New aviators to incur 10-year service obligation

By Thomas Brading, Army News ServiceAugust 18, 2020

New aviators to incur 10-year service obligation
Soldiers pilot a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a training flight over the city of Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, May 23, 2020. (Photo Credit: Spc. Angel Ruszkiewicz) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON -- Starting in October, commissioned and warrant officers selected for initial entry flight training will be required to serve at least a decade once they become an Army aviator, according to an all Army activity message published Aug. 12.

The new policy doesn’t include Soldiers currently in training, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 William S. Kearns, aviation and officer policy integrator for the Army’s G-1 office. “We’re looking at troops selected for flight training in the fiscal year 2021 and beyond.”

The change comes as the cost and requirements for aircraft have increased across the board, Kearns said.

“There are many complexities in these advanced helicopters, which translates to increased costs in flight hours, maintenance, and training requirements,” Kearns said. “They require more time for people to gain experience. There's the technical expertise that goes along with it as well. In the end, it's the Army getting a good return on the investments.”

These investments set the Army apart from all the branches, he said. For example, it’s the only service that allows people to go into flight training with only a high school degree. “You don't have to have a college degree to apply or be accepted into it,” he said.

The policy also applies to Army Reserve and National Guard components, but their obligated service will remain part-time, he said. “The service obligation begins on the date an officer attains an aeronautical rating of Army aviator or is removed from attendance, whichever is earlier.”

Before Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy signed a memorandum for the change in June, the Army had bumped up its incentive pay for aviators in January. The pay raise was the first in two decades to help balance pilot numbers at all ranks and stay competitive with the civilian market.

New Aviators to incur 10-year service obligation
U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters from the New Jersey National Guard’s 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion sit on the flight line during sunset at the Army Aviation Support Facility, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Nov. 8, 2018. (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Matt Hecht) VIEW ORIGINAL

Across the force, warrant officer recruiters are actively on the lookout to fill their ranks.

“We want as many applications as we can, so if anybody has any questions, be sure to contact that warrant officer recruiting team,” Kearns said. “It's a great time to apply to become a pilot, and [Soldiers] can get in with a high school degree. There are some other prerequisites they have to meet. But, we want as many people as we can get to apply.

“We are very, very interested in seeing more applications,” he added.

This call to action comes amid challenging times, with many civilian airlines running on reduced flight schedules, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jon Koziol, the Army’s command chief warrant officer to the aviation branch, during a Facebook livestream in June.

“This global pandemic has made unprecedented impacts on the world’s economies and our way of life,” Koziol said. “Some of the impacts may have directly affected [Soldiers’] ability to pursue [their] goals of working for the commercial sector, especially the airlines.”

For anyone interested in becoming a warrant officer, individuals should contact a warrant officer recruiter or visit the Army’s Warrant Officer Recruiting website.

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