Army National Guard helicopter pilots fly cutting-edge aircraft in missions that may include search and rescue, delivering supplies after natural disasters or dropping off troops in combat zones. Unless they are deployed, pilots serve part time, allowing pilots to pursue civilian careers. Before applying for a helicopter pilot job in the National Guard, you must be enlisted in the National Guard, a commissioned or warrant officer of another military branch or a former commissioned or warrant officer.
Duties and Responsibilities
Aviators train regularly and maintain their skills as a pilot and knowledge of aviation. The National Guard is unique in that it responds to the needs of both state and federal government. This means that a helicopter pilot's diverse duties and missions depend on the unit's current assignment. Pilots may deliver supplies to rescue workers during a natural disaster or they may participate in combat missions during deployment. In addition to piloting their aircraft during missions and training, pilots must also fulfill the leadership duties as a warrant officer. This includes supervising and training enlisted soldiers in their unit and providing necessary information to commissioned officers, as needed.
Pilots specialize in one of four helicopters. The smallest craft is the Kiowa Warrior. It is designed for armed reconnaissance and target acquisition missions with advanced imaging and navigation technology. The Chinook has dual rotors and is mainly used for transport of soldiers, supplies, vehicles and equipment. The Blackhawk is one of the best known Army crafts and is the most diverse. Armed with two machine guns, it is mainly used for tactical transport to drop off troops in a hot zone or to provide medevac airlift. Finally, the Apache aircraft is an attack helicopter used for combat. Armed with HELLFIRE missiles and a chain gun, this craft is used to execute precision strikes and armed reconnaissance.
All National Guard members serve part time in the military. After completing initial training, pilots will train with their units for one weekend every month. In addition, each year, the unit will train for two full weeks. Helicopter pilots with the National Guard must be prepared to be called up to full-time, active duty based on the needs of the state and federal government. If deployed for a state mission, such as a natural disaster, deployment will typically last for 15 to 60 days. If deployed on a federal mission overseas, a 12-month or longer deployment is standard.
Requirements to Apply
Aspiring aviators must be United States citizens between the ages of 18 and 32. In addition, applicants must score at least 100 on the general technical section of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam and score at least 90 on the Flight Aptitude Selection Test. A Class 1A flight physical exam and the Army Physical Fitness Test are also required to ensure the applicant is physically fit for the demands of flight. Finally, applicants must be endorsed by a letter of recommendation from an active National Guard aviator.
Enlisted guard members selected for flight training must first complete a six-week Warrant Officer Candidate School program where they learn the leadership and management skills necessary for all officers. Then, all new aviators begin intensive flight training. First, they learn survival skills at the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course and Helicopter Over-water Survival Training. Basic helicopter pilot training follows with classroom study and simulation practice. Aviators learn all aspects of helicopter flight, including FAA regulations, helicopter instrumentation and flight physics. Students move from simulators to flying in real helicopters in a variety of weather conditions and practicing combat maneuvers. Finally, aviators receive specialized training on their assigned aircraft.
Pay and Benefits
National Guard pilots are paid for every day they train and are paid as active duty service members whenever they are deployed. Drill pay for warrant officers at the W-1 pay grade starts at $375 per month, as of 2013. This amount increases with time served and advancement up to the W-5 pay grade. Helicopter pilots may qualify for a bonus up to $10,000. The exact amount varies by each state's need for pilots. Other benefits include affordable healthcare with TRICARE Reserve Select, life insurance through Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, home loans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and retirement benefits after 20 years of service.