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Stupid questions about USCG Aviation

Uncle Fester

Robot Pimp
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
I work down the street from HITRON at Cecil now. It occurred to me today as I drove past their digs that I don't know much of anything about how CG aviation units are structured.

Is it a la the Air Force where all the aviation units on a CGAS report to the station CO? Besides odd ducks like HITRON and now-defunct CGAW-1, is there such a thing as a squadron in the Coast Guard?

And how does a Coastie aviator's career normally progress? Sea-Shore-Sea like the Navy, or what?
 

slug

Member
I'm sorry, but that is need-to-know information now, afterall we are part of the DHS! CG is going all secret squirrel, respect!

I really don't know. Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) is the only "squadron", methinks. What's the diff between a squadron, group or sector/air station? The same difference between a troop vs. company, squadron vs. battalion or aviation group vs. regiment. It's all in the name, whatever sounds coolest and has a sweet acronym.

As for careers, there are no sea-shore-sea rotations in the CG. Deployments are for weeks at a time from your home station, mostly voluntary. Duty rotations are more like vanilla SAR Air Station - HITRON/Atlantic City - SAR Air Station - staff tour at HQ.
 

Brunes

New Member
pilot
I'll try to make this as quick but informative as possible..

Whole Coast Guard is broken into two Areas: LANT and PAC. There are numbered Districts in each Area. HITRON is in District 7, I work New Orleans in District 8. Each District has Sectors. HITRON is is Sector Jacksonville. Sector New Orleans works the local area here.
Each Coast Guard Air Station has a CO, XO, OPS, EO with their respective departments. That Air Station CO works for the District Commander. AIRSTA CO usually an O5 or O6...District Commanders are 1 Stars in most places.

For inshore or near shore work (SAR, Maritime Pollution Response, PWCS/Homeland Security Patrols)...The District authorizes the Sectors to request/direct air coverage. For the helos deployed to shops or to our "other operating areas" the helos gets TACON/OPCON shifted to Area and sked outta there.

That's the broad strokes...There are some special cases like anywhere....but that covers the major stuff.

As far as Aviator careers- I'm still pretty young- but the story goes:
First Tour= 4 years. Make AC, Make LT, Work on a Masters, Get your first 2-3K hours.
Second Tour= 3 years. Work on a specialty...Finish a masters, Get into OPS, Safety, Eng, Admin. Also expect this to be an OCONUS tour...HI, AK, or PR.
After that- Do a "shore" tour in your secondary specialty. I'm planning on getting a Masters in Human Performance Technology...so I'll be a training officer somewhere. Then go back to a department head/senior watch pilot job. And flip flop accordingly from there. Some folks do it different...but again- There are always exceptions to the rule.
 

HercDriver

Idiots w/boats = job security
pilot
Super Moderator
I'll try to make this as quick but informative as possible..

Whole Coast Guard is broken into two Areas: LANT and PAC. There are numbered Districts in each Area. HITRON is in District 7, I work New Orleans in District 8. Each District has Sectors. HITRON is is Sector Jacksonville. Sector New Orleans works the local area here.
Each Coast Guard Air Station has a CO, XO, OPS, EO with their respective departments. That Air Station CO works for the District Commander. AIRSTA CO usually an O5 or O6...District Commanders are 1 Stars in most places.

For inshore or near shore work (SAR, Maritime Pollution Response, PWCS/Homeland Security Patrols)...The District authorizes the Sectors to request/direct air coverage. For the helos deployed to shops or to our "other operating areas" the helos gets TACON/OPCON shifted to Area and sked outta there.

That's the broad strokes...There are some special cases like anywhere....but that covers the major stuff.

As far as Aviator careers- I'm still pretty young- but the story goes:
First Tour= 4 years. Make AC, Make LT, Work on a Masters, Get your first 2-3K hours.
Second Tour= 3 years. Work on a specialty...Finish a masters, Get into OPS, Safety, Eng, Admin. Also expect this to be an OCONUS tour...HI, AK, or PR.
After that- Do a "shore" tour in your secondary specialty. I'm planning on getting a Masters in Human Performance Technology...so I'll be a training officer somewhere. Then go back to a department head/senior watch pilot job. And flip flop accordingly from there. Some folks do it different...but again- There are always exceptions to the rule.
I will add a couple of caveats (based on my experiences):
The only specialties for the most part in aviation will be in Safety-and you can still move in an out of this specialty (their is certain coursework associated with this program) or Engineering (same thing, but you will stay in Engineering for much of your career and it is a strong union). Everyone else (for the most part) will move through a variety of jobs. Your first two tours you will have lots of jobs (Eval officer/Urinalysis/Scheduler) as you start learning the ropes of how an aviation unit works. At your first unit you will progress through the syllabi until you make AC, then you hit your 4th year and transfer somewhere else.

Second tour OUTCONUS tours are certainly possible for some airframes, and this is usually when they want you, but timing is everything and you could end up INCONUS. Your second tour is usually going to be 4 years unless you are in one of those crazy OUTCONUS tours. You will continue to rotate through jobs as you progress, and look at making IP. For the most part, the Coast Guard is trying to prepare you for eventual Ops Boss/EO and beyond that Command so they want you to have experiences in Admin & Operations (where the majority of O-2 to O-3 jobs are), as well as some Facilities Engineering (they take care of the buildings/plumbing/etc.) and Supply. You will be Division Head or Asst Department Head, with some experience as "Acting" Dept Head to gain more experience.

Your third tour is where many go to a shore tour, BUT THIS IS NOT REQUIRED. It certainly looks good, and many recommend it, but you can continue to stay in the cockpit (it may make it harder for O-5 selection if you don't go ashore is the current conventional wisdom). If you go ashore, you could go to a Sector or Headquarters; this looks good career-wise since you are broadening your professional horizons and seeing how more of the CG works. Shore job-wise where you go is dependent on openings, your background, and recommendations from your command. If you stay in the cockpit you will be a Department Head and will probably rotate through different departments.

And 2k-3k hours, first tour?? Goodness. If an aviator gets close to 3K first tour, I wonder how much time he has spent on his collaterals. ;)
 

Brunes

New Member
pilot
Is that 2-3K gouge high or low??

And like I said- I know a little bit and have heard a lot...and there are exceptions to every rule.
 

HercDriver

Idiots w/boats = job security
pilot
Super Moderator
Is that 2-3K gouge high or low??

And like I said- I know a little bit and have heard a lot...and there are exceptions to every rule.
In my experience 2K is on the high side of average (I know it depends on airframe and timing) and 3K is very high.
 

Brunes

New Member
pilot
Fair enuf- A perfect example of how different experiences/information can be even tho the community is so small.
 

slug

Member
If you get 250 hours a year, you'll be doing good. High-timers I have seen are between 1000-1500 hrs after a 4-year tour. 3000 hours in 4 years minus flight school time would be 700 hrs/year. No one is getting that unless they are in OEF/OIF, and even then it's rare.
 

SynixMan

Staff Life
pilot
Contributor
What are considered the "choice" billets/stations? Conversely, what are the "hard fills"?
 

Brunes

New Member
pilot
Slug-I'm not sure what you are comparing to...but I'm pretty sure 250 hours a year would be a pretty slow year at a small station in the CG.

My sponsor here in NOLA is about 1 year outta flight school and has about 740 hours...multiply by 4...and he's almost to the 3K mark. I doubt he'll keep that same pace up...He's going to be the SkedsO now. But even still....Cut that in half and he still has to potential to break 1850 hours. And he's only a FP...

Synix- IDK that there are WILDLY popular or horrible places. There seems to be folks who want to fly outta of AK and folks who want to fly outta PR/the Gulf Coast/etc. Folks to fill seats in all the airframes and what. It all depends on what your long term goals and interests are.
There is also a lot of trading around. Example: New Orleans flies a LOT of SAR. Atlantic City is responsible for the National Capital Region Air Interdiction Program....but there are RWAI pilots at New Orleans who TAD up to NJ for 2 weeks at time to support that.
 

sardaddy

Registered User
pilot
Slug is about right. The average is 250-300 a year. 300-350 a year max for helicopter pilots. If pilots do more than that they are either stick pigs or an oddity.
 

sardaddy

Registered User
pilot
What are considered the "choice" billets/stations? Conversely, what are the "hard fills"?
It does depend but the hard fills are Air Station Atlantic City and HITRON in Jacksonville, FL. They suck up billets like a vacuum and many don't like the missions. After that, Kodiak, Alaska and Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico are the next hard to fill. That is at least on the H-65 side. H-60s Don't have as many duty stations and most are pretty good. Even the billets at Kodiak are better.

Choice billets on the other hand are hard to say as some like things while others don't. If you like big cities, you might love San Diego or San Fran and hate Port Angeles or Traverse City while others will love it. But all of the stations are in locations tourists tend to go to. So we go that going for us which is nice.
 

Uncle Fester

Robot Pimp
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
What's the bad about the HITRON mission? What exactly do they do nowadays that a regular Dolphin unit doesn't?

How does a unit get tasked to support cutters? Is it a routine thing, like CGAS 'A' supports cutters from Sector 'X', or CGAS 'B' routinely deploys with specific cutters, or does District just grab whoever's up in a rotation?

How about going out on the big icebreakers? Is that a special-training mission that only certain units are tasked to do, or is it just considered another underway that any Dolphin guy can do and pack your long-johns?
 

Brunes

New Member
pilot
Don't know what is "bad" about the HITRON mission....Some folks don't like the deployment all the time-cause that's really the only way they get to prosecute AUF cases. I'm excited about the prospect of going to HITRON at some point.

The HQ does the scheduling for the cutter deployments. AirStas in high traffic areas tend to do it a bit more. There is pretty often a Dolphin "deployed" out of Miami to either Key West or to a cutter. Sometimes they'll fly a help and crew down from the Northern states (like Traverse City or Detroit) to ride a cutter during the winters. The cross country deployments and longer trips are managed by a JG up at HQ.

Not sure about the Polar Operations stuff....I hope someone does tho- cause I'd REALLY like to find out about it....
 

CoastieFlyer

Box Lunch Connoisseur
pilot
Until about 5 years ago or so, there was a Polar Operations Division based out of ATC Mobile. They would cross country planes out to Seattle and go on the icebreaker trips. They were decommissioned, but I'm not 100% sure which unit took the mission over or if it was contracted out to civilians.
 
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