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Becoming a C-130 pilot or combat systems officer in the Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Matwey
  • 166th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Do you want to learn how to become an air crew member aboard the Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo transport aircraft, the "workhorse of the Air Force," to serve your state and nation?

You can explore the qualifications, selection process, and training for the pilot and combat systems officer, two of the four air crew positions of the C-130 flown by the Delaware ANG's 166th Airlift Wing at the New Castle ANG Base.

When a potential recruit expresses an interest in becoming a pilot or a CSO they will talk with Master Sgt. Tanya Harris, the Delaware ANG Recruiting Office supervisor and the Designated Officer Recruiter.

"My role as DOR is to ensure all selected Undergraduate Flying Training candidates are physically, mentally and morally qualified to become a member of the ANG," said Harris.

UFT includes both Undergraduate Pilot Training and Undergraduate Navigator Training. Applicants must complete the Air Force Officer Qualification Test before making their UPT or UNT application.

The AFOQT measures aptitudes used to select candidates for officer commissioning programs and specific commissioned officer training programs. The proctored exam takes approximately four hours and has five sections; pilot, CSO, verbal, quantitative and aptitude. A local Air Force recruiter can help with test scheduling.

The minimum AFOQT scores required to become a pilot or CSO are 15 on the verbal section and 10 on the quantitative section; in addition pilots must score a minimum of 25 on the pilot section, and CSOs must score a minimum of 25 on the CSO section. Scores for most applicants offered an interview average about 75 for pilots on the pilot section, and 60 for CSOs on the CSO section.

An applicant has the opportunity to retake the test once without any restriction in order to try to obtain a higher score, but will need a waiver in order to retake it more than once. Only the last score recorded is accepted, and six months is required between tests.

"I recommend that applicants take the test at least seven months before the board meets in order to have time to re-take it once and obtain their scores before their interview," said Lt. Col. Michael Reneski, chief pilot in the 142nd Airlift Squadron and a traditional ANG member who works as a commercial pilot.

Reneski also reviews pilot application packages and schedules candidates for interviews with the unit's UPT board. He also strongly recommends that applicants prepare for the AFOQT. Study materials are available for purchase online, or at most bookstores and libraries that carry Scholastic Aptitude Test preparatory material.

If a person is interested in becoming a pilot or CSO and is not already in the Air National Guard, the next step after taking the AFOQT is to be scheduled for the half-day medical commissioning physical at the local Military Entrance Processing Station.

"Once a candidate is medically qualified we'll initiate the process to prepare documentation required for enlistment and for an officer application packet," said Harris. "All non-prior service UFT candidates are processed as an airman first class so they are enlisting for commissioning purposes."

To be hired, a candidate must meet with either the UPT or UNT selection board of officers. Each board meets at least once annually.

To be eligible for a board interview, an applicant must be younger than 28 years old at the time of the interview. This is necessary because the Air Force requires a candidate to be less than 30 years old the day UPT or UNT starts, which can be one to three years after the interview.

For education, a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university is required, or the applicant must be within one semester of graduating.

If selected, about two years of preparations and training follow before the candidate is fully qualified as a pilot or CSO.

The candidate then must pass a flight physical; the three-day flight physical process for UPT candidates must be done at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio; UNT candidates can obtain a flight physical locally.

Those who are not commissioned officers at the time of selection must attend the officer commissioning program of the U.S. Air Force. They will be enrolled in either the eight-week Academy of Military Science or the nine-week Basic Officer Training course, each held at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. One day prior to departing for the officer commissioning program, all UFT candidates are promoted to staff sergeant. Upon successful completion of an Air Force commissioning school, members will be commissioned as a second lieutenant.

The next step is the four-and-a-half week Initial Flight Screening program at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colorado. IFS standardizes flight screening across the Air Force, provides for military rigor and camaraderie, and is the sole source of flight screening for all Reserve Officer Training Corps and Officer Training School aviation candidates. IFS is not required if an applicant has a private pilot's license.

Following IFS are the UFT schools. UPT is held at Columbus AFB in Mississippi, Laughlin or Sheppard AFB in Texas, or Vance AFB in Oklahoma. UNT for CSOs is held at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida.

At UPT and UNT students learn navigation, aerobatics, formation flying and how to rely on aircraft instruments by operating the Air Force T-6A Texan II aircraft, a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer for about six months. Students then switch to the Air Force T-1A Jayhawk aircraft for six more months of training. Pilots and CSOs train on the same aircraft for the same time, but CSO candidates do not perform a solo flight or land.

Future C-130 aviators are then placed on the airlift/tanker track which means five months of specialized UPT or UNT called C-130 Initial Qualification Training, where candidates learn their crew position. IQT for C-130H crews is held at the 154th Training Squadron, 189th Airlift Wing, an Arkansas ANG unit at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas.

After IQT comes the one-week water survival training course at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, then three weeks at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school at Fairchild AFB, Washington. Survival schools may be scheduled at other times if circumstances permit.

New pilots and CSOs return home wearing their aviator wings for 90 days of "seasoning training," under the care of experienced instructor pilots or CSOs who help the new aviator learn the local flying routes as they sharpen their aviator skills.

All pilot and CSO selectees must have and maintain high moral standards. Legal issues do not necessarily disqualify an individual but non-disclosure of any offense is disqualifying. If selected, a federal background check will be initiated as part of the security clearance requirement.

There are specific C-130 pilot requirements.

The Delaware Air Guard has hired 21 pilots in the last six years, and this process is selective in order to hire the best pilots with the best fit for the individual, the aircraft and the unit, said Reneski.

He stresses that hiring is based on current manning and projected losses.

All pilot applicants must be in excellent physical and psychological health. Minimum vision requirements are 20/70 corrected to 20/20 using eyeglasses or contact lenses with no exception. They must have full hearing in both ears and meet height and weight standards.

The recruiting office refers potential candidates to Reneski so he can answer questions about the steps required on the career path, saving the applicant and the unit time and effort.

"I can quickly convey much more information with a potential flyer on the phone than by email," said Reneski.

The Test of Basic Aviation Skills is required of all UPT applicants. TBAS is a 30-minute eye-hand coordination test using joy sticks and rudder pedals, said Reneski. The unit sends Airmen to Dover AFB. to test because TBAS is only administered at active duty Air Force bases.

Pilot applicants are considered based on a score obtained from the Pilot Candidate Selection Method; that score is comprised of three factors: performance on the TBAS, the pilot section score on the AFOQT, and credit based on any logged flight time up to 200 hours as measured by an interval scale.

A minimum requirement for a pilot applicant in the Delaware ANG is having flown solo in an aircraft with a solo endorsement in their pilot logbook, said Reneski. They will gain PCSM credit for their flying hours even if they have no pilot's license yet.

"When selecting pilots, the board looks at three broad indicators," said Reneski. "We review the applicant's college grade point average and how demanding the college or the major was, their PCSM score, and their AFOQT scores."

The board also tries to gauge the applicant's attitude, motivation and sincerity, and their career and community involvement.

"We look at the overall picture, the whole person, and we try to see how well an applicant presents themselves," said Reneski.

There are many motivations to become an Air Guard aviator.

Reneski said he sees a variety of motivators such a love of aviation, parental influence, and love of country, or "a moment" that becomes an inflection point when a person makes a career path decision to become an aviator.

For three new pilots and one new CSO, each had slightly different "moments."

Second Lt. Kieran Thorne wanted to either play soccer or fly when he was out of college.

"I saw a friend get sworn into the Air Guard," said Thorne, and that gave him insight into becoming a pilot with the Air National Guard.

Second Lt. Josh Redmon, who finished BOT this summer, was influenced by his father, a United Boeing 747 aircraft pilot.

"At age 18, I made the choice to become a pilot in Denver, Colorado, when my dad took me into a [simulator]," said Redmon. "I really liked the SIM and the feeling of a large aircraft"

Second Lt. Vince Franchino also had his moment.

"It was the yoke and simulator during a technical class in high school," he said, that peaked his interest and attracted him to the pilot profession.

For CSO Capt. James Malcolm, his original motivation to join the ANG was to pay for college, and he started as a crew chief. He then found a way to advance his career and obtain the best long-term career fit.

"After five-six years as enlisted, and liking the military, a [CSO] position arose," said Malcolm. "To me it was exciting, and a chance to do everything the Air Force mission was known to be. Being prior enlisted eased my transition to becoming an officer and an air crew member, making it more attainable for me."

For Reneski, his motivation came when he was an active duty Air Force enlisted crew chief on the Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas, and had his private pilot's license. He watched a flight of Air Force F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft perform a missing-man formation flyover of Cessna Stadium where he attended Wichita State University.

"I thought, wow, you can fly commercially and be a military pilot ... that's for me," Reneski said when he learned that the pilot was both commercial pilot and a military aviator in the ANG.

"All of our air crew express the desire to be a weekend aviator and patriot and have another job," Reneski said as he summing up the motivations he hears from his fellow Air Guard Airmen.

"Serving as a crew member on the C-130 gives Delaware Air Guard Airmen the opportunity to directly serve one's state and fellow citizens anywhere in the country to provide assistance due to a natural or made-made disaster," said Reneski. "And, it also provides the chance to serve abroad while defending our nation at time of war."

For decades ANG C-130 crews have proven essential in meeting these two missions.

To start your Air Guard aviation journey, call an ANG recruiter at 1-800-TO-GO-ANG or visit the ANG recruiting web site,