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AnotherPenguin

Not achieving a goal

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I now this probably isn’t the place for this, but I am at a crossroads. I just graduated MQ-9 training and I can’t help but feel like I am not good enough. I find myself asking  “what could I have done differently.” I applied for Pilot back in ROTC and had RPA as my #2 choice with CSO. I can’t help but wonder what could I have done differently to have received a pilot slot and it’s starting to have an impact on my happiness and demeanor. My dad and brother are both pilots, so it was instilled in me at a young age that that’s what I should be. Because I haven’t achieved this I have a feeling that I am a disappointment. My family has shown no interest in my training and didn’t even come to my drop night or graduation and my dad is always making jokes about what I am doing. I have a strong will, but it has recently hit me like a ton of bricks and it’s all I’ve been thinking about. This is more of a vent than anything, but does anyone have any strategies or resources that can allow me to be the best RPA driver I can be and stop beating myself up all the time? 
 

Thanks! 

Edited by AnotherPenguin

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How about head down to your local FBO and start your PPL?

edit to add: being an RPA pilot isn’t a failure. 

Edited by Homestar
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17 minutes ago, Homestar said:

How about head down to your local FBO and start your PPL?

edit to add: being an RPA pilot isn’t a failure. 

You’re totally right. Failure isn’t what I should have used to describe it. I am actually about 3 hrs from my PPL but training and weather kept me from finishing. I think a lot of it is nerves about the job itself. Considering I grew up around manned flight, I only knew that community and lifestyle. 

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Gotcha.  I can understand how taking a different path than expected can be hard on the psyche.  Honestly, I'd say that prioritizing you GA flying would be the most helpful thing you could do, besides being the smartest RPA guy in the trailer (or high-rise, or whererever they are these days).

I would say to go out and volunteer for your CGOC, but I don't want to get suspended from the board 😄

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19 minutes ago, AnotherPenguin said:

You’re totally right. Failure isn’t what I should have used to describe it. I am actually about 3 hrs from my PPL but training and weather kept me from finishing. I think a lot of it is nerves about the job itself. Considering I grew up around manned flight, I only knew that community and lifestyle. 

I have had some interviews and failed. I have also been battling some stuff on the outside that may keep me from achieving this, and even worse I'm scared to explain my situation and why I am at where I am at in interviews. Over the past year I have made three major adjustments to counter the down in the dumps.

Step 1 is to fly. Flying is fing flying, yes I want to be a fighter pilot but I'd be wasting my life if I did not enjoy flying my crappy piper. Being up in the air is so satisfying no matter the plane or uniform. I will soon have my commercial-huge confidence boost.

Step 2 is to value who you are. Be proud of how hard you've worked, and the fact that you are an officer. Not being a fighter pilot doesn't mean you suck and are a POS. Took me a long time to realize this. As for the jokes, I'd rather never be a fighter pilot than be a fighterpilot and make fun of someone who tried their hardest to be one and failed.  

Step 3 is to realize how lucky you are. At work there are two guys, one in a wheelchair and one with a serous nerve issue. They might never get the chance to fly anything, let alone an air force jet. Imagine what they'd give just to be able to walk normally.

 

All of our clocks run out at some point, if manned air force pilot or not. Swing for the fences and don't look back, that's what it's all about.

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FWIW, it seems like our drone pilots are removing a lot more bad guys from existence than the average fighter pilot. 

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4 minutes ago, Stoker said:

FWIW, it seems like our drone pilots are removing a lot more bad guys from existence than the average fighter pilot. 

And it'll probably only keep increasing with more capabe drones. 

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Brother, the bottom line is this.  What you do for a paycheck doesn't define who you are.  It's a piece of trivia.  We (especially in the flying world) get wrapped up in this idea that what we do is who we are.  Don't let your job define you and remember that your value isn't dependent on your job title.  Go out there every day, swing for the fences, and even if you miss you can go to sleep knowing you put it all on the table.  Some of the best dudes/dudettes I know are non flyers, and they have a perspective that we could all learn a lot from.

Your job specifically has an impact that many fighter types would be envious of, keep your head up.

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Stop beating yourself up bruh/bra. As said above, your job is removing more bad guys from this earth than just about anyone else. The community is making leaps and bounds in TTPs/software/hardware. You can show up to ya ops unit and go through the motions or you can bust your ass and contribute to probably the most rapidly advancing community in military aviation. I get it, I did a tour in drones, only person that can change your mindset is you. 
 

if manned flying is your goal you can keep trying to apply to AD rated boards and/or continue to build your resume for guard units when your commitment is up. I can promise it’s going to be a lot easier to get hired with a great record/reputation. Civilian flying is always a option to. 
 

Oh, contract LR jobs are also paying upward of $2000 a day right now, so get that qual. Your family/friends can poke fun but you will being laughing straight to the bank on your yacht. 
 

Im not trying to be dick, but you need to do some soul searching and get some confidence. Spend time in the vault studying, upgrade ASAP, master your craft, set goals, be the hardest worker in the unit and never give up. You only live once, make it count. 

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Just be the best you can at your job and try again for pilot later.  Get your PPL, help your peers out and keep at it.  You definitely aren't going to get another chance if you don't have support of your command and aren't a good team player.  If you did ROTC it means you are probably still on the younger side so you have time (the Air Force raised the UPT age limit to 33).  There have been people (plenty of whom are in this forum no doubt) who tried for way longer to obtain a pilot slot.  Keep your head up.  

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Shit happens.  Set or review your long term goals and get moving.  Be good at your current job.  Don’t give up.

 

I was an EWO for over 6 years and went to UPT.  17 years as a pilot.   It can be done.

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Also, if you are really in a dark spot where your psyche is in a downward spiral, seek help. Chaplain, POTFF if you have that, Military One Source, mental health in that order. 
 

Being a pilot is great, but don’t kid yourself that that would make everything alright immediately. 
 

Best of luck

Edited by Danger41
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As a former CSO (11 years) and current MQ-9 pilot (who originally got security forces to Minot out of ROTC!!), I'll say this:

You've already done more than the vast majority of Americans ever will to support and defend the Constitution of our great country. So be proud of that #1, full stop.

#2, you are a pilot. You're the aircraft commander of a multi-million dollar platform and your job is to hunt and kill people who threaten our soldiers and our citizen's way of life. Absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Beyond the standard amount of ribbing your old man is by right allowed to give you, don't take his criticisms too seriously. Being an RPA pilot is not the same as a manned aircraft pilot, but don't sell yourself too short here.

#3, like many other have said, go out and do some civilian flying, get your ratings and certificates, be the best damn MQ-9 pilot in your squadron, and push to attend UPT or punch at the end of your commitment and fly professionally on the civilian side if that's where your heart is. Based on a guess about your age, I'd say you have more than plenty of time to make manned flying a career.

If you're really feeling ate up about this or anything else, seek out a good chaplain or mental health professional on base and get squared away upstairs. Best of luck to ya 🇺🇸

Edited by nsplayr
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I'll just add that your Dad seems like an asshole, perhaps your whole family.

One of the great things about growing up is you don't have to include shitty people in your life anymore if you don't want to.

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1) Tough love: everybody gets grounded sooner or later.  Everything good in my life and a lot of cool aviating happened after the AF told me to find a Plan B because of a condition I don't have (that's no longer disqualifying, to boot).

2) Optimism: excel where you are.  Amazingly cool things happen in UAV land.  This will also set you up for other opportunities as they present themselves (WPS, TPS, something after AD, and who knows...maybe an AF short on pilots might change a few rules).

To some extent, happiness is a choice.  While you never have total control, you'll always have influence.  Practice a positive mental attitude.  That doesn't mean ignoring suck, it means knowing there's always a way through, over, or around.

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Is that you John Wayne? Is this me?
I cant help but feel a cruel aura of irony hanging over this thread even if the sympathy displayed here is genuine.
Sure things are getting better compared to what they were, but the way the Air Force treated the RPA community in the past makes for great reading and gives good insight on the attitudes held by that aviation community regarding "drone" "pilots" that are alive and well to this day (especially if you happen to find yourself in this community). However the Air Force is still way behind the curve in the RPA enterprise, especially in comparison to where we could be if resources were considered as seriously as they are for the B21 or the F35 or the KC46. Creating the 18x career field and placing it under the 11xers will forever stain us. AF doctrine is all about effects over platforms up until you bring up being physically in a a cockpit or not.

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9 hours ago, AnotherPenguin said:

I now this probably isn’t the place for this, but I am at a crossroads. I just graduated MQ-9 training and I can’t help but feel like I am not good enough. I find myself asking  “what could I have done differently.” I applied for Pilot back in ROTC and had RPA as my #2 choice with CSO. I can’t help but wonder what could I have done differently to have received a pilot slot and it’s starting to have an impact on my happiness and demeanor. My dad and brother are both pilots, so it was instilled in me at a young age that that’s what I should be. Because I haven’t achieved this I have a feeling that I am a disappointment. My family has shown no interest in my training and didn’t even come to my drop night or graduation and my dad is always making jokes about what I am doing. I have a strong will, but it has recently hit me like a ton of bricks and it’s all I’ve been thinking about. This is more of a vent than anything, but does anyone have any strategies or resources that can allow me to be the best RPA driver I can be and stop beating myself up all the time? 
 

Thanks! 

As @nsplayr advised, keep flying civilian, take pride in RPAs, apply to SUPT and strive to be better.

I'm cool with talking to a chaplain or mental health professional but I am also ok with being angry at others who should know better at their age that mocking someone about their profession is not ok, especially when you did not choose it but the AF decided to assign you to it.  I utterly despise adult bullies, especially when they mock someone about something that is important and personal namely your career and what you are doing in at this time.

If your dad / bro drop more comments like that, I would tell them this is bullshit and just not see them, return phone calls/texts for some period of time that you deem appropriate.  Not to trash them as they are your kin and I don't know anymore about them than what you posted they sound like they need to get the message that even their family doesn't have to put up with their shit.

As to not getting a pilot slot when you wanted one I will say I have no doubt you worked hard in college/ROTC and timing has a lot to do with selection processes for competitive / desired career opportunities, you were likely at a point where the selection pool was competitive and it was just hard to get picked up for pilot.  I hit it at just the right time (late 90's) and got picked up and I was a middle of the pack guy, next years at my ROTC det only a few dude at the top went to SUPT.  

Chin up, anger is ok with me and keep busy on next goals.  Just my advice and hang in there.

 

Edited by Clark Griswold
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On 2/6/2020 at 2:33 AM, AnotherPenguin said:

I now this probably isn’t the place for this, but I am at a crossroads. I just graduated MQ-9 training and I can’t help but feel like I am not good enough. I find myself asking  “what could I have done differently.” I applied for Pilot back in ROTC and had RPA as my #2 choice with CSO. I can’t help but wonder what could I have done differently to have received a pilot slot and it’s starting to have an impact on my happiness and demeanor. My dad and brother are both pilots, so it was instilled in me at a young age that that’s what I should be. Because I haven’t achieved this I have a feeling that I am a disappointment. My family has shown no interest in my training and didn’t even come to my drop night or graduation and my dad is always making jokes about what I am doing. I have a strong will, but it has recently hit me like a ton of bricks and it’s all I’ve been thinking about. This is more of a vent than anything, but does anyone have any strategies or resources that can allow me to be the best RPA driver I can be and stop beating myself up all the time? 
 

Thanks! 

Keep applying for UPT. Period. It sounds like you still have a lot of time. You have until 30 without waivers, but many older guys have gone with age waivers. It's rare, but I did see majors going through UPT every now and then when I was a FAIP.

Late-rate guys bring valuable experience to the 11X career field. For what it's worth, my UPT class had 5 late-rate guys and they all brought a level of maturity that the rest of us dumb 2Lts desperately needed and the instructions were definitely grateful to have them.

We all have our unique paths to where we eventually want to go, but if you give up, you will never achieve your dream.

The door has NOT closed!

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Not sure what platform your dad or brother were on but you are probably going to make a hell of a lot of more difference in the MQ-9 than 95% chance they did in their MWS. When I begrudgingly TAMI 21d to the MQ-9 as a non vul it was at the horizon of the war in Syria. For a 3 month period, 75% of all munitions dropped in CENTCOM came from an MQ-9. We were extraordinarily kinetic and because we didn't go home after a 4 month rotation we developed more SA on the ground campaign than any other flying community. The assignment opened doors for me I would have never had in my manned community and I was offered positions in SOCOM, the Pentagon, and other communities. The assignment ended up becoming an apex of my career and when I went to staff I carried a lot of credibility for my time in MQ-9s, not so much my time in other aircraft. 

I would advise you life is full of dissapointment and failing to meet goals becomes a regular event. Frequently we tend to look at the Johnny Kim's in life and compare ourselves, leaving us to feel short or inadequate. The truth is we often can't control the circumstances that bring us to our outcomes and while there is no doubt more you could have done to reach your goal of being a pilot you must recognize a lot is contributed to luck and timing as well. A well known base ops'er used to say "grow where you are planted" and that advice, personally, helped me thrive. I found new interest I didn't know I had and quickly became an expert in areas most chose to ignore. But it brought me new oppurtunities and new successes. 

You'll find as you get older that success becomes more about the people you've surrounded yourself with than what you have achieved or accomplished. Whereever you go, hold good character, be a loyal friend, and help others out. You will quickly find that you feel more fulfillment in this manner than you do by overly stressing to meet arbitrary goals you set for yourself. That doesn't mean you should quit or end your pursuit to be a pilot, but realise it is not necessary to attain fulfillment. If your family can't recognize that, ditch them. Do not keep people in your life that drain your spirit. 

If you want more advice or mentoring, PM me and I'll give you my work email to reach out to. I spent 4 years in MQ-9s and loved the community. They took care of me, gave me chances other communities didn't, and I will never talk down on them. 

Edited by FLEA
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@AnotherPenguin I completely understand where you are coming from. I was non-vul'ed to RPAs twice, once after UPT and the other time after 1.5 years in the C-130J. My performance in the jet played a role in the non-vuls, but it was still a gut punch, especially the second time. The worst part was the 6 months between finding out about the assignment and the PCS where I knew I had no future in the manned community. But I have enjoyed my time in the RPAs. My satisfaction of the RPA mission is so much higher than it was in the C-130J, though I miss the traveling. The ISIS fight was dynamic and challenging and I loved it. 

As for your dad I'm also a 2nd generation AF pilot, my dad flew fighters his entire career. He celebrates what we accomplish in the RPAs, and doesn't think less of me because my manned time was so short. As for your dad I would send him some of the videos Creech PA puts out. They have done a great job the last few years showing what RPAs are doing right now overseas. 

I would be happy to talk more over PM about my experience. 

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In my experience there are two kinds of people in the Air Force: the grass is always greener people and the people who make the most of where they are.  The grass is always greener people spend most of their time complaining (often on this forum) and talking a big game about how they're getting out ASAP. But they're losing sight of the big picture. The military flying community, be it manned or RPAs, is an amazing world to be a part of and they are going to regret not enjoying their careers as they unfolded. Half of my pilot training class had an existential crisis at track select. And half again at drop night. But once you get over the initial shock of a mismatch between expectations and reality, the rest is up to you.  Life is too short not to max perform whatever opportunity is given to you.  Also to echo what others here have said.. the most bonkers strike stories I've heard come almost exclusively from my RPA bros. 
 

see you in the stack. 

Edited by Pooterbilbo
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Airlift and RPA here.  Great comments above, so I’ll just add one point. When I look back at my career, 100% of the things I was involved in that made the news, moved the needle on national security, or will be recorded as a footnote in an obscure history text happened in the RPA.  Yes the majority of time in the seat in RPA is boring compared to manned.  But you rarely have to wonder if the interesting times matter. 

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On 2/5/2020 at 4:40 PM, Homestar said:

How about head down to your local FBO and start your PPL?

edit to add: being an RPA pilot isn’t a failure. 

I'd go one step further and buy an airplane some day.

Wu70O1h.gif

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I heard that Young RPA pilots at Shaw are having more fun and pushing it up harder than the fighter guys.

I’ve said it before: the most fun I’ve had were in the worst places flying the least capable airframes in my career.



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