Marine Corps Pilot

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by ahaven7, Apr 13, 2016.

  1. ahaven7

    ahaven7 Member

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    I am starting this thread in hopes anyone with knowledge can give some insight to the typical career path of a Marine Corps Pilot (more specifically fixed wing).
    Such as opportunities to where they might be stationed, promotion rates, how to best prepare yourself to be the most competitive when going up for promotion, typical jobs after O-3/O-4. Do you think it is harder for Marine Corps Pilots to make the USMC a career versus another MOS such as an infantry officer? Thanks for the help!!
     
  2. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    I am sure Hurricane 12 and others will weigh in.

    I will comment on promotion rates - there is no way of knowing how that will go from year to year. It's a numbers problem: needs of the Marine Corps (including need for pilots in a given airframe), retention statistics for any given rank and year group (all those commissioned in a given fiscal year).

    It has always been true that when phasing out and transitioning to a new airframe, some individuals will not get the opportunity to re-train for the new airframe. Their upward mobility will be impacted. We had a USNA sponsor daughter who was one of the last to fly Marine CH-46s. She ensured she was a top performer and laid her plans carefully to ensure she laterally transferred to another professional community where she was promotable. Fortunately for her, she was in a year group where she had flexibility. Some in more senior groups don't have as many options. This is where decisions made for the good of the service can derail the plans of individuals. In the Navy, P-3 to P-8 is currently having an impact, just as F-14 to F/A-18, diesel boat sub to all-nuke subs, and many other situations, have impacted careers over the years.

    If you perform well as a pilot, meeting all professional qualifications, do your ground job well, maintain physical fitness standards, don't get into any misconduct situations, rank high amongst your peers, and serve in career-viable positions, you should be promoted. That is common to any service, any job. The first two promotions, to 1st lieutenant and captain, do not require a competitive promotion board, simply the CO's recommendation on your performance reports. The promotion to major, some 8-9 years from commissioning, is a statutory competitive board. The competition is serious by then. At every promotion board after that, as it is in all the services, the percentage of officers selected for promotion drops significantly. The services are only allowed to have X numbers of officers at any given pay grade, and thus set only Y targets for promotion numbers. Perfectly good officers with excellent records, at some point, will not get promoted, simply because of the competition. Theoretically, only truly outstanding officers with impeccable records AND with skill sets desired by their service, survive each successively more stringent round of promotions. The good news is, you will have amassed a professional resume that will equip you well for civilian employment, because everyone gets out at some point, even generals and admirals.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2016
  3. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Meanwhile...

    http://www.marines.com/m/being-a-marine/roles-in-the-corps
    Read the pilot roles section.

    As a Navy person, my sense of the rough outline for Marines is commissioning source > TBS (The Basic School) at Quantico, flight training at the same places Navy does it, winging, selection for rotary or fixed wing, more training, airframe selection, airframe training squadron at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) where that particular airframe's training is done, could be just one base, or could be East Coast-West Coast; then, finally, assignment as a nugget pilot to your first operational squadron, with maybe a small school along the way for your ground job at the squadron. Squadron duty and deployments for a couple of years, then assignments appropriate to the career path in and out of active flying duty.

    This is a Wikipedia link for active Marine squadrons. Most will have websites, so with some smart googling, you can learn more about them, their missions and locations.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_United_States_Marine_Corps_aircraft_squadrons

    When you are not in an operational squadron, you could be: an instructor pilot at the training squadron or anywhere in the flight pipeline, a Master's student at the Naval Postgraduate School, a USNA instructor or company officer, a Marine or Joint staff officer, an instructor at a Marine School, Blue Angels Fat Albert pilot, a general's aide or even White House social aide ... and many more. It all depends on the needs of the Marine Corps, your performance, timing and a dash of luck.

    Ok, this squid's brain is squeezed dry, need help from Devil Dawg brethren.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2016
    EOD/SEALmom likes this.
  4. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012

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    I'm on my phone so apologies for typos.

    For almost all platforms, the general locations will be east coast (in a Carolina), west coast (Southern California) or OCONUS (Hawaii, Okinawa, or Japan). There will be slight variations based on the exact aircraft: Harriers are only at Yuma, AZ and Cherry Point in NC for example. West Coast locations are better as far as both quality of life and, IMO, quality of ranges and facilities available, but there's no actual difference that I've seen as far as career progression for where you go.

    Aviators generally do fine for promotion. Typically at the career designation boards aviators are at the 95%+ side whereas ground MOSs fluctuate. Your timeline will be different from your ground peers due to time in flight school, but that is a known factor and will be translated by aviators on the board. It will be harder to do things like PME or belt up in MCMAP than some of your ground peers with easier jobs, but you will generally manage to at least hit the appropriate wickets.

    Promotion to O-2 and O-3 is essentially automatic. There's a board for O-3 but if you fog a mirror you're in (I, for example, was selected for Capt while still in flight school), though the promotion timeline to O-3 is not automatic as it is for your Navy peers.

    To promote beyond O-3, there will be certain things you need to do. Obviously you need to do well at your ground job, not be a dick in the squadron, and be a decent pilot. It also depends whether or not you want to return to your original community. Each community has certain wickets and tactical qualifications that people who want to advance need. For example, in my community (skids) it's almost impossible to come back to a squadron as a department head Major without being a Weapons and Tactics Instructor. Jets care less about that and more about being a division lead, etc.
    It is possible to make Major and stay for 20 without coming back to an operational squadron.

    To give you some perspective on career timing:
    -flight school and TBS (plus the FRS) will take 2.5-3.5 years for helos and 3.5-4 for jets. C-130s are closer to the helo side since they don't have a real FRS. Showing up to the fleet you will be a 1stLt or very junior Capt, but your rank is largely irrelevant.
    -your first tour will be around 3 years (jets) to 4-5 years (helos). Leaving your first fleet squadron, you will be at around 8-ish years time in service and at some point soon coming up for Major.
    -at that point you'll go to a B-Billet somewhere else in the Marine Corps. This could be an Air Officer (think slightly bigger picture FAC) tour, fly the president around at HMX-1, a flight school instructor, an exchange tour with the Army (or the Australins or Royal Marines), Boot Camp series commander, or a whole bunch of other things.
    Generally there are a few "handpicked" billets like exchange tours or MAWTS IP or MARSOC Air Officer that are excellent for your career and go to water-walkers. For the rest of us schlubs, the farther you progress "backwards" to be an instructor the "worse" it is for your career. So instructing new students in your platform at the FRS is good, instructing new
    jet pilots is okay, and teaching kids how a jet engine works at API is bad.

    Hope this helps!
     
  5. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Snapping off a smart salute of thanks to Hurricane's phone typing, since I put her on the spot. Her post is a keeper.
     

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