Intelligence Officer, Air Force or Army

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by 2020Intel, Jul 25, 2015.

  1. 2020Intel

    2020Intel Member

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    Hello I have been lurking for a while and decided to make my first post today.

    Can someone explain to me the differences between being an Intelligence Officer in the Air Force or Army. As of now I was planning on applying to the Air Force Academy only, with the eventual goal of getting into AF Intel. The reason I thought I wanted Air Force over Army is for the better bases and I thought that the Air Force would have a larger intelligence community to work with.

    However, I just recently read that the Army has an entire Military Intelligence Corps with over 28,000 personnel (wikipedia). I have not been able to find any similar info for the Air Force. Also, I read somewhere (I can't find the link right now for some reason) that a lot of higher-up intelligence positions are being filled by pilots (though this isn't exclusive to the intelligence field; it happens in a lot of the different positions) as opposed to career intelligence officers. I wanted to confirm if that was a valid point or not. I also read that the Army is more people-centric and that the AF is kind of like two worlds (rated vs non-rated) which might explain the article that says that pilots take a lot of the high up positions.

    Essentially, I want to serve in the branch that I will have a) the greatest chance of me becoming an Intel Officer, and b) the greatest possibility for upward mobility into the intelligence community. I want to have an impact in that field so I want to be in the branch that will give me the most opportunity. Which branch do you think that is? Should I consider applying to West Point as well?
     
  2. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    There are plenty of similarities and differences between the two. The differences mainly stem from Army vs. Air Force culture in general, and not so much the differences between AF and Army intel. As an Army intel guy, you will be primarily working in support of ground operations. As an AF intel guy, you will be primarily supporting air, space, and cyber operations. Is the Air Force run by rated officers? Absolutely. That is similar to how the Army is run by combat arms officers.

    Now is the intelligence community within the Air Force run by rated officers? No...its run by intelligence officers. You mentioned how the Army has an MI Corps. You could make the argument that the AF's equivalent would be 25th Air Force, formerly known as the Air Force ISR Agency. If you're concerned about not having leadership opportunities as an AF intel officer, don't be. There are plenty of opportunities for squadron, group, wing command as well as general officer positions, if that's the track you want to pursue.

    You mentioned the Air Force being "two worlds" of non-rated and rated. I'd say you're half right...but I'd characterize it more as "operations vs. support". Most officers involved in AF operations are rated pilots, CSOs, ABMs. That is not universal by any means, as there are a lot of ALOs, STOs, and CROs out there leading airmen in combat operations. On the intel side, you can find opportunities that are more operationally-focused, as well as those that are more analytical or strategically-focused.

    The traditional AF intel officer role that most people think of is the squadron IN who briefs fighter pilots before they fly missions, and then writes mission reports after they land. There are a lot of positions for 14Ns in that role, and some people love it or hate it. But you could also be a command briefer on a senior level staff. You could run national level ISR operations with various three letter agencies. You could run tactical level ISR operations from stateside or from forward deployed sites. You could also fly as an aircrew member on various AF aircraft. I've only been an AF intel officer for two years, and I've logged almost 1,000 flight hours and become an instructor/evaluator at my crew position. Most people think that you can only do that as a rated officer...its just not true.
     
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  3. 2020Intel

    2020Intel Member

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    Thank you for your response, @nick4060. How do you like being in intel? What did you major in? I know there is no required major but do you think there is any subject that would be particularly beneficial to intel officers. Thanks,
     
  4. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    I have enjoyed it so far. Some people like it and some don't. The career field is very diverse and each assignment you get will most likely be drastically different from the previous one. That's what attracted me to it in the first place. But some people prefer to do the same thing throughout an entire career. It really just depends on the individual.

    I majored in international relations and Russian. I can't say any particular major would serve you better in this career field. Maybe some type of computer science degree if you're interested in the cyber realm. But you will be taught everything you need to know during intel school and your follow-on training. The skills that are most important in the intel field are 1) analytical capability and 2) public speaking. Neither of those are really inherent to any particular academic degree program.
     
  5. AVT

    AVT USAFA 2015

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    I commissioned about 2 months and I'm currently on track to start Intelligence Officer School next month.
    If you're curious about majors, I don't think it will make a difference in the selection process. Most of my USAFA peers (~50 grads) are Political Science or Geospatial Science majors.
    I personally majored in Geospatial Science ("Geography with Technology") with a Russian minor. There are some of us with Biology and Engineering degrees.
     
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  6. 2020Intel

    2020Intel Member

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    Thank you for your response, @AVT. How did you like the Geospatial Science major? I am really interested in Political Science or Economics but I am curious as to what you do in Geospatial Science.

    Also, you mentioned that about 50 grads went Intel. Would you say that Intel is very competitive then or do most people who put it down as their first choice get it? Thanks
     
  7. Powers45

    Powers45 Member

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    Hi 2020Intel,

    Like AVT, I also was a Geospatial Science major (GIS) and I am an AF Intel officer. Geospatial Science is pretty much using mapping systems, statistics, and remote sensing to problem solve. I really like my major and intend to get my Graduate degree in it as well! I've been in my first job for about 3 months in AF SPACE Command HQ as a staff officer, apparently you can track Space, Cyber, and Special Forces while in AF Intel. I really like the space community and being on staff, it's really eye opening seeing the strategic picture, though many of my intel peers more commonly start off doing more of a hands on tactical job in the career field as an Lt - Captain.
     
  8. 2020Intel

    2020Intel Member

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    Thank you for your response @Powers45. That does sound interesting. Have you heard anything about the Operations Research major? I was reading the Academy website and it looks interesting. From what I understand it has to do with using programming/statistics to optimize the solution to problems. That sounds like it could go along nicely for an Intelligence Officer. Not necessarily that everything would relate to it, but that kind of analytical thinking would be useful. Thoughts? Thanks.
     
  9. Powers45

    Powers45 Member

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    Hi 2020 Intel, I haven't specifically heard of that major. I know nick4060 and I are products of ROTC so not sure too much of what that academy program is like. It certainly sounds very geared toward the Intelligence field though. Analysis and problem solving are definitively huge factors when it comes to the intelligence career field.

    The good thing about a GIS major is how it can cross flow into a civilian job if 5-10 years down the road you decided not to make a career out of the military. Not sure what type of job opportunities are in operations research outside of the military/DOD supporting agencies (just something to look into)
     
  10. laurenf17

    laurenf17 New Member

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    Russian and International Relations are exactly what I want to major in! Do you get a chance to use your Russian in your career? Also, where would there be more hands on/field work, Army or Air Force?
     

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