Choosing between Army and Air Force

Cmathis

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Jan 27, 2017
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I have received appointments to both USMA and USAFA. I appreciate having a choice but I am very torn. I'm leaning more towards army because I have heard it described as a more people-driven service and I love West Point, which is also considered a little more prestigious because of its long history, BUT I am a Midwesterner at heart and love Colorado and it would be much easier to get home from USAFA when I can than USMA, and I think I might prefer the higher quality of life that the Air Force offers. Any thoughts to sway me either way? Is the Air Force really that much 'nicer' to its people than the army? I am also a woman, being surrounded by men doesn't bother me, but does anyone know gender issues to be more problematic at one academy over the other?
 

army2021

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Choose depending on what jobs you could see yourself doing upon graduation. That's what I'd recommend. That's what personally led me to the Army and USMA over AFA and NA.
 

jl123

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I have received appointments to both USMA and USAFA. I appreciate having a choice but I am very torn. I'm leaning more towards army because I have heard it described as a more people-driven service and I love West Point, which is also considered a little more prestigious because of its long history, BUT I am a Midwesterner at heart and love Colorado and it would be much easier to get home from USAFA when I can than USMA, and I think I might prefer the higher quality of life that the Air Force offers. Any thoughts to sway me either way? Is the Air Force really that much 'nicer' to its people than the army? I am also a woman, being surrounded by men doesn't bother me, but does anyone know gender issues to be more problematic at one academy over the other?
Congratulations. You are in a position most people would love to be in.

If you want to be a pilot, USAFA is the obvious choice. Otherwise it comes down to career paths and personal preferences. There are different paths and you should explore the opportunities for each academy. Do an overnight visit at each and decide what fits best. As far as personal preferences, here are some observations:
  1. West Point is the Harvard of service academies. Many people know what Yale and Princeton are, but everyone knows what Harvard is. The same goes with respect to West Point and the other service academies.
  2. USMA is the most rigorous and disciplined. That may be a pro or con depending on your point of view. Other SA's are disciplined, but USMA takes it to a completely different level. West Point cadets refer to USAFA as "Air Force College". One USMA classmate referred to his semester exchange at USAFA as a nice break. A USNA Mid on exchange to USMA for a semester remarked "You guys take this stuff way too seriously".
  3. I shared an office with an ALO (Air Force Liaison Officer). He was a pilot and was guaranteed his choice of next assignment for doing the "hardship" of taking a non-flying assignment with the army. The life he described as an Air Force pilot was definitely more comfortable than the life of an Army officer serving in a combat unit. That may not be true when comparing Air Force non-flying officers to Army non-combat officers.
 

army2021

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Congratulations. You are in a position most people would love to be in.

If you want to be a pilot, USAFA is the obvious choice. Otherwise it comes down to career paths and personal preferences. There are different paths and you should explore the opportunities for each academy. Do an overnight visit at each and decide what fits best. As far as personal preferences, here are some observations:
  1. West Point is the Harvard of service academies. Many people know what Yale and Princeton are, but everyone knows what Harvard is. The same goes with respect to West Point and the other service academies.
  2. USMA is the most rigorous and disciplined. That may be a pro or con depending on your point of view. Other SA's are disciplined, but USMA takes it to a completely different level. West Point cadets refer to USAFA as "Air Force College". One USMA classmate referred to his semester exchange at USAFA as a nice break. A USNA Mid on exchange to USMA for a semester remarked "You guys take this stuff way too seriously".
  3. I shared an office with an ALO (Air Force Liaison Officer). He was a pilot and was guaranteed his choice of next assignment for doing the "hardship" of taking a non-flying assignment with the army. The life he described as an Air Force pilot was definitely more comfortable than the life of an Army officer serving in a combat unit. That may not be true when comparing Air Force non-flying officers to Army non-combat officers.
For the pilot point I do have something to add on. If you want to be a pilot, what do you want to fly? If it's fixed winged aircraft, aka fighter pilot type stuff, even though you could end up flying a C130 or something else, Air Force is for you. If you want to fly rotary winged aircraft, your helicopters, such as a black hawk, apache, Chinook, then you need to go Army. And this is big too to think about. What if being a pilot doesn't work out? What would your next in line job be? If you don't like any job in the Air Force except for pilot, but there are a few jobs in the Army other than pilot you can see yourself doing, then go Army. Or vise versa for the opposite scenario. Really look into what job you want to do and alternates to help you decide. Hope this helps!
 

jebdad

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USMA is the most rigorous and disciplined. That may be a pro or con depending on your point of view. Other SA's are disciplined, but USMA takes it to a completely different level.
DD is a core squad athlete at USMA and has stayed in barracks at USNA and USAFA when they have competed with them and has expressed this exact sentiment about USMA being much more regimented than their counterparts.
 

USMA 1994

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Disclaimer: My children have know that the last two words of the National Anthem are "BEAT Navy" since the could talk but wanted to give what I think is some important feedback.

I think this OP posted this in two different forums. While I also made serval jokes about the "Chair Force" and remember an Air Force Officer who had FT Walton Beach as a meteorologist as his next assignment, the most important thing to consider are what the services have as a mission. The experience at the three academies will be very similar. There will always be the inter-service banter about which is harder, easier or more prestigious but that is just that, banter. All three are academically, physically and mentally challenging. They take a great deal of intestinal fortitude to complete.

You need to focus on what these graduates do after graduation and not what small differences exists in cadet life. All three are easy relative to the new platoon leader sleeping in the mud on a mountain in Afghanistan. Army 2LTs lead troops into combat or lead soldiers supporting those troops. Air Force 2LTs learn to be pilots or support those flying. There are some exceptions but those roles closely follow the missions of the respective services. You need to decide what you want to do during your years in the service as well as your time after that.

I had a wise old COL tell my DD that if the first answer to the question of why do you want to go to West Point is not to by an Army Officer and lead soldiers then maybe you should rethink your choices.
 

army2021

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I think this is one of those decisions that you alone have to make--none of us can help you. Moreover, that decision has no impact on our lives.

Selfishly I'd tell you to go AFA so there are more USMA spots open to me
That's what I think every time I see one of these post haha :shake:
 

Brave

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DD received appointments to both USAFA & USMA. It's been interesting to watch her evolution of decision making follow very similarly to this thread. She's accepted her USMA appointment because she wants to be in the Army. She wants to branch aviation, but if that's not in her cards then she'll be happy with several other options. If she didn't make pilot in the Air Force, she can't see herself in those other roles. She has always leaned towards the structure, rigor, and history of West Point, but as many have said it ultimately comes down to what role you see yourself in long term. Best of luck.
 

LFK1998

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Dec 25, 2015
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Plebe here,
I was also in the exact same predicament last year: receiving offers from both USAFA and USMA.
If you want to lead soldiers, come to USMA. If you want to fly fixed wing aircraft, go to USAFA.
I am also from the Midwest (Kansas) and the separation from home isn't too bad (you don't go home much anyway).
I encourage you to visit both academies and make your decision based on what you see yourself doing in 4 years.
Either way you can't make a wrong choice.
 

RedDragon

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Dec 31, 2013
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Have one at USMA and one at USAFA. USMA is definitely more regimented for the four years. My USAFA cadet has had some pretty nice weekend excursions although it was really tough the first year until recognition. We have been fortunate to visit both many times and the atmosphere at USAFA does seem to be more relaxed....one persons opinion is all this is.....
 

mom3boys

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You all do know army has fixed wing, right? My son starts flight school this summer to re-train on fixed.
 

UHBlackhawk

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You all do know army has fixed wing, right? My son starts flight school this summer to re-train on fixed.
That is correct. However, if you are going Army Aviation, assume you will fly rotary wing. They are rotary wing pilots first and foremost (though I've heard rumors some may get fixed wing from the start).

Also, there is a major difference between being an Aviation Branch LT and being an Air Force pilot LT.
As an Army Aviation Branch LT your primary focus will be leading soldiers and warrant officers. Part of the emphasis is kind of messed up. An infantry LT is expected to be an expert infantryman- EIB, Ranger tab, airborne. An armor LT is expected to be and expert in armor. An aviation LT? Well.... knowing your airframe is secondary to other stuff. Becoming an IP (instructor pilot), is very rare for commissioned officers in Army Aviation. Flying past the rank of major also becomes rare unless you are a BN CO.

On the Air Force side it is different. You are a pilot first, a leader second, though many in the Air Force might disagree with this. It is not unusual for Air Force LT's to become IPs. Heck, some even are IPs at their flight school (Army IPs have to have at least one assignment under their belt).

But as a pilot in the Army you get to rub shoulders with those you support. You are at the same FOBs. You eat chow together. If you fly transports you see the faces of those you carry.

As pointed out to the OP, know the jobs other than aviation in each service and think about what you wish to do. Even as a pilot in the Air Force you might find yourself as a UAV operator or sitting at a desk. Flight school slots come and go. Some years they are plentiful, some years scarce. Don't dwell on the worst case, but also consider what you want to do with your service.

Good luck to you no matter your decision.
 

mom3boys

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Mine selected OH58, which was mothballed at the bone yard...he is one of the lucky ones who gets to go back to Rucker to re-train. Mine also had offers to more than one academy...looking at the options and missions, he obviously selected Army. Four years goes awfully fast--look at what you want to do after the academy, not during.
 

brovol

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May 26, 2015
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Congratulations. You are in a position most people would love to be in.

If you want to be a pilot, USAFA is the obvious choice. Otherwise it comes down to career paths and personal preferences. There are different paths and you should explore the opportunities for each academy. Do an overnight visit at each and decide what fits best. As far as personal preferences, here are some observations:
  1. West Point is the Harvard of service academies. Many people know what Yale and Princeton are, but everyone knows what Harvard is. The same goes with respect to West Point and the other service academies.
  2. USMA is the most rigorous and disciplined. That may be a pro or con depending on your point of view. Other SA's are disciplined, but USMA takes it to a completely different level. West Point cadets refer to USAFA as "Air Force College". One USMA classmate referred to his semester exchange at USAFA as a nice break. A USNA Mid on exchange to USMA for a semester remarked "You guys take this stuff way too seriously".
  3. I shared an office with an ALO (Air Force Liaison Officer). He was a pilot and was guaranteed his choice of next assignment for doing the "hardship" of taking a non-flying assignment with the army. The life he described as an Air Force pilot was definitely more comfortable than the life of an Army officer serving in a combat unit. That may not be true when comparing Air Force non-flying officers to Army non-combat officers.
Excellent post.
 

brovol

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My Plebe also received multiple appointments, and struggled when deciding. He picked WP because it was his original goal, loved WP itself and the people at WP and the Army, and because he thought it provided the best options as an officer should he not be able to do aviation. He has no regrets, and loves being a part of the Corps of Cadets. He is glad he did not go to USNA, but said he probably would have considered USAFA more if doing it again. Said he would still have gone to WP, but thinks he rejected USAFA too much because of the "chair force" thing, and now he says he was a bit too closed minded with that. Same with USCGA.

My sons squad leader last semester was from USNA. My son likes talking with the kids from the other academies, and always asks them to compare. He said that almost all of them describe WP as "legit", and have tremendous respect for WP. Those WP cadets who return from a semester at the other academies refer to the semester away more like a vacation. Some might consider that a good thing. For most at WP though it isn't.

The things my son likes best about WP are the hands on military stuff. Most cadets feel the same way. My son loved beast, and is looking forward to going back to camp Buckner this summer. USMA provides that type of experience better than the other academies as far as I can tell.

USNA has the best options I think, in terms of Navy and Marine. You can do just about anything, land or shore, as a USNA grad. That is very attractive, and I encouraged my son to consider that fact. USAFA probably is the best aviation option by percentage.

All of the academies are tremendous. You can't make a wrong choice. Go with what your heart tells you.
 
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