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Space Cadet 11-10-2020 13:48

Aviation as a feeder
Greetings exalted ones,

I have seen many threads and dumb questions from wannabees who want to figure out 'whats the best branch?' to get into SF with as a commissioned officer. These questions are typically met with answers like "any of them, focus on your 25m," Or sometimes the more pragmatic discussion of Infantry and the ability to lead troops at the platoon level.

This is not that thread.

I would like to start a discussion on the skills/knowledge of an officer coming from an aviation background that would be useful to Army SF.

At a tactical level, I think understanding the physical/logistical capabilities of both rotary and fixed wing attack aircraft would be extremely valuable to an ODA or any other type of SF team on the ground.

At a strategic level, I think understanding the capabilities of assets that deliver S2 or meet supply needs is extremely helpful in planning and supporting operations in any theater.

Have you ever met any SF officers who came from aviation? What did they bring to the table? What were they lacking? Did they have any extra rapport when working with aviators from a CAB or a sister service?

Peregrino 11-10-2020 14:34

If you want to be a staff officer and manage assets, go aviation. We need people who can juggle resources and the good ones are valued enablers. NTM - Aviators are really expensive to train; it's a poor ROI to let good ones branch transfer.

If you want to lead Special Forces Soldiers and motivate indigenous personnel to do dangerous, difficult things, in shit conditions I recommend Infantry, preferably Light Infantry, maybe even with an Airborne and Ranger component. Yes, we get all types and most rise to the demands despite their backgrounds but that's what we do when the balloon goes up and anything that prepares you for that reality will make you a better SF Officer. Anything you need to know about the other aspects of your job will either be taught to you or you will be afforded a "broadening assignment" (stuck on staff, drinking from a fire hose and left to sink or swim pretty much on your own) to learn it. MOO but I have been playing this game for a few years and I've seen generations of SF Officers come and go. And you don't need "extra rapport" to deal with Aviators - they're professionals too; they know what they bring to the fight and they want to do their job just as much as we want to do ours.

Space Cadet 11-10-2020 15:04

Peregrino, thanks for the reply.

Acronym questions: 'NTM'? 'MOO' ?

Peregrino 11-10-2020 15:24

NTM = not to mention & MOO = my opinion only (also goes with YMMV - your mileage may vary).

Space Cadet 11-10-2020 15:40

I see. Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you that there is a 'best practices'/DoD-Budgetary concern when it comes to the concept of a rated aviator branch transferring in time to make the cut off for SFQC. I suppose that decision would ultimately fall on the signing authority to determine if that dude in question would be doing ROI to the 'parent organization.' It is interesting that within just the Army I have observed people be corralled by their unit/organization to prevent them from leaving. I feel like it is an issue if the person could do greater things for the taxpayer, just somewhere else.


I was keeping this post generalized thus far so that it could be useful to lurkers. However, in my specific case I already have a background as an enlisted infantryman. The commissioning source I am looking at is to do ROTC through my PhD program. I am doing this instead of just OCS with my undergrad degree because of the opportunity to serve as a Warrant officer aviator while in ROTC through the SMP program. The question of what to branch when going from warrant to commissioned has me thinking about what skills could prove to be useful. For example, if I branched AV after commissioning, I could end up doing fixed wing ISR work. Does that bear any fruit to be an 18A?

LongWire 11-10-2020 16:12


Originally Posted by Space Cadet (Post 663737)
...I could end up doing fixed wing ISR work. Does that bear any fruit to be an 18A?

Fixed wing ISR-18A? No, it does not.

What are you trying to do? As your screen name applies, are you trying to earn everything you can on your way to the Space Command? What are your goals?
You need to think Big Picture.

What Infantry unit did you serve in? Do you honestly believe that flying or commanding soldiers who fly ISR platforms, can in any way prepare you to lead men out into any of the major operations that an SF Team could be called up to do?

It sounds to me like you want to game the system, I may be wrong. Not the first time, however, what do you really want to do? You need to figure that out. There are certain chapters you can have in the Army that will allow you to continue in the story of the book....... unfortunately the driving tanks and flying your own choppers like Rambo isn't really in the cards. I'm sure that there are exceptions, however they are very slim and at any rate not very well focused.

Space Cadet 11-10-2020 16:37


Originally Posted by LongWire (Post 663738)
It sounds to me like you want to game the system, I may be wrong. Not the first time, however, what do you really want to do?

I served in the unit mentioned in my bio and had an interesting year in RC-E on a short contract that ended when I was 21. Since then I have have gotten an education and worked several years in the space field.

People like Billy Waugh and David Hackworth are the reasons I joined originally out of highschool. I read their books on scouting trips with the BSA. I am not trying to 'game the system.'

The 'New Space' industry is rapidly developing (and fielding) technologies that could turn into assets. These assets could literally re-define what is 'actionable-intel' for anyone of SF's given missions. A lot of this is not the same old 'new stuff' that would trickle down from the prime contractors that is fat with bureaucracy and things like 'field service reps' being sent to units to train courses. I think the ability to land 500 tons of material from orbit would give the guerilla leader quite a lot of marbles to play with. I think I personally could bring a lot of that expertise to SF because I really really freakin' believe in the FID mission that you fine people do.

I think from OSS to now the U.S. has built a tremendous amount of experience in this FID/UW world and that we are/can be so effective it at that it saves lives.

Space Cadet 11-10-2020 16:42

PS I like your Frank Castle avatar.

Astronomy 11-10-2020 20:30

Across 35 years in Army SOF (32 of them in SF), I never encountered a former military aviator in SF Operational ranks. Plenty of folks with private pilot licenses, but no former military aviators assigned. Only current Army Aviators back when we had SF Flight Detachments assigned to Groups. Something that went permanently away back in the 1980s.

Conversely, I've known more than a few former SF enlisted who successfully went the Aviation Warrant route from SF. Both fixed wing and rotary wing.

Frankly, the level of aviation & space experience you'd bring to an ODA/ODB (both as a flyer and an operational planner) wouldn't really matter. Not as a former Aviation Warrant/Captain newly minted SF from the SFQC. Because nobody would be asking you for that kind of contribution.

We have tons of very experienced Logisticians, Planners, Technicians, & Operations officers who Jointly support SOF operations. Senior Warrants & Field Grades. At everything from Task Force to Theater levels. Organic, Attached, or in Direct Support. Supported by scads of experienced NCOs.

If we need anyone from SPACECOM to deliver 500 tons from orbit to outfit a proxy indig force... we already have access to that kind of enabling support. At tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Nothing you bring to the table as a prior company grade aviation officer is really going to matter much down at ODA level. Outside of some professionally nuanced appreciation for CAS, weather conditions, trivia about a specific platform you flew, or DZ/LZ/HLZ considerations. Most of which is already understood (in terms of practical application) by non-aviator folks on an ODA.

Aviation isn't really rocket science down at Team Level. We coordinate for air support and the airplane/s or cargo arrive. Some Junior 18E or JTAC runs out and yells "Boss, Boss... de Plane, de Plane!". Then we either board, unload, un-ass, enslave their ISR feed, or drop munitions de jour.

You either want an 18A job... or you don't. If you want to fly (or enter the ground floor of an ever widening Space Force career)... do that instead. Do it well.

Regardless of your degree program, what's best suited for the SF Officer job is a solid background in Combat Arms. Preferably Infantry. Alternatively an SF Support Branch MOS billet while you await your Year Group turn-at-bat for SFAS. Extra Credit for seeking a commissioned tour at 75th Rangers, 160th SOAR, etc.

While team members will certainly respect a highly technical background, few such backgrounds translate well on an ODA. Not in terms of useful practicality on the ground. Notable exceptions being degreed linguistic or cross-cultural skills. A degree in physics means you're certifiably intelligent. But a degree in French or Chinese language studies makes you valuable in a more practical sense.

Sorry, just the way it is.

Peregrino already spelled things out for you. Giving you the perspective of an experienced Senior SF Officer.

My perspective is that of mere SF Enlisted Swine, but I've been involved in the care & feeding of more than a few SF Captains.

Were I entertaining ROTC commissioning and a theoretical path to 18A... I'd also be calculating a viable road to assignment at 75th Rangers. As an Infantry Platoon Leader. A truly excellent proving ground for a future 18A.

Let me see if I've got the correct read on your situation...

1. You're currently in college
2. You're possibly IRR (fulfilling remainder of prior enlistment reserve obligation)
3. You are going to join a Guard Aviation unit (SMP)
4. You are not yet in a contracted ROTC program
5. You haven't completed your undergraduate degree
6. You plan on a PhD program in the future
7. You have technical space-centric experience/employment (outside of school)
8. You imagine you'd like to go back to the military as an officer
9. You want to do the Aviation WOC thing and become a pilot
10. You think you'd like to eventually be an SF 18A

Numbers 6 & 7 (if true) will contribute little to your commissioned accession into Special Forces, but might open key assignment doors somewhere down the road.

Number 9 (if pursued to fruition) will likely close your door to Number 10. For a whole host of reasons, but basically boiling down to 1) By that time, you won't want to and 2) the Army won't want you to.

Right now, I don't think you really know what you truly want. But you've proposed a highly ambitious list of goals. You might want to plan on staying single for awhile.

Good Luck.

LongWire 11-11-2020 09:07


Originally Posted by Space Cadet (Post 663739)
I think the ability to land 500 tons of material from orbit would give the guerilla leader quite a lot of marbles to play with.

So let me get this straight........ You see that our issue currently in Afghanistan is that Uncle Sugar hasn't spent enough money? You believe that the ability to drop a payload of 500 tons is somehow going to change the course of the last 20yrs? Having the ability to drop them Tons of more weapons, ammo, widgets and whatever else (Tim Hortons anyone?) is somehow going to allow the Afghan Government to better defend/protect their peoples and gubmint?

During your stint in the Infantry did you deploy anywhere?

Do you know what Risk Aversion is?

Authorizations vs Appropriations?

If you really want to take a deep dive, then maybe you should research how many Combat Halo drops have been conducted since 2001, and how that relates to how many Halo ODA's have deployed to conduct Combat Operations.

IMOO I believe that we have wasted enough Blood and Treasure in Afghanistan, and that zero amount of 500 Ton payloads is going to change that, unless of course you are talking about conquering and colonizing. If that's your goal then have at it, terraform away.

If you really want to bring a skill set to SF then I would look into branching Cyber. To me there is a hell of a lot more capability there, that has direct impact on certain missions, that can be applied at the ODA and above..... My $.02

Joker 11-11-2020 22:57

I have known a few Army aviators that came to (really back to) SF. One came back as a Major, and retired as a Colonel. A couple more who were RIFed as Majors (prior enlisted SF) and came back as WOs. And one enlisted SF to aviation WO and came back to SF (after going to O&I as a WO). All of them were very good leaders and I would work with them again.

Their Aviation skills/experiences brought nothing to the SF table at all. Oh, I also knew a real rocket scientist in SF (CPT), he had some minor (nerdy) issues but not a bad leader.

If your goal is SF, go Airborne/Ranger Infantry.

miclo18d 11-13-2020 04:14

Not to jump on top of the pile....

You seem motivated and very smart. You’ve read about and seen SF folks doing amazing and heroic feats. It is commendable that you yourself would strive for a higher calling like that.

1. It is a hard life and it takes its toll...every single QP on this site would probably love to talk for hours on their injuries, wounds, divorces, and many other host of problems.

2. You seem to have skills equated with intelligence....where would your skills be most useful? From what you’re telling ME.....industry. Honestly, my wife works in industry and your “500 tons from space” comment sounds like stuff she would be working on. She worked with/for USSOCOM for 12 years now works directly with/for USAF.

Consider your far future. I was infantry and was getting ready for a reenlistment and told my dad I wanted to go aviation (crew chief) because I was sick of walking everywhere with 65lbs of equipment on my herniated disked back. He had me look at the big picture of job placement of an infantry door gunner in the civilian market place....yeah. So, I did the long walk instead, back pain and all. SF is fairly marketable, but a rocket scientist with cyber-stuff.....

Hopefully you’ll get my point. YMMV

TrapperFrank 12-27-2020 15:15

I have only seen one former aviator in the SF officer ranks. He was my very first team leader in 20th Group, a former Naval aviator that had been riffed in the late '70s.

RedHawk12 02-10-2021 13:49

For what it's worth, I had a former fixed wing aviator in my SFQC who successfully completed the course. I am unsure if SF was always his desired end state or something he arrived at later in his career. That said it did not provide him any unique advantages in the course.

Perhaps if you flew a rotary wing platform and understood the capabilities and limitations it would lend you some insight from a GFC perspective.

Ultimately there is no "right" answer for prior branches (one of my peers is an 88A). However some branches will provide a better foundation for SF. I'd recommend either infantry or field artillery if you are 100% sure you want to go SF. Just my .02.

exsquid 02-12-2021 09:52

I went through the Q with a helicopter pilot. He went SF because he knew that his actual flying career was pretty much over unless he resigned his commission and went WO. He decided to pursue SF instead.


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