JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) — Enlisted Airmen have the opportunity to earn a pair of wings and go fly, fight and win America’s wars.
Air Force officials are looking for retrainees to become career enlisted aviators as flight engineers, aircraft loadmasters, flight attendants, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operators.
The duties and responsibilities of these positions call for Airmen to serve as crew members aboard many of the Air Force’s aircraft.
“If you really want to travel around the world and see different things, you can do that as a career enlisted aviator,” said Master Sgt. Matt Ardis, the career enlisted aviator in-service recruiter at the Pentagon.
For Tech. Sgt. Francis Camejo, who retrained as a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster in 2009, the best part of being a career enlisted aviator is directly contributing to so many Air Force missions.
“When you airlift over 5 million pounds of cargo and passengers per year without injuries or damage to equipment, you gain a sense of pride in your work,” Camejo said.
In more than three years on the job, Camejo, who works with the 15th Airlift Squadron out of Joint Base Charleston, S.C., has participated in missions related to special operations, joint operations and humanitarian cargo deliveries to destinations all over the globe; however, he said he gets the most satisfaction from delivering equipment to troops in combat and when he helps transport Airmen back to the U.S. after a long deployment.
“You immediately see the fruits of your labor through the faces of family members when you bring their loved ones home,” he said.
Despite the selling points of being an enlisted aviator, the career fields suffer from manning shortages year after year.
Ardis said there are a few reasons for the shortage. First, the Air Force does not force Airmen or new recruits into flying positions. Second, the standards for becoming a career enlisted aviator are significantly higher than most career fields. Finally, successfully completing formal training can be challenging for some new retrainees.
Ardis said Airmen who are interested in one of these career fields should brush up on the retraining process. Once the process begins, they need to stay on top of it, especially the medical portion, which calls for a flight physical.
“The physical is the long pole in the tent, especially if a waiver is involved,” he said.
Airmen can also increase their chances of selection by familiarizing themselves with the retraining advisory, a document that details career field vacancies. Then, they can apply for every position for which they qualify, Ardis said. The advisory can be found on the myPers website.
Airmen who are on their first enlistment can volunteer to retrain through the career Airman re-enlistment reservation system. New enlisted aviators are selected from the pool of qualified candidates based on enlisted performance reports, with the most recent report being the most important. Rank and projected rank are also considered, with higher ranking Airmen more likely to be selected, all else being equal.
Those Airmen who have already completed at least one enlistment term may try to volunteer through the NCO retraining program.
Selected Airmen will attend the 14-day enlisted aircrew fundamentals course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Upon graduation, they move on to their career field-specific training, survival training and then flight training.
Airmen looking to retrain into this career field can contact Master Sgt. Matt Ardis at firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-697-1717 or DSN 227-1717.
(Tech. Sgt. Shawn J. Jones contributed to this article.)