AFA vs NA - culture, experience, education

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by jujube, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. jujube

    jujube New Member

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    My son received a LoA from the AFA, and is anticipating a nomination shortly, but has heard nothing from the USNA, and says he would have a tough decision if he receives appointments to both the AF and the NA.

    Are there any generalized (and experience-based) opinions of the two academies to help in such a decision. Goals: He wands to fly. Some assume AF is the place to go to fly... Others say odds are better to get into flight at Annapolis. Some say AF is "cushier" all-around... Others say the first year at the AFA is grueling, but cake (relatively speaking) from there on out. He loves Colorado, but found Annapolis incredibly beautiful and liked the apparent cohesiveness of the four classes.

    Hub and I are not military. My dad was a marine. Hub's dad army. Both enlisted / did not attend academies.

    Also, when the appointment is offered, is there a deadline for responding? I feel like things are moving quickly with the AFA, and yet the NA news (if any) could come in March / April.

    Thoughts / experiences / impressions to share?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Voyager20

    Voyager20 Member

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    First off, Welcome to the forum. Secondly, congratulations to your DS on obtaining the Loa to AFA. I have always liked this type of question - I never tire of reading the responses from the "experienced crowd", since I am not military either. My DS' preference is only Navy (USNA), but I secretly kinda wish he would have looked at Air Force.

    Good luck to your son on his decision if it comes down to both.
     
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  3. Sydney C.

    Sydney C. Member

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    Welcome...DS's experience "different but similar" and sharing in the hope it provides soem help and perspective. He received appointments to both West Point and USNA and had to make the most difficult decision of his young life...terribly torn but in the end 100% at peace and confident with decision. Your's will be also.

    If your son wants to fly, he can do that at either but I don't think the argument about "AFA or USNA is THE place to go fly" holds any real water , nor SHOULD the notion about which is "cushier" or the local scenery. Don't get me wrong, I get how how all that comes into play in a young man's mind but it may be more beneficial to change the conversation in a different direction

    First, and in no particular order, there is absolutely no 100% guarantee that he will actually fly at either (academic, physical, the list is 100 points long) and there is the "needs of the service" (a Firstie at USNA this year has wanted fly since he was in the 5th grade...but with his major, class rank, etc, he was "drafted " into subs). Second, if he doesn't fly, what else? Third, the mission of the AF and the Navy are very different and it may behoove him to explore those more closely because at the end, and perhaps most importantly, it's NOT about which academy or environment he's in for four years, it's which service branch he wants to serve as an officer and leader in....more closely aligns with his talents and desires, etc. because that's were he's going to spend the majority of the next decade. These are the things he should consider and now is the time to do the real homework.

    The deadline to accept/decline has historically been April 15th and assuming for arguments sake he gets the nod for both, he will now be afforded the greatest gift of all...time. Time to research, time to reflect, time to evaluate all of the options, and ultimately, time to come to a decision he's 100% comfortable and confident with.

    I wish him and your family well and please PM me to continue the conversation if you so desire.
     
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  4. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Excellent points above. The key point: what service feels right to him. The Academy is a waypoint. And, if he doesn't get a pilot slot at either place, are there alternate choices that appeal.
     
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  5. FalconsRock

    FalconsRock Parent

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    Congratulations to your DS on receiving an LOA, it is a good thing to have. I agree with the other posters with one caveat; (this is only what I have heard from people in that arena and not based on any kind of hard facts) but, there may be more opportunity to fly in the AF than USN. My niece is an Ensign in flight training in FL and she said that options are not as numerous as she was first led to believe, especially if you want to fly jets/planes. She was in the top of her class and no one was assigned jets/planes. Everyone in her class received helicopter assignments. She was disappointed, but has accepted she will never get there and is enjoying her new mission.

    Also, the below comment was included in my DD's "congrats, you are competitive" letter from USAFA:

    "If you are interested in flying high tech, high performance aircraft, then you'll be interested in the following. The
    majority of each class will have the opportunity to attend Undergraduate Flight Training. This means that virtually
    every cadet who wants to fly and is medically qualified to do so will have that opportunity upon graduation."


    I don't believe the USNA offers pilot to the "majority" of each class.

    Your DS really needs to think about what he wants to do after graduation. Does he want to be on a ship out to sea for deployments? Does he want to land his jet on a flight deck or will he be happier landing his craft on land? What happens if he does not selected for pilot? Will he be happy in the bowels of the ship in the engineering department or on an air base or even being an RPA pilot? Sydney C is right on point, as he will be spending much time after flight school in military service and the AF and Navy missions are very different.

    Good luck to your DS.
     
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  6. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    The following was written to a young man in your son's situation. Whether the letter is for real or not, who knows, but it has far more truth than poetry in it:


    22 December 2005

    Young Man,

    Congratulations on your selection to both the Naval and Air Force Academies. Your goal of becoming a fighter pilot is impressive and a fine way to serve your country. As you requested, I'd be happy to share some insight into which service would be the best choice. Each service has a distinctly different culture. You need to ask yourself "Which one am I more likely to thrive in?"

    USAF Snapshot: The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. Their training programs are terrific. All pilots are groomed to meet high standards for knowledge and professionalism. Their aircraft are top-notch and extremely well maintained. Their facilities are excellent. Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The USAF is homogeneous and macro. No matter where you go, you'll know what to expect, what is expected of you, and you'll be given the training & tools you need to meet those expectations. You will never be put in a situation over your head. Over a 20-year career, you will be home for most important family events. Your Mom would want you to be an Air Force pilot...so would your wife. Your Dad would want your sister to marry one.

    Navy Snapshot: Aviators are part of the Navy, but so are Black Shoes (surface warfare) and Bubble Heads (submariners). Furthermore, the Navy is split into two distinctly different Fleets (West and East Coast). The Navy is heterogeneous and micro. Your squadron is your home; it may be great, average, or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you know it. You will spend months preparing for cruise and months on cruise. The quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts. Senior Navy enlisted are salt of the earth; you'll be proud if you earn their respect. Junior enlisted vary from terrific to the troubled kid the judge made join the service. You will be given the opportunity to lead these people during your career; you will be humbled and get your hands dirty. The quality of your training will vary and sometimes you will be over your head. You will miss many important family events. There will be long stretches of tedious duty aboard ship. You will fly in very bad weather and/or at night and you will be scared many times. You will fly with legends in the Navy and they will kick your *** until you become a lethal force. And some days - when the scheduling Gods have smiled upon you - your jet will catapult into a glorious morning over a far-away sea and you will be drop-jawed that someone would pay you to do it. The hottest girl in the bar wants to meet the Naval Aviator. That bar is in Singapore. Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask...pack warm & good luck in Colorado.

    Banzai

    P.S.: Air Force pilots wear scarves and iron their flight suits.
    P.S.S. And oh yes, the Army pilot program, don't even think about it unless you got a pair bigger than basketballs. Those guys are completely crazy.
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Might be important to remind the poster above that the asvab requirements in the Air Force are lower than the Coast Guard... So their bright but not the brightest.

    Squids are sloppy. Zoomies are sloppier. Both schools are nice. Both schools have money. Navy has more history. Annapolis is nicer than Colorado Springs.
     
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  8. ahs67

    ahs67 Member

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    My husband was a naval aviator as was his father; neither attended a service academy. My husbands' 2 Uncles were Air Force pilots, one having attended the Air Force Academy as well as having taught there later in his career. This is obviously anecdotal, but the consensus among them all was that unless you are a pilot in the Air Force, you are something of a second class citizen. Not so in the Navy (the worlds 2nd largest air force, I believe) where there are many equally prestigious communities to be a part of.
     
  9. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012

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    Irony! But I'm a Marine so I can't talk about smarts.

    Both schools have very good oppurtunities for prospective aviators. USNA has fewer spots, but a large number of mids want nothing to do with aviation. Generally speaking it's relatively easy to get an aviation spot. Generally speaking again, most people walk away from selection during flight school at least moderately happy.

    He should consider what he'd be interested in flying. There's actually not a huge overlap in what the different services do with regards to aviation. The Air Force obviously has a strong focus on fixed wing and strategic/big picture assets (to me, most aircraft the Air Force flies sound terrible and boring). The Navy has more helicopter pilots than probably everything else. The odds of getting jets in the Navy are usually fairly decent as well, with some oddballs like P-3/P-8s in there.
    The cultures of the services in flight school are very different: the Navy gives you plenty of rope to hang yourself and just tells you what you can't do, while the Air Force forces you to study at work all day and tells you what you're allowed to do. I prefer the sea service way, but that's just me.
     
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  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Hahaha, * they're.
     
  11. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    The number one thing your DS should look at is the service. It is really a decision of USAF vs. US Navy not, USAFA vs. USNA. Yes, both USNA and USAFA have lots of pilot spots. If you are medically qualified for pilot at USNA, the chances of you receiving are pretty high. A few things to consider:
    • If heavies (transport C-5s, C-17s) are something he wants to fly... USAFA. If heavies sound horrible... USNA.
    • If he thinks landing on aircraft carries sounds amazing... USNA
    • At USNA he has the option of Navy or Marine Corps Pilot
    • If helos are of huge interest... Navy and Marine Corps have plenty (Army has the most)
    • Drones... as of now not an option in the Navy, but who knows what things look like 4+ years from now. Lots of threads on RPAs. Definitely get educated on them.
    • What if he isn't medically qualified to fly... what interests him more? USNA he has the option of the Marines too. In all honesty my belief is this should be a huge part of the equation. If he hates water, USNA is not a good option.
    • USAF has shorter deployments. Navy will be 6 months. For the mots part unless you fly C-130s or P-3s they will be at sea. If you do fly those you will have sea tours on carriers to get the right checks in the boxes for senior promotions.
    • Base location - this can vary. For the most part the Navy is sea related, so ocean and beaches (minus Lemoore). AF is all over.
    I went Marine Corps from USNA, so I am not an expert on the Navy side. I did live on Air Force bases and worked with the Air Force extensively for about 18 months of time in. The views below are just my opinions and are not meant to be a food fight:
    • The USAF is much more relaxed than the Navy. We usually made fun of it for being more a business than the military. The Navy is more relaxed than the Army and Marine Corps, but still the military.
    • The Navy is old and has lots of traditions. The Air Force has some traditions.
    • Experiences can vary greatly depending on platform and squadron in the Navy.
    • The Air Force has two sets of folks... pilots and not pilots. The Navy is much more diverse. Although fighter pilots are 100% positive they are the center of the universe, they are not. Bottom line is the Navy is about going to sea and SWOs and subs will always have a place.
    • As mentioned flight schools are very different. I had tons of friends who went through USAF flight school on exchange (before the program was cancelled). One of my buddies was determined they made it through flight school because they got sent to AF training.
    • The point that Hurricane makes about cultures of flight school is true for the operating forces. In my experience, the Navy is very much make a decision, make it happen. The Air Force was much more go ask an 0-5 first before making a decision.
    • Education is valued very much by both services in their officers. If you asked me... The Naval War College is about as good as it gets for military schools.
    • AF enlisted in general are very bright. Navy enlisted can range. Navy enlisted are very industrious and are like MacGyver when it comes to keeping things going. Marines are good at this too.
    • Family life and being home... Air Force. Travel, see the world (a dozen countries on one deployment) join the Navy.
    Honestly he really needs to look at the culture of the service. The SAs reflect the culture of each of their services. Really think long and hard on what platform you want to fly (by the way... whatever platform you do get... you will think its the best) and if you can't or don't get to fly... what fits you best? What interests you?
     
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  12. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    LITS: Really? Annapolis over C-Springs? Surely, you jest - otherwise, yinz crazy, dude.

    OK, now to our OP:

    My son was in similar shoes years ago (2008). One trip to Colorado changed his mind -

    but the most important thing is to ask the right questions. Let's say you DS does not land a flight slot, and it happens, even to the best students in the class who request "pilot" (It happened in mys sons' class so I have 1st/2nd hand knowledge of this). Ask your son to think of himself in ten years - what is he wearing? What job is he doing? Is he Navy? Is he Air Force?

    Has he looked at AF housing??? It's gorgeous. If he wants to be married, that's something to consider, along with length of possible deployment. Will he want to be away from wife and child for months? For a week at a time? for a few days at a time?

    Lots to consider

    If you look at my avatar, you'll know which my sons chose. They both fly heavies and are loving their jobs, their lives, and so glad they made the Air Force their choice.
     
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  13. Joedoe

    Joedoe Member

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    Annapolis over Colorado Springs all day.
    Air Force housing is gorgeous because Zoomies are widely considered the pampered branch of the military who will accept nothing less than marvelous.
     
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  14. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Comes down to Water People and Mountain People at a certain level!

    I enjoy WP's setting high above the Hudson and the rich layers of history. I appreciate the Rockies and the beautiful chapel at AF. I like the view of NYC skyline from USMMA and the bracing salt breeze off the Sound (and water). I think CG's riverfront setting and rolling grounds are lovely.

    But I am a Water Person through and through. There is water everywhere you look in Annapolis - rivers, creeks, runs, bays, and a few days on a sailboat down that massive Bay is the open Atlantic. Gotta have that water, but that's me. I was horrified at one point in my career when my detailer suggested Millington, TN, for duty - a lovely state, have enjoyed vacationing there, not enough large bodies of water experienced daily. Managed to get 100% of duty stations near oceans or Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on a barrier island off Georgia, so that need for salt breeze and water is embedded.
     
  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Colorado Springs is half dead (something I did not expect my my first visit). Annapolis is very nice.
     
  16. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Zombies? Sorry, long day. Must rest iPhone now.
     
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  17. Maplerock

    Maplerock Proud to be an American

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    You are wrong. Colorado Springs is a vibrant city. It has a bit of everything without the horrible traffic around Annapolis. It's a great place for fun, entertainment, and sports. I think it has something for everyone.

    I love Annapolis too... but it "ain't what it used to be." Talking about to city... the academy is great.
     
  18. skismuggs

    skismuggs Member

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    My AFA cadet was at Annapolis recently ...very jealous!!! Said a date is easy...just walk out the gate and tons of places to eat, not the 15 min walk to parking lot, 10-mins out the gate and 15-20 min drive to town. And you need a car! Very different flavorsin each Academy. Not much hiking and outdoorsy stuff in Annapolis I would assume.
     
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