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  • Quick Active Duty vs. Guard Chat

    Posted by Biggs on June 22, 2024 at 1:06 am

    Flying for the Air Force can be a dream come true, but there are a few different paths aspiring pilots can take over their careers. The question of the difference between active duty and the guard has been asked pretty consistently over the last few years, so here are some quick pros and cons of both to get you pointed in the right direction.

    This post will help both aspiring pilots not sure if they want to go Active or Guard, for rated folks on Active Duty who are thinking about going Guard, or for people trying to come up with an answer to the, “so why are you not pursuing and active duty flying slot” interview question.

    Quick disclaimer, there is a TON of nuance and unique terminology in a discussion like this. To keep this short and sweet, I wont give much explanation, but if you have a question PLEASE ASK!

    Pros of Active Duty:

    1. No worries about full time orders
    2. Generally easy to get flight hours
    3. More opportunities for special schools (TPS, Weapons School, Safety School)
    4. You will gain more experience on active duty
    5. Faster promotions (Major and above) and faster to leadership positions
    6. Responsible for the bigger picture (and put in those positions) e.g. deployed commanders
    7. Career broadening is easier if you want to do something different (e.g. foreign affairs officer)

    Cons of Active Duty

    1. Compete for aircraft out of UPT
    2. The developmental focus of active duty is to turn every Lt into the next General. Also, you potential as an officer is set early in career and hard to change it for the better
    3. You don’t get much say in what you do (AFPC/needs of the Air Force may keep you where you do not want to be)
    4. Move every 2-3 years (some people may say that is a pro)
    5. Once you earn the rank of Major (~12 years in) you life is mostly a whirlwind of desk jobs and schools
    6. You have to serve 12 years (10 years of UPT commitment, but that doesn’t start until you complete UPT, which can take up to 2 years). That’s a lot of seniority in the Airlines
    7. You will likely get out at 20 years, unless you are trying to become a General. But you will have to get out at some point if you are not progressing the General ranks and start over from scratch in the civilian world
    8. Ever hear of a 365 day “short tour” deployment? You will

    Pros of the Guard:

    1. You get to pick your aircraft and fly it FOREVER
    2. You can have a day job
    3. You are with the same people for the entire career (some may say that is a con)
    4. It is possible to stay flying jets well into your 50s/60s.
    5. Family/work balance is nowhere better than in the guard
    6. You like flying for the airlines? You will.

    Cons of the Guard

    1. Promotions can be slow (even if promoted to a Major for example, the State can only have so many Majors, so you literally have to wait for another Major to promote or retire or die, which may cause delays).
    2. Leadership positions are fewer (there are only so many people in a Guard unit to choose from)
    3. Hard to do something else. If you want to take a break from flying the line, there are limited options to do that without moving and joining another unit or going on active orders somewhere.
    4. Orders availability shifts from year to year. Can never guarantee full time employment
    5. Guard bases DO close or re-mission (rare though)
    6. UPT slots hard to come by

    That is enough pros and cons for now. There are plenty I missed. Happy to entertain more or if you have any questions please ask!!

    D.J. replied 3 weeks ago 2 Members · 1 Reply
  • 1 Reply
  • D.J.

    June 24, 2024 at 8:15 am
    2155 BogiPoints

    This are good lists, Biggs!

    For me personally, I have enjoyed the Guard because you get out of it what you put into it!

    It is not always easy to manage your career, however, I am still able to fly and have had good opportunities for school and orders even through my 28 year point.

    I do want to personally say “thank you” to all of you who are considering this path for flying and service to our country!

    I wish you all the best of luck going forward!


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