If you are considering being a pilot in the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve and you aren’t coming from within the active duty ranks, then you are probably trying to figure out how to get hired by a unit and into Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). Before you can even consider applying to a reserve unit, you’ll need to understand the requirements for UPT and the process that will get you from where you are now to actually earning your wings. Knowing something about the process on the front end of your job search will make you an educated consumer, so to speak; you’ll be able to zero in on the right questions to ask your recruiter and you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re a proactive person when you meet the hiring board. For more information on finding a unit and getting hired, BogiDope’s article entitled How to Get to Pilot Training is a great place to start.
Now, on to the UPT requirements!
First and foremost, you must be eligible to attend Officer Training School (OTS):
Since all pilots in the U.S. Air Force are officers, you have to meet the minimum qualifications to go to OTS. Going to OTS and becoming an officer is the first step you’ll take on your path to becoming a pilot in the Air Force Reserve. You probably have the U.S. citizen requirement already handled, but you’ll also need a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have one of those yet, make sure you get one. Any degree will do, just make sure you get one. Once you know that you are qualified, it is time to start applying to units that interest you, or you can reach out to your local Air Force Reserve Recruiter. Remember—BogiDope has a comprehensive list of open Air National Guard and Reserve jobs and a handy unit locator map that makes doing your homework easy.
You might be ineligible for UPT if…
Obviously, if you sell, do, or are in anyway associated with illegal drugs, that is a non-starter. A person who was previously awarded a UPT slot and chose not to take it is also ineligible for another shot at UPT. If for some reason you have ever been disqualified from aviation service by any branch of the U.S. military, or if you were eliminated from military flight training, that also makes you ineligible for UPT. There are a few exceptions: If you left pilot training due to a military deficiency, your drop was self-initiated, or if at the time that you left you had been recommended for further training by the Air Education and Training Command, you might still be able to qualify to go to UPT.
Make sure you are medically qualified
To be a pilot in the Air Force Reserve, you’ll have to pass the Flying Class 1 and Medical Flight Screening exams at Brooks AFB in Texas. There is a long list of things that they’ll check, so if you have any specific concerns reach out to your prospective unit, your recruiter, or solicit advice from one of the BogiDope consultants.
Age and service requirements
You must start UPT by the time you reach your 30th birthday; so if you’re getting into your upper twenties, get moving! If you are a non-rated commissioned officer already, you shouldn’t delay applying for UPT either—you’ll become ineligible for UPT after your fifth year of service. Waivers to the age and service limits do exist, but they are rare. To get a waiver, you’ll have to able to show that within the past two years there was an administrative, counseling, or medical error made by the Air Force that delayed your application to UPT. Want to know more about age requirements, read the BogiDope article The Age Old Question.
There are two tests that you’ll need to take that will determine whether or not you get selected for pilot training. The first is the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT), which is a standardized test. You’ll have to complete every section of the exam regardless of the program you are applying for. There are plenty of resources to help you study for the AFOQT; a quick google search and a few bucks spent will do you good. Learn more about the AFOQT by reading these articles:
The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) Explained-Part 1
The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) Explained – Part 2
The Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) Explained – Part 3
Once you’ve gotten the AFOQT out of the way, you’ll need to take the Air Force’s Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS). This is a psychomotor battery of tests that you can’t really do much to preparation for other than being well fed and getting a good night’s sleep. Your combined AFOQT and TBAS score will make up your total Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) score. The PCSM score is one of the big determiners of whether or not you get selected for UPT. Learn more about the PCSM by reading these articles:
The Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) Score Explained – Part 1
The Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) Score Explained – Part 2
So, what’s the process?
If you meet the basic UPT requirements and want to fly in the Reserves or Guard, there is no point in waiting. Check out the BogiDope unit map and the job openings and start reaching out to units. For more information on how to reach out to units, check out the BogiDope article entitled Who Do I Call? If you aren’t sure about where you want to end up, an Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve recruiter will be happy to help you.
While you are shotgunning resumes out to units you want to join, there is no reason why you can’t go ahead and study for the AFOQT and get that out of the way—do the TBAS while you’re at it. Once you get hired by a unit, you’ll get your medical done and prepare a hefty package of paperwork to send to the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve Command—your recruiter or someone from the unit will help make sure that you’ve got everything together.
For more information on the hiring and UPT process, check out Air Force vs Air National Guard: UPT Application Process (Part 2: Air National Guard) here on BogiDope.