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How does selection tend to shake itself out?

Hello all,

Not a thread to see how one could game the system or a 42% question. Just curious as to your experiences regarding how you came to your platform? I've heard that you pick the people and thereby the platform those people fly. Some people pick the mission, some the location options, and some the platform itself? As a hopeful just trying to soak up everything he can, I'd love to hear your way you found your niche. I know sometimes you don't have a choice and I'd honestly be beyond excited and privileged to fly something with anything with Navy on the side.
 

cfam

A pilot is a pilot. An NFO is something else.
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
I picked the VAQ community (Prowlers at the time), because of the location, job security, the mission set, and the opportunity to fly in multiple aircraft (Prowlers and Growlers).

I had no desire to be stationed in Lemoore, and have always loved camping/hiking/skiing, so Whidbey Island seemed like an ideal location for me. In retrospect, I made the right decision, because Whidbey is an awesome place. While there are definitely some cons to having a single site community (not counting the one squadron in Japan), it does cut down on the amount of PCS moves, and it makes the community very tight.

With regards to job security, I wanted to end up in a community where NFOs had a guaranteed long-term role. I knew that the community was transitioning to the Growler, and that it would be around until the 2030s (after my potential last set of flying orders). Additionally, I wanted to ensure I had a defined role in the cockpit.

I knew very little about the mission set at the time, but I did know that it was NFO centric, and the idea of executing SEAD missions sounded appealing. With the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t change my decision, as the mission (and the community) are awesome, and the Growler's capabilities are only continuing to evolve and improve. The community is also very in demand, as we're the only tactical jamming asset in the DOD. I was able to work with almost every platform in the USAF, Army units, and plenty of coalition aircraft just during my first two tours.

Getting to fly in both the Prowler and Growler was an awesome experience. I took a calculated risk picking Prowlers instead of Growlers, and the timing gods smiled upon me. Taking the Prowler out for the squadron's last two deployments was awesome, and transitioning with the entire squadron was a blast.
 

DanMa1156

Land of the rising sun. Literally. There's no DST!
pilot
Contributor
I was pretty good in instruments, at least second block, in Primary and thought that since I liked instruments I might like going P-3s or Jets at the time.

Then three things happened:

  1. I had a "low level" flight in the T-34 that was awesome and my instructor politely reminded me helos fly lower.
  2. My last 5 flights were all with P-3 guys - all 5 said in no uncertain terms - do not go P-3s. One I trusted very much and I picked his brains and he warned me he thought it would get better, but it might be well after my time. He hated being in an unreliable airframe that nobody at a higher headquarters trusted to complete missions of importance and that he'd wish he had gone helos.
  3. My onwing was a C-2 guy who told me how burnt out he was and that he's never met an unhappy helo pilot. He told me something that has rang true to me to this day: "Let's say a good month of flying is 20-30 hours. That's about 1 day a month. The rest of the time, you are choosing where you can live, who your buddies are, and how big of circles you're flying - P-3/8s fly big ones, the Tailhook guys fly medium sized ones, and helos fly small ones. Choose what's important for you."
I thought about it and I realized that I wanted to live in San Diego at least once in my life and I wanted to land on ships. I thought about putting jets down anyway, but then when my projected NSS they gave me at my LFF went from 54.something dropped to 49.9 when I got the official one, 0.1 away from being able to ask for jets (turns out the guy with the lowest score my week for jets was 68.8 or something so some of my peers were just Primary STUDS and I wouldn't have made it anyway!). I asked if I could put it down anyway and was told "no." So I went with helos, was pretty wishy washy, and ended up getting them. I have been mostly happy with that decision. I did end up living in San Diego and I've landed on ships 222 times (I'd have to check the log book but I think that's right). I've landed on aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, random Merchant ships (one was a super cool platform style pad maybe 200' off the water on a ship I'm not even sure we admit to having) and plenty of LZs in dusty places. I've been able to rescue a F/A-18C pilot, train Navy SEALs with some important workups, deliver security teams and their guns to MSC ships, and do some awesome training while firing a HELLFIRE, a handful of unguided rockets, and some 20mm cannon, all the while flying with the coolest group of guys and gals I could have ever asked for - then topped it off with an instructor tour. I enjoyed flying with a team (most days) and extremely rarely wished I was alone in the cockpit. As far as the the flying goes, I got everything I think a Navy helicopter pilot could want, which only makes it easier for me to walk away from. It's been discussed to infinity and back on these forums the problems that exist with the particular community I belong to and that's definitely been a source of frustration for me. But, after having talked to my VP friends, especially now that I'm on a staff with plenty of them, I am only envious of the fact they will be able to transition to the airlines faster than I can - something that was never a goal for me in flight school - all I wanted to be was the best damn pilot in the Navy and have a great time. I think the next generation of VP guys flying the P-8 will be awesome - I see it every day as an Air Ops guy - we task them for some super cool stuff, but at least during my time, helicopters were a great place to be.
 

Treetop Flyer

Well-Known Member
pilot
Be careful putting too much stock in opinions of your primary instructors. A decade ago, there were zero jet guys instructing in my primary squadron. Now that they’re so short they have c-130 and p-8 guy’s instructing in t-45’s, I doubt there are more pointy nose primary instructors. My phrog pilot onwing couldn’t shut up about how bad jets were. A year later, when I was in Kingsville and he was about to retire, he got a ride in a T-45 and just about lost his mind. That was telling.

When I was in primary, I wanted to fly fast, blow shit up, and kill the guys that made 9/11 happen. I heard a bunch of chopper and p-3 instructors tell me how dumb jets were and how they never wanted them anyway. Primary is a small , skewed cross section of naval aviation. You’ll see for yourself.
 
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Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
When I was in primary, I wanted to fly fast, blow shit up, and kill the guys that made 9/11 happen. I heard a bunch of chopper and p-3 instructors tell me how dumb jets were and how they never wanted them anyway. Primary is a small , skewed cross section of naval aviation. You’ll see for yourself.
Whenever this topic comes up, I know there's lots of truth to it. But I also think about how much I didn't see this as an IP. Then I had an epiphany after reading this... I think I didn't see much of it because I didn't hang out with those guys, 'cause why would you want to?
 

Python1287

Well-Known Member
pilot
Contributor
Whenever this topic comes up, I know there's lots of truth to it. But I also think about how much I didn't see this as an IP. Then I had an epiphany after reading this... I think I didn't see much of it because I didn't hang out with those guys, 'cause why would you want to?
It's interesting that you never saw it or never hung out with them, because from my perspective at the time, it was so common. I believe you, it's just interesting. Most guys from the other primary squadrons in my generation said the same thing.

To the OP, listen to what @Treetop Flyer said. Primary is not representative of all communities (unless it changed from ten years ago), and any information about Tacair will be largely incorrect, or at least incomplete.
 

Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
It's interesting that you never saw it or never hung out with them, because from my perspective at the time, it was so common. I believe you, it's just interesting. Most guys from the other primary squadrons in my generation said the same thing.
I didn't say I never saw it, just that it wasn't a mindset among the regulars that I hung out with. I also saw it a little bit as a stud, but I think I just ignored those guys if I could tell they were actually serious about what they were saying.

As IPs (among those that I hung out with), I think we all had the same basic mindset that our job was to try and allow the student to be as successful as he/she could be. If that meant getting jet grades and going on to jets, then great. But I also tended to hang out with only a couple of people, and only one of them was a P-3 guy.

I totally believe you guys saw it, but it just wasn't my style. Hell, I was extremely bitter towards HSL, but even then, I'd try and answer questions objectively when studs would ask about the community.
 

sickboy

Well-Known Member
pilot
There's a bunch of different ways to come up with your list, mine probably wasn't the best. In my case I came into Primary wanting to fly the Prowler or Helos. My onwing was a P-3 guy and we despised each other, and while there were P-3 IPs that seemed like normal people, I associated the entire community with my owning. I started really gunning for tailhook during forms, by the middle of instruments I just didn't want to spend another two years in flight school. Talking with the helo IPs, including one of two Romeo guys I met until I got to the RAG, solidified my first choice. In the end, I came shy of jet grades anyway and walked away with my Helo spot. Haven't looked back.

Long story short, talk to as many people as you can. At least in my squadron, we have a bunch of pointy nose reservist types. Don't discount an entire community based on one douchebag.
 
I checked in at Pensacola wanting to be a Cobra guy. We had a really great instructor for the CAS/9-Line stuff at TBS, and at the time all I wanted to do was fly a grey aircraft at treetop level launching Hellfires at bad guys. This remained my goal going into Primary, but after talking to IPs who came from the skid community, within a few months I found it may not necessarily be what I wanted in terms of the people and the culture. I pretty much completely wrote off helicopters once I was well into Instruments and realized I enjoyed that sort of flying far more than the VFR stuff. After talking to a couple C-130 IPs, I was pretty dead set on Hercs around the time selection rolled around. I will freely admit that as cool as being a Marine officer and aviator has been, my ultimate goal is the airlines, and that may have had something to do with it, too.

I selected my 2nd choice of MV-22s. I was a little bummed, but I don't think there were even any C-130 slots my week, and the dread was more about spending any amount of time in the TH-57 as opposed to being Tilt drafted. Fast-forward to Intermediate, and the TH-57 was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Tactics, with the CALs, pinnacles, and steep approaches, was honestly some of the most fun I'd had in flight school up to that point aside from Cruise/Tail Chase during T-6 Forms. I think I would have torn my hair out trying to get an instrument rating in that thing, though. I still consider myself more of a fixed-wing pilot at heart.

Advanced Multi-Engine was definitely the best phase for me, both when it came to enjoying the flying and the overall culture of VT-35 where there were actually V-22 instructors sprinkled throughout the P-3 and C-130 types. Not like the HTs where there were just a bunch of CH-53 pilots who thought they had room to talk shit about the V-22 as if they'd flown it.

In retrospect, I would have put V-22s #1. It's a great aircraft, great community, and a solid mix of every sort of flying. Expanding on that last point - it is not at all uncommon for a single flight to consist of IFR coupled to the autopilot, a low-level route in Airplane mode, Conversion/VTOL approaches to an LZ, and just flat-out VFR. The V-22, both as an aircraft and a community, have worked out nearly all the kinks and growing pains. Tiltrotors in general definitely seem to make up much of the future of vertical lift aviation since few would want to pass up the sheer speed and range we bring to the table compared to conventional helicopters.
 

mad dog

is friends with the world famous poopy eared owl
pilot
Contributor
...Just curious as to your experiences regarding how you came to your platform?
I came ridiculously close to being attrited during primary [VT-2, 1987] for accumulating 3 downs.

Flying was difficult for me.

I was just glad to be there.

Rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong, blimps, kites...blah, blah, blah...all sounded pretty good to me.

Helos.
 

MIDNJAC

is clara ship
pilot
I came into primary, as many did, wanting jets. I never advertised this, but if an IP asked, I didn't lie about it. Most of them seemed pretty happy with their respective communities (save a couple disgruntled P-3 dudes), and I listened to what they had to say. In the end, I stuck with my plan, ended up with the requisite NSS, and was fortunate enough to select tailhook. Like has been mentioned, we had 0 tacair dudes in Corpus at the time, at least in my squadron, so the decision matrix was mostly a matter of listening to how life was in other communities and deciding if that was for me. I had the benefit of having done a midshipman "cruise" with a VFA squadron, so I at least had some idea of what their lifestyle was, though obviously the flying was mostly left up to my imagination. Happy I ended up in VFA, though the things I thought would be cool were not necessarily the things that actually ended up being cool. In the end, if you have a positive attitude, you will most likely enjoy whatever you end up doing. As an aside, my #2 choice would have been helos. Reasoning was that they fly with a stick instead of a yoke. That is quite possibly the dumbest reason in history for wanting one community over another in retrospect. I'm sure other people have made similar decisions based on nothing at all :)
 

OUSOONER

O-4 Line of sight tasking is real...
pilot
Go P-8. Everything else sucks.

Kidding. Sort of. Either way, once you get what you get, immerse yourself in it and you won't be disappointed...the politics and community problems will get to you but wait until you're done getting fully qualified to worry about all that shit. Enjoy it, it goes by fast.
 
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