by Eddie, future USAFR pilot and always Marine
“This is Major Smith, I’m calling to inform you that we would like to have you in our squadron.”
It was one of the best days I’ve ever had in my life. However, receiving a pilot slot in the Air Force Reserve as an active duty Marine was not an easy journey. From contacting the recruiter to officially being selected on the Air Force Reserve Undergraduate Flying Training (UFT) board took 10 months. Now, you may wonder, “how can an active duty service-member from another Service apply for a pilot slot in the Air Force Reserve?” Well, I’m here to tell you all about it. Whether you are an enlisted member or officer of the Regular or Reserve Component, you will be subjected to this tedious process called inter-service transfer.
As you read through the article, keep in mind that this was written by a Marine. I did consider retaking English-101 before I laid my hands on the keyboard, but I was itching to share my experience to provide a baseline for those aspiring AFRC pilot-wannabees in other Services so please excuse my mess.
Table of Contents
- How I Was Hired
- Contact Recruiter
- Take the AFOQT
- Seek Sponsorship
- Conditional Release Approval
- AFRC UFT Board
- Flight Physical
To give you an idea, I served in the beloved Corps for 6.5 years as a non-rated officer prior to making the transition to pursue my life-long dream of becoming an Air Force pilot. Now, you may wonder, “why didn’t he join the Air Force to fly in the first place?” The answer is, I tried. However during my early college years, I did not have the academic discipline nor the mental aptitude necessary to succeed as an Air Force pilot. Trust me, my crappy GPA and terrible AFOQT scores said it all. I ended up disenrolling from the AFROTC program after six months and tried to forget about this Air Force deal by joining the Marine Corps.
Considering what I lacked at the time, joining the Marine Corps was the best decision I’ve ever made. The Corps instilled structure and discipline that I needed to succeed in life and groomed me to be a better citizen, the Marine that I am today. I enjoyed serving alongside many Marines but the truth is, you can never hide your passion; just about every Marine that I served with knew I wanted to fly.
How I Was Hired
One day, a good friend of mine (an Air Force RPA pilot) asked, “why don’t you fly for the Air Force Reserve?”. I simply responded, “no way in hell they’ll take me.” Then he prodded, “do you want fly or not?” Thus, my journey began.
At 5.5 years into my Marine Corps career, I contacted my Air Force Reserve Accessions Recruiter to begin my application process for the Undergraduate Flying Training board. As mentioned, I had terrible AFOQT scores the first time round so I had to study my butt off to prove that I am more than capable to pursue the path of aviation in the Air Force Reserve. After receiving a decent PCSM score, I built a standard application consisted of the following:
- Cover Letter
- Fitness Reports (Marine Corps Evaluation Reports)
- Official Military Personnel File
- College Transcripts
- PCSM Score
- AFOQT Scores
- 3rd Class FAA Medical Certificate
- Flight Log (last two pages)
- Letters of Recommendation
After two months of searching and casting a wide net, I received an interview-invitation from a unit and was hired a week following the interview. To give you a ballpark timeline, from contacting the recruiter to UPT took 22 months. Now, your timeline will vary depending on numerous factors (rank, service commitment, family situation, flight experience, admin flow) but my timeline looked something like this:
Contacted Recruiter 6 Aug 18
AFOQT: 20 Dec 18
TBAS: 24 Jan 19
Resignation Request Submitted: Early Apr 19
Interview: 6 Apr 19
Hired: 11 Apr 19
DD368/Resignation Approved: 23 Apr 19
Scroll Submitted: 23 Apr 19
AFRC UPT Board: 7-8 May 19
AFRC UPT Board Result: 10 Jun 19
FC1 Scheduled: 13 Jun 19
FC1: 29 Jul 19
Scroll Approved: Late Jul 19
FC1 Approved: 26 Aug 19
Separation from USMC: 19 Feb 20
In-process with 340th: 16 Mar 20
SERE/Water Survival: 6 Apr 20
UPT: 23 June 20
Contact the Recruiter
Regardless of your current job in the military, the first step is to find the Air Force Reserve Accessions Recruiter in your region and get in contact with him (see figure 1). You may have a hard time reaching your recruiter but do not give up! These recruiters are always busy and constantly striving to meet their quotas for their assigned region. Once you reach your recruiter, he will determine your eligibility by having you complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire may vary depending on the recruiter, however it should be similar to figure 2.
Take the AFOQT/TBAS
Once you are deemed eligible by your recruiter, you will be directed to take the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT) and TBAS at a local testing center. If you have already taken the AFOQT and TBAS, then great! You can move on to the next step. What if you are already a rated aviator in another Service? The answer is, you will still have to take the AFOQT and TBAS (only if applying to a UPT board as opposed to a rated board). Neither ASTB-E (Navy, Marine Corps Coast Guard) nor SIFT (Army) substitute for the AFOQT or TBAS!
Seek sponsorship – Contact Units
Once you obtain your Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) score, begin contacting the Reserve Units. Every unit holds their own boards/interviews so ensure to routinely check for units’ submission deadlines on the Job Postings page. Countless tips on obtaining unit-sponsorship are shared through the BogiDope’s Articles so ensure to use them to your advantage.
Conditional Release Approval
This may sound scary but you will need to have your conditional release (see figure 3), which is also known as DD-368, approved by your command and Service. Your recruiter will not be able to initiate the scrolling process if you do not have your conditional release approved by your Service. Simply, scrolling is a legal process in which the President formally nominates military officers, while DD-368 authorizes service members to transfer between Regular and Reserve Components of the Military Services. The approval process for conditional release is different for every Service so ensure to contact your admin office and seek appropriate guidance. Depending on your command, your conditional release may take anywhere from one to three months to be approved or denied. If you are an officer in another Service, you will need to submit a letter of resignation in conjunction with your conditional release request so be prepared to explain why you have decided to make the transition.
Keep in mind that every service-member, whether it’s Regular or Reserve Component of the Military Service, has an eight-year Military Service Obligation (MSO). An MSO refers to the total required service (active duty and reserve commitment) that a service-member must serve upon accepting an appointment or enlistment. If your MSO has not been fulfilled with your current Service, then you are most likely to be released as an Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) in your Reserve Component following separation. If this is the case, you will need to obtain another conditional release from the IRR in order to completely cut ties with your current Service. However, if you have fulfilled your MSO you should be in the clear to transfer straight into the Air Force Reserve.
AFRC UFT Board
Once you have your conditional release approved, your recruiter will submit your package to the AFRC UFT board. Your recruiter is responsible for compiling all the necessary documents and submitting your package to the board so ensure your documents are readily available. Keep in mind that you are being evaluated based on your flight time, sponsorship status, academics, and test scores. Although you have the option to apply as an unsponsored applicant, statistically the sponsored applicants have a better chance of selection due to receiving a thumbs-up from their sponsoring unit.
This is the final step before you receive the ultimate greenlight from the AFRC to attend UPT. If you are a rated aviator in your Service and are current on your flight physical, you should not have to take a trip to Wright Patterson AFB. All you will need is to send your medical documents to your recruiter proving that you are current. For the non-rated service-members, you will need to coordinate with your sponsoring unit and your current command to be screened for the Flying Class I (FCI) physical exam at Wright Patterson AFB. Depending on your command, you may be able to take PTAD but be prepared to use five days leave for this uneventful trip.
In summary, you just have an extra step of having to obtain the conditional release approval from your current Service. The sooner, the better. However, if your Plan B is to continue with your current Service then you should wait on submitting your conditional release request until you have unit-sponsorship. The last thing you want is the added stress of separation when you have nothing locked on! Lastly, SAVE. Once you separate from your Service, you will not see the DFAS check for a few months. The average wait time from separation to initial training (OTS, IFT, SERE, or UPT) is about three months so be sure to save at least three to four months’ worth of funds to sustain yourself and your family during the transition. Good luck!
DoD IST Policy: https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/130004_dodi_2017.pdf
USAF IST Guidance : https://www.afpc.af.mil/Career-Management/IST/
AFRC Accessions Info: https://www.arpc.afrc.af.mil/Services/Accessions/
USAF FC1 Physical: https://www.wpafb.af.mil/Welcome/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/853108/usafsam-fci-medical-flight-screening/
AFRC UPT Guide Book: https://afreserve.com/downloads/AFRC_UFT_Guidebook.pdf
This post’s feature image is from: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5843107/military-funeral-honors-with-funeral-escort-conducted-us-marine-corps-reserve-pvt-ted-hall-section-57.
All other images were provided by the author.