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Rycast

Turned 28... Keep Trying? Or GO ARMY?

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Age: 28 (will be 28.5 in October 2018)
AFOQT: 1st Try: 82 Pilot / 72 Nav / 64 Acad Apt / 83 Verb / 45 Quant
TBAS: 2nd Try: 68 (up to 92 at 201+ hours; currently at 21 hours)
LORs: 1 Retired Air Force pilot, 2 College Professors, 2 Former Employers
GPA: 3.63 (Dual B.A.'s from Virginia Tech)

I applied active duty USAF as pilot only in 2016 and was not selected. I have been applying to ANG fighter units with no luck. Now the Army is offering me a scholarship to get my master's as long as I do it before I turn 31. I think I'd rather have a non-flying Army job than Air Force.

My options:

1. Go to Florida State University and do Army ROTC. Upsides are that I'll get my master's for free, hopefully have fun at FSU, and get to commission as an officer. The downsides are that I'll have to give up flying, Tallahassee kind of sucks, I'll have to commit to 10 years with the Army (2 in school, 4 active, 4 reserve), and the degree is a somewhat worthless Master's in Communications.

2. Go to Austin or Dallas, where I've found several police jobs that I think I have a good chance of getting. I've always wanted to be in the military or be a cop. The pay is better than the Army (up to $63k starting). I could fast track my PPL next month and apply for a few more units before I'm 29. I could also pursue my MBA online at Liberty University (got accepted for the MBA there, but not for the MBA at FSU).

In case you can't tell, I'm leaning toward Texas. But part of me feels like if I don't do something in the military, I'll always regret it. Then again, I want to finish up my PPL. I hate quitting stuff and flying is in my blood (3rd generation pilot, haha).

Questions:

Is Army aviation as an officer worth pursuing? I've also considered enlisting, but it seems dumb to do it at 28 with two degrees.

I've searched around about ANG age waivers, and the general consensus seems to be that they are long shot. Correct?

I still have one AFOQT retest available. But is this a waste of time now? I'd almost certainly be 29 by the time a board meets.

Thanks in advance for any advice / wisdom. I know this is a very personal choice, but maybe you've had similar.

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keep trying, don't go Army...speaking from experience

-Army Officers fly a decent amount as LT's, but that drops off drastically once you hit CPT and go to staff.  If you go Army, go Warrant Officer and find a guard unit that you like.  Rush them like you would the AF or you could end up with a community that sucks bad.

-Age waivers are a real thing.  For fighters they are less common.

-I wont speak to your scores, i'll let someone who has sat on a board comment on that.

@FlyArmy would you like to chime in as well?

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I turned 28 at the start of May with scores that are very similar to yours with 11 hours and an engineering degree and I have an interview at a reserve heavy unit. If you are fighters or bust then I'd say apply and make them tell you no but from what I have seen on the forums age waivers for fighters are harder to come by because there is no shortage of young fighter pilot applicants.

If you Google confessions of a KC-135 boom operator there is a good story about the KC-135 mission that kind of got me excited about heavies. Link

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I got hired at 28 (almost 29) with similar numbers. I didn't start UPT until 30 due to complications/delays in acquiring a needed waiver. It can be done. If flying for the USAF is your goal, stay the course. Keep trying. Your question resonates with me as I asked myself the same question. I also started looking into the Army's WOFT program in the event I didn't picked up by the Air Force. (I have two friends who are Apache drivers, one current (a WO) and one former (was commissioned). They like/liked it, so I figured that was a viable alternative.) That said, if you end up going Army, I will echo others on this board: go WO. If you want to focus on flying, WOFT is where it's at.  

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Chiming in from the outside (I'm applying just like you), but with a lot of rhyming to your situation. First, I'm a geezer at 36 and still giving it my all to get hired at a heavy unit somewhere. If I've got a chance at 7+ years older than you, I'm sure you are fine to get a waiver if you prove worthy to the squadron; especially, as others have said, at a heavy unit.

I actually got my Undergrad at FSU and moved to Austin after, then became a fireman there (although I do know a cop or two in the area) before moving up to NYC, so I'll give you a little personal advice on both of those options. FSU is a hell of a lot of fun, if you're down with living the college life, and a good school to go to. The bars are fun, the women are plentiful and friendly, and Saturdays in the fall are amazing. I didn't think Tally as a city was that bad, honestly. It's cheap, there are good food options, and it's not too far from the beach. There were some hills, there were some decent outdoor activities (Cherokee Sink, St. George Island, Apalachicola, etc.), and you could ride a motorcycle nearly all year round. I'd definitely do it all over again.

I don't know about PPL schools, but Tallahassee Airport is small enough it's probably not expensive to get lessons there and wrap up your PPL while you're in school.

Austin is also a great town. Live music everywhere, lots of young people so lots of young activities, great going out district downtown, and a metric shit-ton of outdoor stuff to do (hiking, SUP/kayaks downtown, biking, running trails, power boats on Lake Travis, etc.). That said, it's changed a lot from the decade+ ago that I lived there. I caught the tail end of it still being inexpensive and not ridiculously overcrowded, both of which are long gone now. It's gotten crazy expensive (places I looked at buying 12 years ago have quadrupled in price) and there are people everywhere. All of the cool little niche things that made Austin a lot of fun now have lines and you're going to sit in pretty terrible traffic to get there. Rents and housing prices have skyrocketed, so you're pushed further and further out (maybe you want that, though?) away from the nightlife and core activities. That also means driving to and from those activities and Texas cops don't mess around with DUIs. I know a TON of people there that got nicked (pre-Uber days; although that doesn't absolve the bad choice to drive) and that would likely put a serious dent in your aspirations; mil or civilian.

I did a little research for a friend in Austin interested in getting a PPL and it actually kinda sucks there. There are only a couple schools and rates were high (high even by NYC standards, honestly) to rent the planes. The less expensive airports were a decent drive out of town, although I guess they may be closer, depending on where you live. 

If you're looking for PD, there are lots of departments in the area (and ranging from DPS, APD, and lots of school departments) and they pay pretty decent. If you have mil points, they'll give you an extra bump. Personally, if you're not locked into LE, I'd recommend giving a look to the FD side, but I'm more than a shade biased. Haha.

I know little about Dallas, except it's flat, they get tornadoes and ice storms, and it's still hot as hell. But, I know a lot of people seem to like it, so maybe it's great. It's probably better to commute to your unit with DFW there than from AUS.

So, not sure if that helped at all because both options aren't bad and I'd lean either way, but it was just striking a chord to read your options and taking this old man back in the old time machine. If it were me, honestly, I'd just start applying to units. It seems like timeframes can stretch beyond a year (maybe two) between applying and getting accepted. Maybe you could rack out your MS while you're waiting to ship out to UPT, then move to Austin/Dallas in 4-5 years after your MS and training. You'll go after those PD jobs armed with a few extra points having served, you'll have the flying still as a Traditional Reservist/Guardsman, and you'll have the MS. Why not try to knock all the pins down?

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Thanks for the replies, everyone. I think the general consensus is that the Army could be a mistake (at least as an officer). It's great to hear that several of you got picked up at age 28... I had pretty much decided I would either do active duty USAF or ANG fighters, but maybe that's kind of silly. I started rethinking active duty after reading a lot of the "Leaving for the Airlines" thread on this forum.

STOIKY, was that for a heavy unit that you got picked up at?

FDNYOldGuy, it's awesome to hear from someone who has lived in both places. What are the chances of that? Haha. From the sound of it, you would suggest going to Tallahassee to get the degree and finish my flying, but not do the Army? Then move to Austin later... that sounds like a viable option.

I have an assistantship offer through the school of Communications, so my degree is more or less paid for either way (barring out-of-state tuition, but at least it will pay for most of it). I've found a flight school in Tallahassee that has a fleet of Piper Warriors, which I prefer flying compared to the C152/172s that most schools have. It's also pretty unique in that all of the flight instructors are either ex-military or highly experienced instructors. I think having an experienced flight instructor really helps... I did notice that the airport in Austin was pretty far away from town, with no real brick-and-mortar flight school available.

The most immediate concern is money, considering that I've been throwing my flight training on loans. I figured with a PD job (or at least one lined up), I could help pay for the flight training and living expenses. Doing ROTC doesn't really fix the money problem, since they would only pay me $450 a month for the 2 years I'm at FSU (besides paying for the degree).

I had even considered moving to NYC a few years ago, but the cost of living there is even higher. I've considered FD as well, but maybe not as much as I should have. How does the pay compare to police?

I'm still kicking myself for not applying to the Navy for a pilot slot before I was 26... hindsight is 20/20, I guess. Thanks again.

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Active duty. I interviewed with several Guard and Reserve units in my late 20s. Age never really appeared to be the issue. I just wasn't competitive enough with my civilian flight time/creds. I was a lowly PPL with 110 hours and some instrument training often competing against dudes/dudettes who were corporate pilots, air-ambulance drivers, crop-dusters, seasoned regional airline FOs, etc.  The breadth of aviation and life experience I encountered at the last fighter unit I rushed/interviewed with was absolutely insane (and motivating). The unit is paying for your UPT slot so hiring boards want to send the people they think have the best shot at graduating. I totally get it. I just started the game a little late in life. I was about to throw in the towel but a buddy of mine (a pilot in the reserves) suggested I talk to an active duty recruiter. I did. And the rest is history. FWIW, I'd argue the Army isn't necessarily a mistake. But if you're not interested in helos, or Army aviation's mission, then that's just not route for you. Just keep focusing on getting hired somewhere with the Air Force. I'd even consider talking to an active duty recruiter. You're in the right place by the way. I send aspiring pilots/pilot candidates to this forum all the time. As I'm sure you're figuring out, there's a wealth of knowledge here.   

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Army aviation is the armpit of military aviation. As an officer it is rare to get any credibility as a pilot. As a rotc guy slots may be hard to come by. And active duty army is miserable regardless of branch. People are leaving in droves. Guard/res is a little better. You could do the cop thing and guard army aviation as a warrant (or commissioned?). Keep applying to and rushing ANG/AFRC units, apply to the AFRC board unsponsored, and keep your options open. Waivers are available, especially right now. Keep flying and get your PPL. It’ll help all around with rushing, PCSM, your resume, and aviation knowledge. You are only limited to those 2 options you listed by your own doing. I’d have more options and explore all angles. There is/was a Tulsa viper guy who was a cop. Sounds like army guard warrant officer and cop seems like a career path that would suit you based on what you said you enjoy/want to do. Or an ANG/AFRC unit and cop job if you can swing getting hired by Ang/AFRC. Is a masters really necessary for those right now? Sounds like you like flying and want to be a pilot, be in the military, and be a cop. Being an army officer was a lot less fulfilling than I had imagined, with a lot of bureaucracy and bs. I wouldn’t recommend active duty army aviation, even as a warrant, unless it was your childhood dream and/or your only mil flying option. As a guard guy you miss some of the asinine stuff, so I could do it as a part timer. Still not as ideal as ANG/AFRC flying though. 

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3 hours ago, Rycast said:

FDNYOldGuy, it's awesome to hear from someone who has lived in both places. What are the chances of that? Haha. From the sound of it, you would suggest going to Tallahassee to get the degree and finish my flying, but not do the Army? Then move to Austin later... that sounds like a viable option.

I have an assistantship offer through the school of Communications, so my degree is more or less paid for either way (barring out-of-state tuition, but at least it will pay for most of it).

Yeah, I think that would be my angle, but there are lots of moving pieces. If you've got the free-o degree option, it's probably not a bad idea to do it. That said, the difference from in and out of state is not minor; 15 years ago it was ~$1300 for in and ~$4500 for out for undergrad. I can only imagine it's gotten worse. Definitely something to consider.

Then again, as @FlyArmy said, will a MS really be worth it for you? I would say to go for the experience (FSU was awesome) and the extra step on the resume, especially if it's nearly paid for, but it might not pay off much if you're planning on rushing units and getting a PD/FD job. The experience will be fun, but the mileage gain may be minimal.

That's good to hear about the solid instructors in Tally. Definitely a better situation than Austin, it seems. 

3 hours ago, Rycast said:

The most immediate concern is money, considering that I've been throwing my flight training on loans. I figured with a PD job (or at least one lined up), I could help pay for the flight training and living expenses. Doing ROTC doesn't really fix the money problem, since they would only pay me $450 a month for the 2 years I'm at FSU (besides paying for the degree).

Money is always an issue in life, but there's always a way to make things work. You could easily bartend or wait tables for flying money while you're in school too, if you go the FSU route. I worked waiting tables for most of my college career and it actually added to the fun; you'll work with a lot of fun people, get cheap/free food, and put some money in your pocket.

 

3 hours ago, Rycast said:

I had even considered moving to NYC a few years ago, but the cost of living there is even higher. I've considered FD as well, but maybe not as much as I should have. How does the pay compare to police?

Personally and obviously super biased, I'd consider FD much harder if you've ever given it a thought. Then again, I'm the kinda guy that has more of an allergy to bullets than to fire, so maybe it's just personal. That said, the QoL for FD is, in most places, higher than for PD. You're working in bigger groups, you're under less stress, and people generally want to see you show up. Put it this way, my firehouse has about 60 guys and I'd say that there are probably 10-15 that were cops and jumped over to FD when they could; same figures at a lot of firehouses. I honestly don't know a soul that left FD to become PD. Not bagging on my brothers in blue and I respect the hell out of them, but it's definitely a tougher job and different mentality, IMHO.

NYC is crazy expensive, but then again the pay is higher. Up here, FD/PD have parity and make (roughly) the same amount, which seems to be similar in a lot of places. That said, that ship MIGHT have passed for FD, unless you took the last test. They only run it every 4 years or so and the age cutoff is 29 (maybe 30 now, I dunno). PD opens hiring much more often and hires way more, so that could be an option. 

Keep an eye out on hirings in cities you'd want to live and just take the test. Lots of larger cities cut you off at 36. Which, you've got time, but always worth it to have your hat in the ring. You can always say no if you pick another path, but you can't say yes if you never took the test and opened up the option.

3 hours ago, Rycast said:

I'm still kicking myself for not applying to the Navy for a pilot slot before I was 26... hindsight is 20/20, I guess. Thanks again.

And I'm kicking myself for not applying again years ago when I wouldn't have to worry about an age waiver. Then again, it's pointless to worry about now; you're past that point and it isn't worth dwelling on.

At the end of the day, you've gotta be the one to decide what works best for you. None of us on here will be able to tell ya the right path because we aren't you, don't have your goals, and don't know what you can and can't do. But, for me, I think it's best to have as many options open as possible. If you can run two things at once (applying to AFRC/ANG spots and FSU or PD/FD), you are ahead of the game. The PPL will fit in there somewhere. Just choose what you think will make you the happiest. If you feel like you chose wrong, look back to my paragraph above and just enjoy the journey. 

Good luck man! Hit me up if you have any more questions I might be able to help with.

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Just to add to several of the points mentioned, I would also consider FD/PD employment AND rush AFRC/ANG units. I took the path you're currently considering and got on a FD after my enlistment (after two years of trying out). The pay/schedule afforded me an opportunity to get my PPL/Finish my Undergrad simultaneously without any loans. A PD brother is a Guard Blackhawk Driver and K9 Sergeant; He was away from the PD for about two years without any negative repercussions at work. PD/FD in GENERAL is part time friendly for Military types. So much yes to the better QOL on the FD side; I get cursed out by every Patrolman that comes through and witnesses us playing PS4 in the training room on a Saturday afternoon. XBOX elitists.

I'm a "wannabe'  as well at 34.5 and just decided to dust off the dream because I gave up prematurely. Lots of great advice in this thread, I can also answer any questions about FD albeit it's not of FDNY caliber!! In the best drawl I can muster sober, Get Er Dunnnn young fella.

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15 hours ago, Unit#8192 said:

 I get cursed out by every Patrolman that comes through and witnesses us playing PS4 in the training room on a Saturday afternoon. XBOX elitists.

I'm a "wannabe'  as well at 34.5 and just decided to dust off the dream because I gave up prematurely. Lots of great advice in this thread, I can also answer any questions about FD albeit it's not of FDNY caliber!! In the best drawl I can muster sober, Get Er Dunnnn young fella.

Haha, that's awesome. It sounds like I haven't given FD enough consideration. It's also good to know there are guys older than me still pursuing this dream. I was starting to feel like the old guy, especially when considering doing ROTC (I'm almost a decade older than some of these kids).

 

On 6/29/2018 at 4:57 PM, STOIKY said:

The breadth of aviation and life experience I encountered at the last fighter unit I rushed/interviewed with was absolutely insane (and motivating) ... FWIW, I'd argue the Army isn't necessarily a mistake. But if you're not interested in helos, or Army aviation's mission, then that's just not route for you. 

I agree, I rushed an F-15 unit and felt like a very small fish in a big pond. I was the only guy without at least a PPL, and most guys had their commercial and/or were flight instructors, airline pilots, etc... it made me feel like perhaps I'm being unrealistic about the ANG fighter dream.

 

On 6/29/2018 at 5:26 PM, FlyArmy said:

Army aviation is the armpit of military aviation. As an officer it is rare to get any credibility as a pilot. As a rotc guy slots may be hard to come by. And active duty army is miserable regardless of branch. People are leaving in droves. 

What about active duty infantry? I was actually considering giving up the flying dream altogether and going all-out Army. I think I'd enjoy Ranger school, but I'd miss the flying. I do know of a fellow VT-grad who became a green beret officer, but his career ended in a horrible friendly-fire incident. Stories like that give me a lot of doubt.

Another angle I could take is use the ROTC to pay for my degree and then just do 8 years of Army reserves with no active duty. Would this stop me from applying to ANG/AFRC units for a pilot slot?

I thought about asking my recruiter these questions, but honestly I don't trust him. I'm not even sure I believe him in regard to my ability to get a scholarship... he said "I can get you a scholarship," but I've heard the deadline to apply for a 2-year Army academic scholarship was April 15th (which I missed). Right now I'm slated to spend a month in Basic Camp before really knowing if I have a scholarship. And this is a good month I could spend flying. If I go, I'll also miss the entrance exam for a really good police department I was looking at in Texas.

 

On 6/29/2018 at 7:13 PM, FDNYOldGuy said:

Yeah, I think that would be my angle, but there are lots of moving pieces. If you've got the free-o degree option, it's probably not a bad idea to do it. That said, the difference from in and out of state is not minor; 15 years ago it was ~$1300 for in and ~$4500 for out for undergrad. I can only imagine it's gotten worse. Definitely something to consider.

Then again, as @FlyArmy said, will a MS really be worth it for you? I would say to go for the experience (FSU was awesome) and the extra step on the resume, especially if it's nearly paid for, but it might not pay off much if you're planning on rushing units and getting a PD/FD job. The experience will be fun, but the mileage gain may be minimal.

I agree - part of me just wants to go back to school for the experience. I didn't have the best college experience, so it would be a chance for a do-over. But I did manage to finish school with no student loans, so I don't really want to make that mistake while getting my master's.

I'm considering just moving to Tallahassee, staying there for a year to get residency, working odd jobs and flying ... then if I like the place, get my master's, all while applying to ANG/AFRC and PD/FD positions in Texas and other areas.

I feel like I probably overthink my decisions, haha. Thanks for all the info! You guys are a great help.

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Infantry was my second choice after aviation. I was going to be a 4th generation infantry officer if aviation didn’t work out. After doing some infantry stuff in college, then going through ranger school, I realized that playing call of duty and those type of games look cool, but humping (sts) 69-106.9 lbs of shit is not fun. It’s exhausting. It’s not even that fun. I flew overhead of a lot of infantry guys while providing them air support in combat, heard the bullets flying in firefights, and I was glad I wasn’t doing it. As an officer, you do more administrative stuff and aren’t a trigger puller doing a lot of that kind of stuff, but you are certainly out there on patrol with them as a platoon leader or commander. It’s hot (or freezing), dirty, exhausting, and not for everyone. Infantry guys put flight packets in...flyers don’t out infantry packets in. I have some buddies who did the ranger regiment/special forces/delta force thing. They do cool stuff. Cool stuff is a relative term, and for every minute of cool stuff they have hours or months worth of misery. 

 

As for the danger, I had one good buddy from college who took an RPG in the chest, a friend who stepped on an IED and died, a buddy who died in a vehicle rollover, a good buddy from college and ranger school who lost both legs and a hand from an IED, a classmate from college who got seriously burned over 95% of his body but managed to live, looks scary now, a usafa buddy who i went to air assault with who crossed into army infantry and got blown The fck up and permanently disfigured, and a few other serious injuries. I also lost about 10 friends in helicopter crashes. Pick your poison. It’s a dangerous business. 

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I can't really say what option I'd recommend but as a data point, I was interviewing at Guard units at 28 as well. Ended up getting picked up on Active Duty but from what I saw, it wasn't uncommon to see people at that age at interviews. Also, I remember interviewing and talking with a dude at one unit who was a full-time police officer and flew C-130s on the side with the Guard. Personally I think being in LEO for Fire would be awesome plus you get to pull sweet TDYs/Deployments when you feel like it. 

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8 hours ago, Rycast said:

I'm considering just moving to Tallahassee, staying there for a year to get residency, working odd jobs and flying ... then if I like the place, get my master's, all while applying to ANG/AFRC and PD/FD positions in Texas and other areas.

This is the best idea, IMHO. Go for it all; see what sticks and decide when your options are on the table. 

On 6/30/2018 at 8:16 PM, Unit#8192 said:

I'm a "wannabe'  as well at 34.5 and just decided to dust off the dream because I gave up prematurely. Lots of great advice in this thread, I can also answer any questions about FD albeit it's not of FDNY caliber!! In the best drawl I can muster sober, Get Er Dunnnn young fella.

Fire's hot and water's wet, my brother; we all do the same thing and your advice is as good as mine. I'm just dumber thinking it's a good idea to pay the amount of rent I have to in NYC. That said, don't give up too many of our secrets. Haha. Turned the wheels all night and tried to enjoy the bologna sandwiches and cold tater tots for dinner, right?  

Good luck chasing your Hail Mary, too. Hopefully we both get lucky and some kind squadron out there has pity on us old geezers always putting fires out and lets us burn holes in the sky. 

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Unless your dream is to fly in the military and no one else will take you, join the Army but DONT go active duty as an RLO.  Go Gaurd and be a warrant.  The Army’s warrant officers have a pretty good deal, but you’re not a group decision maker outside of the cockpit ever, unless you’re an SP or an Air Mission Commander for mission.  There’s a reason the Army is hemorrhaging pilots. 

I’m an Army aviator and RLO that wishes He dropped a UQR at 26, and rushed some fighter units then, Instead of doing it at 30 going on 31. 

Im not going to give up and neither should you. Flying anything  would be a dream.  I’m an Austin local so PM me if you wanna have a beer and see if we can help each other get hired.  Cooperate and graduate right? 

 

Shoot me a Pm and I’ll give you some more detailed advice. 

Edited by Alex160
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Austin is great man but as someone said before, flight school options for PPL are limited here. I live here and am currently pursuing that route and its a slower process flying out of a large airport every lesson, and a tad expensive overall.  However, definitely doable if you have the time and money.  Let me know if you have any questions!

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