Questions about becoming a Pilot/Officer
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  1. #1

    Questions about becoming a Pilot/Officer

    Hey guys, I have some questions about joining the Marines as an officer and pilot and any help is appreciated.

    To start with a summary of me and where I'm at now, I am 20 years old and In a 2 year school getting a degree in IT, I am about to start my second year in school and then transfer to a 4 year University. I am already physically
    fit, 6'5" ( No ejection seats I know)165lbs (working on gaining muscle) no body fat at all and am running 2 miles in 12mins and pushing for 3 in faster time to meet the 3 mile Marine requirement and my grades are good and getting better. I am also a quiet and reserved person for the most part, I've got a clean record (not even a traffic violation) and would consider myself to have exceptional moral standards and have no internet footprint like social media. I have been wanting to be a pilot my whole life and just as of a year ago took it seriously, and I have crossed the civilian airline option out as it would take 5 ratings/licenses and a MINIMUM of 1500 flight hours and also a 4 year degree and then I would be making minimum wage the whole time for 4 years.

    I have always wanted to join the military but I want to go the route that I will be happiest and in so doing the best job that I can and that's as a pilot or something Aviation related. Branches do not matter to me and I think most pilots are like that, I just want to fly first and foremost weather it be Air Force, Navy, Marines, or even Coast Guard then fly for an Airline or go into Business when I get out.

    So where I'm at now is deciding between the Air Force and Marines.

    The Air Force route takes me to a 4 year college/University like A&M or Baylor with the AFROTC, this however means that I will not be able to transfer all of my credits from my two year school with my associates degree and I would have to join as a sophomore anyway to join the AFROTC. Not to mention I would have to move away from home and live on campus.


    The Marine route would be PLC during the summers and I can go to a 4 year University within 45mins of me and they'll absorb ALL of my credits from my 2 year school with a program that's setup between the schools. PLC would allow me to stay where I am at and comfortable with friends and family and save more money and time and be happier where I'm at currently.

    However I have already spoken with recruiters from both sides and talked to some Marine recruiters for many hours, I basically told them its Pilot or bust and I wont be talked into anything I don't want and made it clear from the beginning. However I feel like I may have been misled recently by them as I got a call from them saying that they have Reserve positions open in the area and if I want to go into PLC and become an officer then I would have to basically hurry and join the reserves.

    Me being the cautious person that I am thought about it a lot and did more research, double, triple, and quadruple checking everything because I know if I make ONE mistake my pilot career is done or set off by many years.

    Now I could be wrong but if I remember correctly the program that you would take in the Reserves is called RECP not PLC, so I think they may have been trying to meet a quota and lure me into the reserves doing something I would not want to do and get stuck with for who knows how many years. Now I would not mind joining the Reserves as ATC and have the option of going through PLC while in school for the next 3 years and then dropping ATC and becoming a pilot, but I feel this isn't possible.

    And from what I already understand the military chooses the crème of the crop Academy cadets->ROTC->4 year fresh grads->Active Duty Enlisted->then Reserves and I am not going to make that mistake of being stuck and hoping and praying I go from enlisted to officer as I have heard horror stories of the Air Force and people with Masters and Bachelor degrees trying to go officer from enlisted and can't.

    Sorry if this all seems like a lot of information, this is just the tip of the iceberg for me and I Know how the Air Force works inside and out for the most part, the Marines however seem to have very little information and it seems as if they want to funnel you into the recruiters office and I am done with recruiters unless its an officer recruiter.

    I still have to take the ASVAB and feel I'll do well enough, only problem is I am bad at math (FMC's do a lot of that work today though), then eventually ill take the ASTB which would actually be easier for me and I have practiced both, I am honestly not worried about becoming an officer and the testing and especially not the pilot tests when/if I make it that far.

    To summarize my questions:
    • AFROTC or PLC provided by my current situation?
    • What does Reserve ATC look like while I am in school and want to become a pilot?
    • How exactly do these "Guaranteed" pilot slots work?
    • If for whatever reason I cant become a pilot I would still like to be an officer in either aviation or Intel, what other career options are there that may suit me best?
    • How many aircraft options are the for me to fly besides the C130, Osprey and Helicopters? I want to fly fixed wing and that limits my options being too tall.
    • What is the competition like? Would it be best for me to already have a PPL?
    Any help and information is appreciated tremendously, I try to learn from as many people as possible and pick up anything helpful along the way.



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  2. #2
    Enlisted recruiters get their missions (quotas) from their Recruiting District Headquarters (who get their mission from the Manpower Management Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps). One quarter the mission may be females, next quarter it may change to minorities, etc. They are not going to come out and tell you what their mission is that particular quarter. So, when they called and said they have reserve positions in the area, they were just trying to meet mission (what you perceive as being misled). Only thing an enlisted recruiter will promise you is the opportunity to earn the title. You'll have to go visit the other recruiters if you want to be promised more.

    Officer recruiters are called Officer Selection Officer (OSO). You didn't mention talking to one although you seem to be familiar with the different routes to a commission. If you haven't sat down with one, you need to. Your recruiting station will have their contact info.

    It is possible to enlist first and then apply to an enlisted commissioning program when you become eligible but these are not guaranteed, highly completive, and not something you would be interested in apparently.

    The member here who is a Marine Corps pilot is djj34. Send him a private message and ask him to respond to your post.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
    Thank you for the reply, I am not sure if I was being misled or not, but the recruiter did say PLC and not RECP which either was a mistake on his part or me being misled, I'm not sure. To me it seemed as if I was being led into thinking that to go into PLC while in school you have to join the Reserves which isn't the case from what I know so far. And even as you said RECP is not guaranteed nor easy to get into because of the competition and the fact that they have hundreds of other people to choose from elsewhere. So I am afraid if I went Reserves then I would be stuck forever being kept away from my dream job which would be hell on Earth for me, if I don't feel like I am working towards my goals fast enough or if I am being kept away I basically get depressed. I am very skeptical with recruiters anyways and in the back of my mind I keep the thought that they're almost the equivalent as a car salesman, they will sometimes tell you what you want to hear not what you need to hear. I am not saying they are all like this, in fact in they were very helpful and got me in contact with an OSO, I'm simply saying it is wise for me and others to proceed with caution when speaking with recruiters because for someone like me that wants to join if I don't make the right decision and have all the information to make sure my future goes smoothly as planned then were locked in and the tentacles are stuck on until you finish your enlistment...It was just a red flag in my mind.

    I would like to go into the reserves in the meantime but won't if it doesn't make sense to do so to get to my goal of being a pilot. Right now that's just kind if a secondary option if it makes sense.

    I've talked to a OSO out of Dallas and talked for nearly 30mins but as time goes on I have more questions that I don't have answers to or know where to find them and don't think they want to keep filing me in unless they know I'm ready, he was the most helpful as he directly deals with these things on a daily basis however the OSO's that I have talked to, Air Force and Marines are always really busy and not able to talk very long on a phone call unless they know I am for sure at that moment going to go into the branch as an officer and apply. I don't make split second decisions unless I have plenty of information to make a sound judgment and it seems recruiters are used to the opposite, someone walking in knowing they're joining for sure and not bleeding them dry of information first.

    Joining the military is one of the biggest commitments one can make next to probably getting married, so I'm trying to make sure I choose the right path and have all the information I need to decide.

    If I were going enlisted for a different career path then I would have all my answers already but the officer side is more discrete and hard to learn about because there are less people to contact and learn from.

    Thank you though for helping and I'll send him a message, thank you!

  4. #4
    Your basic thought process is correct. Recruiters are salesmen and they're competing with the other services. At recruiters school, they are taught about their product, sales techniques, how to close the deal, etc. I'm not going to say recruiters lie (never was one). But, some are better than others (just like Drill Instructors and everybody else). And, if they don't make mission, they'll be fired and sent back to the fleet (pretty much a career ender). So, they remain under constant pressure. Like any good salesman, they can't afford to spend a lot of valuable time with anyone they do not perceive as serious and ready to commit. Recruiters are looking for commitments - so they can move onto the next prospect. Nothing wrong with never making split decisions specially with something this important. You need to gather as much information as you can.

    Also, recruiters do stay busy. They spend a lot of time at MEPS, on the road, mandatory training sessions, and managing their poolees in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) preparing them for bootcamp. When my niece was in her DEP, making contact with her recruiter was like pulling teeth.

    Understand djj34 may not have access to a computer currently so it could be awhile before you hear from him. He has posted many times in the past about aviation prospects. Try to search this site for those posts.

  5. #5
    If your goal is to join to fly, and just fly, do not fly for the Marines. I say again, do NOT fly for the Marines.

    That isn't to say it's not a great opportunity. However, there's a high chance you will do something with the ground side of the branch as a pilot. One of our guys found out last week that he's going to the infantry battalion to be a forward air controller for a year or more. Read: out of the cockpit, on the ground with a helmet and armor, and a radio calling in other aircraft. He found out last week, is checking out next week, and starts on the 24th. It can be that fast. Another guy in my squadron got an individual augment assignment to the middle east with about 48 hours of notice to check out and move over to MEF headquarters. He deploys in a month, and found out a month ago.

    If stuff like that makes you second guess that this is where you want to be, the Marine Corps is probably not the best fit for someone like you. If you welcome the challenge of being an officer first, a Marine second and a pilot last, then by all means go for it. It's a rougher life than what he Air Force guys have, but it isn't that bad.

  6. #6
    So basically Marines is no a no go. I want to fly, if I go in to fly and make it and then for whatever reason cant fly then I would be ****ed and 8 years of my life is screwed over by uncle Sam, that's what I'm worried about.

    Why would they take in pilots that pass the tests to fly and pass 2 years of training to then put them on the ground not flying? Would that not be a total waste of investment on behalf of the Marines?

    Honestly I want to be a pilot first, if that doesn't happen then officer, I have no branch loyalty/preference and at the end of the day I'd be flying for the USA regardless, whichever one is the best fit for me wanting to be a pilot is going to be the one I choose but in my current situation Air Force is going to take way more time and money and maybe even a PPL. But it wont phase me to go the more difficult route and go Air Force and compete with 1000+ people for a pilot slot, spend more time and money and school to have a greater guarantee to be a pilot if I make the cut, then if I don't then I am at least only in for 4 years and have more career field options vs the Marines 8 years and because it is a smaller branch less wiggle room.

    Realistically what are the odds of what you mentioned ever happening? I would think that if they spent a fortune to train you that they wouldn't basically send you in as a human shield to catch bullets or into something entirely different than what they trained you for because their ROI would be zero.

    What has your experience been?

    Thanks for the answer

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Platinum Member USMC 2571's Avatar
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    I was just about to dig out a long post by djj34 that he authorized me to copy and paste here when aviation questions come up, but he beat me to it

  8. #8
    If you don't have any aversion to flying helicopters, the Army is probably the way to go. And you can apply directly to their program without a 4 year degree. As a warrant, you would fly much more than your commissioned counterparts.

    I'm in the process of completing my packet for Army guard aviation right now, and if all goes as planned I'll be before a selection board in September, just so you have an idea as to where I'm at. I am very up to date on the process, selection rates, etc so feel free to ask any questions. The active army is short on pilots, and the May board they accepted 22/22 applicants. If you put a solid packet together, and are qualified, there is a decent chance you can get selected pretty quickly right now. They NEED pilots.

    What djj34 has said echos what I have heard from other Marine aviators. A friend of mine in law school was going from CH-46 pilot to JAG. He told me as an O4 he rarely flew and dealt with way too much other BS. Army WO aviators fly the most out of any branch, but with few exceptions it's all rotory wing. You can also go in as an army officer and hope to branch aviation, but there wouldn't be any guarantees. I'm a college grad, either would have been an option but like you I want to fly, so I am going WO route.

    There is a forum called vertical reference that has a good section for wannabe military helicopter pilots, almost entirely army side. Posters include instructor pilots at Ft Rucker, active and guard aviators, and even some members of the selection board. It's been an invaluable resource for me. FYI most recruiters are clueless to how the program works, which is why you'll want online resources to help you do the heavy lifting for them.


  9. #9
    Wow dude, you need to rethink your priorities. To answer your question, the Marine Corps is the only service in the world that fully integrates aviation, logistics and ground combat elements into a single unit. Who better to control air assets than a pilot on the ground, in the fight with the people we're trying to fight? A lot of Marine pilots actually want to become Forward Air Controllers for a tour.

    Based off of your posts here I'm going to say you're not the type who will fare well in the cockpit of a Marine Corps aircraft or as a Marine Corps squadron officer. If all you want to do is fly, you'll be in for a very terrible surprise. That is my own opinion, and not that of a recruiter.

    Service before self, dude. It's not some government funded flying club.

  10. #10
    Needs of the Marine Corps ALWAYS come first. Needs of the individual are second - at best. Like I said, only thing one is promised is the opportunity to earn the title. If you need more promises than that, you need to talk to the other services.

  11. #11
    Apparently you took what I said the wrong way, I am not in it for benefits, I am not a "User", I always wanted to go into the military but if it were all about service and that alone then everyone would go into infantry rather than selecting a field that they are passionate about and they know they do best in. Captain Sullenberger wouldn't have joined the Air Force to fly if it were simply 100% about service, he would have taken the easier route and went enlisted.

    The word it blocked out isn't a curse word as I don't curse, just in case that's why you think I have an attitude problem...

    You said that people you know have been placed in totally different positions than what they were trained and signed up for, I simply stated that I don't know how that would make sense to take a 2 year trained pilot and send him into combat or on the ground out of his area of expertise, that is all, and it makes sense from an investment standpoint.

    My passion is aviation, I want to fly, you said:

    "If your goal is to join to fly, and just fly, do not fly for the Marines. I say again, do NOT fly for the Marines"

    I answered your question, sorry if it wasn't what you wanted to hear but I am honest and that's what I believe. I want to fly. I don't want to join a branch and then get stuck doing something totally different than what I was supposed to do and trained to do, that would make anyone unhappy. I am a goal oriented person and if I don't see that I am working towards a goal like becoming an Airline pilot in the future then I would basically shut down and not do well at my job. So if I went in as a pilot and became a pilot but what you say could happen to me happens and I am then tossed into an AFV because they can then my major life goal is ruined, that's just who I am.

    I would also like to become an officer, but the main goal is to fly, even if something happened physically or before I went through 2 years of training as a pilot in any branch I would still want to be an officer, but something preferably aviation related. What you stated is my worst nightmare, being trained in something I love then being put somewhere totally different, that is why I may have seemed to overreact. And anyone that wants to plan out their future is right in choosing a branch that they fit best in, you said the Marines may not be for me because I would be a pilot last, then you're right and we have two different mindsets when it comes to that and that's fine, I simply don't want to potentially self inflict pain on myself and torture myself by devoting nearly a decade of my life not being able to work towards my life goals. We are talking about a commitment of up to 10 years minimum, I would like to know what I am getting into before I jump head first into something that you say may go the other direction and you said there is a high chance that I may not even be flying as a pilot.

    Again, I am not doing it for a "free ride", I don't even like asking for help from anyone because I feel bad doing so. I am not using the military as a welfare benefit and that honestly makes me furious that anyone would say so or imply that. I know if I make it I would be a good pilot and I would love my job which is a win win for me and the nation as I would be providing a service and excel at it because I love it. Then I can use the skills leadership and pilot to further my future out of the military and into the civilian world either as an airline pilot or saving lives as a Medevac helicopter pilot, if there is something wrong with thinking about my future as well then count me out of the Marines.

  12. #12

  13. #13
    Hello Mike, I wouldn't mind flying helicopters but I would prefer fixed wing, although I am definitely open to it. I don't know much of anything about the army or warrant officers, but I think I remember reading that to become a Warrant Officer you have to serve for 7 years in the Army first, I have no clue if this is true.

    I live 30mins from a University that has an Army ROTC program so I may look into it more as a option. I also think I heard somewhere that the Army doesn't really get a lot of flight time, I doubt this though and it was probably someone from a different branch that mentioned it.

    If I went Army ROTC would I be able to fly as an officer or is it all or mostly WO's? I honestly don't know how WO
    's work in the Army as I come from an Air Force family and never much thought about it or know anyone that was a WO.

    From here on out anything a recruiter tells me I'm going to do my best to self verify anyways 10x over so I make the right decisions.

    Thank you for the help

  14. #14
    Seems like you have more research to do. They're not done flying forever. These changes in pace are referred to as billets. I fly, and I fly my ass off. But my main job that takes 90% of my time is to develop a weekly training plan so that a daily flight schedule can be written and executed by the squadron. From administration, to logistics and even IT, every pilot in a squadron has a job not related to flying. This is in addition to countless hours of studying, planning, and honing your proficiency.

    Also, please don't lecture me on why I chose to join.

  15. #15
    I am here to learn, I have talked to former pilots in person as well and listen to everything said to try and absorb as much as I can like a sponge. I understand the majority of the time a pilot is on the ground planning and making sure his flight goes safely among various other lists they have to go through, not to mention the studying and planning all of the time as you mention, I am 100% ready for it and would do whatever it takes to fly. I also understand that you are a manager so to speak, preparing the flight crew and making sure passengers are safe and the mission goes as planned.

    Sorry for the overreaction but you didn't exactly specify, to me it seemed as if you said their flight career had a nail put in the coffin randomly. That gave me cause for concern, I wouldn't mind going into ATC and if they said it were for a limited time but I would fly when the time is up I wouldn't necessarily mind, although I would obviously rather just fly.

    I am definitely not lecturing anyone on anything, I am sure you chose to join for all the right reasons and I respect that.

    I will never be done learning and trying to better myself, anyone that is willing to help and provide information I appreciate it because I understand that there are people out there that have already gone through what I am going through and came out successful such as yourself and everyone else here that has met their goals or are even still working towards them and I understand becoming a pilot and officer is not easy, if it were easy everyone would do it.

    Thank you

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