finally managed to get in touch with one late last year who told me there was no chance for me because of my age and pulled the plug on submitting me to the April board because apparently I'm officially in waiver territory. I've been told by a lot of people in the Air Force that it can be done, but the recruiter told me they're all wrong. However, turns out I've got until my birthday to make something work out with the Air National Guard.

So far I've applied for one UPT slot with the ANG, and I wasn't selected for an interview. I'm trying to spam applications right now but there aren't a whole lot out there that I can apply to before my birthday that I've come across so far. I've also been speaking with an enlisted recruiter for an airlift squadron. Apparently basically all the pilots in their squadron came from enlisted first and were selected internally for UPT, including some with waivers, however I'm a bit wary of going this route at my age. I scored 99 on the ASVAB and could potentially work any job I want that's close to the pilots, but it seems like a pretty big risk to potentially be locked in as an enlisted airman without any guarantees. Especially since if I want I can still just become an Active Duty officer if flying isn't in the cards anyway. However, I really really really want flying to be in the cards.

Stuff about me:

* BA in Anthropology and Communication Design, GPA 3.41.
* AFOQT Scores: 93 Pilot, 98 Navigator, 76 Academic, 98 Verbal, 44 Quantitative
* 84 PCSM with 27 flight hours. Can bump to 88 with 14 more hours.
* LORs from a fire engine captain I fought wildfire with who is former navy, my flight instructor, a high school teacher, a pastor, and a supervisor.
* Prefer to be a fighter pilot but seriously not picky.

So what are my chances? Is there still any hope for flying Active Duty? How likely am I to lock something down with the National Guard? Is going enlisted in the ANG first and hoping to get picked up for UPT internally the worst idea ever? If it turns out to be, can I join Active Duty as an officer before my contract is up? And if I choose to enlist but get picked up by a unit before my ship date, am I stuck?

Furthermore, while lurking I've seen a few people mention unsponsored boards but I'm a bit unclear on what they are and how to apply to them. Is that just a Reserve thing or does Active Duty do it as well? 

Thanks everyone.

EDIT: Just found out last night my hearing and depth perception aren't so good. I feel like that just blows everything up and I feel super gutted now. Is there anything that can be done about that?

Edit 2: Disregard what I said about hearing and depth perception, they're fine.

Edited by admdelta
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"Unsponsored boards" are a Reserve thing, every Active Duty board is unsponsored. The Reserve unsponsored board is not going to be helpful with a waiver, you need a squadron that likes/needs you in your corner pushing the paperwork forward (plus, the unsponsored boards come and go depending on needs of the Reserve).

Fighters would seem unlikely for you. From what I've seen they are much less likely to do age waivers, and most require a PPL at minimum.

Going enlisted ANG and hoping to get picked up for UPT isn't the worst idea ever, it's slightly better than invading Russia in the winter. Really, though, it's a big "risk" (depending on how negative you'd view spending your time enlisted) for not a huge increase in likelihood of being picked up for UPT (as you'd now definitely need a waiver, and one for being 32 or 33, not just 30).

My advice is that you should apply for Reserve heavy squadrons. They're hiring tons of people right now and your scores are competitive for them. Given how the Reserves have streamlined the process post squadron hire (AFRC boards every six weeks instead of six months, surplus of dedicated Reserve spots at OTS/UPT), you would have a good chance of getting to UPT before your 30th birthday and thus not require a waiver. That's barring any screwups with your medical at MEPS/FC1, neither of which are guaranteed.

For comparison, my time between hire and UPT was 14 months, and that was with four months of delays for medical shenanigans and three months of waiting on the AFRC board.

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Active duty is probably out of the cards unless you get picked up for RPA and then apply for the AD rated board (for already commissioned officers) when you're eligible, which I believe is 2.5 years after you earn your wings. Obviously you'll need an age ETP by that point, but it seems that those aren't a gigantic deal for the AD rated board as long as you're in your early 30s based on what I've read around here. I mention RPA because there's currently a blanket age waiver in effect for RPA which increases the maximum age to no older than 35 on your first day of undergraduate RPA training. The other 3 rated fields have the age 30 limit and it seems that AD officer accessions (i.e. boards that select people to attend OTS, as opposed to the board I mentioned earlier which is for already commissioned officers to cross-flow) absolutely will not do age waivers. AFPC/AFRS has a rule that Pilot/CSO/ABM selects have to start OTS by age 29 + 1 month (I guess to give them ample time to make sure you can get through OTS, IFT, SERE/Water Survival training, and start your undergraduate training program all by your 30th birthday), so there's no way that would pan out. I also mention RPA because the word on the street is that there won't be any OTS boards to select non-rated AFSCs until next year (and I believe they'll be slotted for OTS classes beginning in FY2021), so RPA is your only quick way in.

I agree with the poster above that recommended applying with Reserve heavy squadrons (although I'd look at Guard ones too). Getting to UPT by age 30 might be doable but I wouldn't count on it, but fortunately it seems like a fair amount of heavy units are doing age waivers these days. Fighter units have been known to do it occasionally but it seems extremely rare and reserved for the most awesome candidates known to man (e.g. prior military, lots of flight time and some advanced ratings, great scores/GPA, maybe even ties to the local area), but it couldn't hurt to apply to those as well (although to maximize your chances it's a good idea to spend the time and money to visit those units, and it can be tough putting forth that investment without knowing if your application is even going to be considered in the first place). Your scores are good and your PCSM is great for having a relatively small amount of flight time. I'd recommend applying to every unit you can while continuing to build hours and ratings if you can afford it.

Edited by mb1685
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Definitely keep trying guard as well. I have seen plenty of units pick up dudes who needed age waivers. You have good stats. Keep at it!

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On 5/17/2018 at 2:07 PM, Stoker said:

"Unsponsored boards" are a Reserve thing, every Active Duty board is unsponsored. The Reserve unsponsored board is not going to be helpful with a waiver, you need a squadron that likes/needs you in your corner pushing the paperwork forward (plus, the unsponsored boards come and go depending on needs of the Reserve).

Fighters would seem unlikely for you. From what I've seen they are much less likely to do age waivers, and most require a PPL at minimum.

Going enlisted ANG and hoping to get picked up for UPT isn't the worst idea ever, it's slightly better than invading Russia in the winter. Really, though, it's a big "risk" (depending on how negative you'd view spending your time enlisted) for not a huge increase in likelihood of being picked up for UPT (as you'd now definitely need a waiver, and one for being 32 or 33, not just 30).

My advice is that you should apply for Reserve heavy squadrons. They're hiring tons of people right now and your scores are competitive for them. Given how the Reserves have streamlined the process post squadron hire (AFRC boards every six weeks instead of six months, surplus of dedicated Reserve spots at OTS/UPT), you would have a good chance of getting to UPT before your 30th birthday and thus not require a waiver. That's barring any screwups with your medical at MEPS/FC1, neither of which are guaranteed.

For comparison, my time between hire and UPT was 14 months, and that was with four months of delays for medical shenanigans and three months of waiting on the AFRC board.

So does that entirely rule out going unsponsored, or will they still send someone to UPT without a waiver with the expectation that the unit that picks them up will waiver them? I've heard of people over 30 going unsponsored so I'm all confused.

Also I consider the enlisted route a risk just because if for whatever reason I can't fly, I'd much rather wait for the next officer board than be enlisted in the Guard for 6 years. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for me, I'd just rather do different things. I consider it a means to an end, and it would suck if I can't reach that end.

And speaking of applying to reserve squadrons, there's been a big development - I spoke with a reserve recruiter yesterday and he was initially stoked when he saw my scores and all that, though he said I basically NEED to get my PPL before the next board in July. However then he pulled my physical record from MEPS, and apparently my depth perception isn't up to scratch nor is my hearing. I feel like I can remedy the depth perception issue, but apparently I have 30 decibels of hearing loss at the 2000 HZ level which is disqualifying. 

He recommended I retake both these tests, and suggested a few tips to try and do better at least on the hearing but I feel pretty gutted learning this right now. I also spoke with my enlisted recruiter who was wanting an answer from me by today if I was going to sign up with him or not, and I told him I didn't want to move forward until I've been retested. He went into full on damage control mode about it and said that in order for me to retest their unit will need to release me which will apparently take ages, and that once that's done I won't be able to come back to his unit if everything else doesn't work out. So now I've got until Monday to decide if I'm going to permanently sever ties with that guard unit. So it's been a tough couple of days. Not sure what to do now.

Edited by admdelta

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32 minutes ago, admdelta said:

So does that entirely rule out going unsponsored, or will they still send someone to UPT without a waiver with the expectation that the unit that picks them up will waiver them? I've heard of people over 30 going unsponsored so I'm all confused.

Also I consider the enlisted route a risk just because if for whatever reason I can't fly, I'd much rather wait for the next officer board than be enlisted in the Guard for 6 years. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for me, I'd just rather do different things. I consider it a means to an end, and it would suck if I can't reach that end.

And speaking of applying to reserve squadrons, there's been a big development - I spoke with a reserve recruiter yesterday and he was initially stoked when he saw my scores and all that, though he said I basically NEED to get my PPL before the next board in July. However then he pulled my physical record from MEPS, and apparently my depth perception isn't up to scratch nor is my hearing. I feel like I can remedy the depth perception issue, but apparently I have 30 decibels of hearing loss at the 2000 HZ level which is disqualifying. 

He recommended I retake both these tests, and suggested a few tips to try and do better at least on the hearing but I feel pretty gutted learning this right now. I also spoke with my enlisted recruiter who was wanting an answer from me by today if I was going to sign up with him or not, and I told him I didn't want to move forward until I've been retested. He went into full on damage control mode about it and said that in order for me to retest their unit will need to release me which will apparently take ages, and that once that's done I won't be able to come back to his unit if everything else doesn't work out. So now I've got until Monday to decide if I'm going to permanently sever ties with that guard unit. So it's been a tough couple of days. Not sure what to do now.

Don't know a ton about the unsponsored route, but at the AFRC board that selected me they picked up like 33/36 sponsored applicants and 3/6 unsponsored. So your odds are reduced a fair bit. And some boards just don't accept unsponsored candidates at all.

I failed depth perception at MEPS as well. I was sent by my recruiter to the nearest base for a full eye workup with the med group, which I passed. I think that's a waiverable thing though, same for hearing at that level (if you're at 30 then I think you're only 5 away from passing). Ask in the medical questions forum (after searching, of course).

You probably do need a PPL to go unsponsored. You probably don't need one to get sponsored by a heavy squadron. The Guard B-1 squadron is hiring people with ~20 hours, heavy squadrons are telling people with 0 hours to get a few and come back next board. If you have the money, get it, it'll save you six weeks at IFT and at least as many more waiting around to go and then waiting for UPT to start after you get back.

I would only enlist if your long term life plans are fulfilled by you enlisting. Doing so as a stepping stone to becoming a pilot is a high-risk, low-reward gamble (as there's a good chance you're unhappy, and a small chance you improve your odds of going to UPT).

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1 hour ago, Stoker said:

Don't know a ton about the unsponsored route, but at the AFRC board that selected me they picked up like 33/36 sponsored applicants and 3/6 unsponsored. So your odds are reduced a fair bit. And some boards just don't accept unsponsored candidates at all.

I failed depth perception at MEPS as well. I was sent by my recruiter to the nearest base for a full eye workup with the med group, which I passed. I think that's a waiverable thing though, same for hearing at that level (if you're at 30 then I think you're only 5 away from passing). Ask in the medical questions forum (after searching, of course).

You probably do need a PPL to go unsponsored. You probably don't need one to get sponsored by a heavy squadron. The Guard B-1 squadron is hiring people with ~20 hours, heavy squadrons are telling people with 0 hours to get a few and come back next board. If you have the money, get it, it'll save you six weeks at IFT and at least as many more waiting around to go and then waiting for UPT to start after you get back.

I would only enlist if your long term life plans are fulfilled by you enlisting. Doing so as a stepping stone to becoming a pilot is a high-risk, low-reward gamble (as there's a good chance you're unhappy, and a small chance you improve your odds of going to UPT).

The reserve recruiter mentioned doing this to retest me for my eyes and hearing at a local base, but when I told the Guard recruiter about it he made it sound as if in order for that to be done my entire record has to be released from the Guard and taken over by the reserve. I asked him if he'd be able to do it himself to avoid doing that, he said no because I'm currently in Colorado for the next few months but I'm owned by San Diego MEPS (where I got my physical last week). I don't know what to make of it because it seems like they're both giving me conflicting stories about how all that works. I guess I'll check out the medical forum then if you think they'd know the answer.

But when you had that done, you were able to do it without going back to MEPS, right? Sounds like you didn't have the issue my recruiter is telling me there is.

As far as enlisting goes... my long term life plans are just to be a pilot. If all things medical were perfect then I think going for the reserve would be the best option. But if I fail those tests again, it seems to me going enlisted in the Guard would be my best chance at getting waivered for those issues. The unit I was looking into hires their pilots almost exclusively from within their own enlisted pool which is nice, but like you said, still a big gamble. I'd be more inclined to do it if going to OTS for active duty was possible mid-contract but I've gotten really mixed messages on that from different people.

Edited by admdelta

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Bumping my old post with a new question. The Air Force recently removed the waiver requirement for officers up to the age of 33. First of all, this is explicitly for existing officers today, right? And if so, if they decide to do this for future boards, what's to stop someone from say commissioning in the Air Force now in some other job, and once commissioned then applying for pilot training? Does that seem like a legit loophole that could be exploited? 

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4 minutes ago, admdelta said:

Bumping my old post with a new question. The Air Force recently removed the waiver requirement for officers up to the age of 33. First of all, this is explicitly for existing officers today, right? And if so, if they decide to do this for future boards, what's to stop someone from say commissioning in the Air Force now in some other job, and once commissioned then applying for pilot training? Does that seem like a legit loophole that could be exploited? 

As far as I know, yes, it's only for already commissioned officers who are applying for the AD rated board.

As for commissioning into another AFSC to get your foot in the door, it's not really a "loophole" and there's nothing shady about doing it. Just keep in mind that the Active Duty boards are the most competitive route to an AD pilot slot (compared to OTS, ROTC, USAFA), and you'll probably have to stay in your non-rated AFSC for a significant amount of time before you're eligible to apply. You'll need to bust ass in your AFSC too since you'll probably be competing against some standouts.

If you really want to go Guard/Reserve but aren't picky about airframe/location, I'd keep trying heavy units before rushing to commission into AD. It seems that a fair number of heavy units don't have a problem doing age waivers these days. Plus who knows, maybe the next step will be for the Air Force to make age 33 the cutoff for civilian accessions too. 

If you'd rather go AD anyway, then sure, it's a decent plan to commission into another AFSC and apply for the rated board when eligible.

If you don't care whether you go Guard/Reserve or AD but you just really want fighters, then that plan is probably your best chance at getting a shot.

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On 10/2/2018 at 4:49 PM, mb1685 said:

If you really want to go Guard/Reserve but aren't picky about airframe/location, I'd keep trying heavy units before rushing to commission into AD. It seems that a fair number of heavy units don't have a problem doing age waivers these days. Plus who knows, maybe the next step will be for the Air Force to make age 33 the cutoff for civilian accessions too. 

 

Well I just scored my first interview invite so I think I'm going to scrap that idea now that I know there's hope for me. I've thought about this a lot and decided that going AD, when I don't even know for sure how long that process will take or if they're going to keep that policy in place, probably just isn't worth the risk. My interview is for a heavy squadron and I'm 100% okay with that being where I wind up.

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Congrats man!   I've heard a lot of great things about bogidope's interview prep services, you may want to look into that if you have the spare cash.  Never hurts to be as prepared as possible!

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On 10/16/2018 at 4:00 PM, donkey said:

Congrats man!   I've heard a lot of great things about bogidope's interview prep services, you may want to look into that if you have the spare cash.  Never hurts to be as prepared as possible!

Thanks! I asked my parents to buy that for me as an early Christmas present, lol. 

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