How much does a cargo/tanker pilot travel in the USAF?

Usafa2026

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Question in the title. How often do they get stationed(relocated), and how often is there trips/deployments oversees. Obv my first desire is to serve and be a pilot but a personal goal of mine is to travel a ton. So just wondering thanks.
 

OldAFRet

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As you will hear many times during your career, it depends on "the needs of the Air Force".

Cargo and tanker are two different things (tanker, you're flying a gas station out of a fuel depot, often in some very interesting places few have heard of). Used to be a regular C-5 cargo/troop run out of Dover to Frankfurt. Often as not, flown by reserve units. One of the crew I met while taking a hop was a state trooper from New Hampshire picking up some extra drills. Another route used to be the Ramstein > Lakenheath > Aviano run in C-130s. Peterson AFB to Andrews AFB in a C-21 was another regular route I hopped on.

So, kind of like a trucker, there are routes and home bases. Some are going to be more interesting than others (somebody has to fly to Minot, don't you know). There are also missions which fly based upon needs. Bottom line is you'll be traveling very regularly from your assigned base.

As far as transfers (permanent changes of station), it's based upon needs of the Air Force. Back when I first came in, you could count on assignment changes nearly every 3 years to prevent this thing called homesteading (everyone staying at the "good" bases their whole careers, leaving guys at the "sucky" bases their whole careers). The AF stopped doing that because it was expensive, and to PCS, you had to go overseas, then request a base of preference upon return. I've been retired longer than you have been alive, so take that into account.
 

Wishful

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DD is currently flying KC-135's out of Mildenhall on a 3 year posting.
The "Square D"; the only WWII tail marking left:
1631231498067.png
 
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CatDog99

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Circa '90s..... I flew a number of Space Available hops on USAF C141 and C5.... They were always coming from some big adventure and they had a stack of per diem forms. Life seemed pretty good for those crews and they were racking up multiengine flight time.
 

OldAFRet

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DD is currently flying KC-135's out of Mildenhall on a 3 year posting.
The "Square D"; the only WWII tail marking left:
View attachment 10071
That's a big airplane for a little lady (in my best John Wayne voice)! LOL

I'd hear some of the folks stationed there refer to it as "Mildenhell", but after going TDY there a few times, I couldn't figure out why they didn't like it.
 
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OldAFRet

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@DevilDoc ,

I think you have competition for crustiest quick-witted old vet on SAF.

Let the games begin!

Every officer candidate should spend some time alone with you guys.
You ought to hear some of the father-son talks I have with my 19 year old son if you want crusty and blunt. Heck, you ought to hear some of the talks I have with my daughters for that matter.
 

AF6872

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Don't need Air Crew or Pilot to travel although it is more comfortable. I did PCS six times in four years and half way around the world on two. O is nice but E isn't bad either:biggrin:
 

AF6872

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Ave Imperator Morituri Te Salutant. Aut Non. Let The Games Begin:rockon:
 

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Devil Doc

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That's a big airplane for a little lady (in my best John Wayne voice)! LOL

I'd hear some of the folks stationed there refer to it as "Mildenhell", but after going TDY there a few times, I couldn't figure out why they didn't like it.
A friend/teammate of my daughter was and still is a small in stature person. She was called Teeny-Tiny-Sydney in the softball chant when she was at bat. She's a Blackhawk pilot by trade and now a lieutenant colonel.
 

OldAFRet

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A friend/teammate of my daughter was and still is a small in stature person. She was called Teeny-Tiny-Sydney in the softball chant when she was at bat. She's a Blackhawk pilot by trade and now a lieutenant colonel.
So you're saying there's no reason a woman can't fly anything (which I agree with), or that you're old like me?
 

Thunderbolt462

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New C-17 co-pilots travel a crazy amount. Like 200+ days per year in some cases, depending on the base. I have friends that were flying the Kabul evac mission within months of finishing initial qualification, and even the ones that didn't have already been to 20+ different countries. My old ROTC detachment commander flew C-17s, and has been to 90+ countries. If you like making money, traveling, and don't have a family, C-17s are a sweet deal.

C-5s and tankers have a bit more stable lifestyle. Tankers still travel, but stops are pretty routine and we go where the receivers need us, whether that's fighters over CENTCOM or reconnaissance over PACOM. C-5s obviously are limited by runway length, so don't expect to go anywhere super remote, but there's a running joke that C-5s only seem to break in the nice places, "stranding" crews in Hawaii for a few weeks. KC-46s, and the KC-10s that are still around, live the Gucci life, with decent bases and a pretty straightforward mission of refueling and cargo transport. KC-135s are more broken down, and get some unusual taskings and missions based on our capabilities. With that being said, I love the 135 and wouldn't wanna fly anything else because of the sheer variety of what we get to do.

C-130s we like to joke are pretty much in the Army at this point. Lots of sleeping in tents, landing at remote airfields on night vision goggles, etc. Still get some nice trips, especially the Yokota and Ramstein folks, but they're a lot more "tactical" than the other airframes, even the C-17, which has some tactical airlift capability. Also, C-130s sometimes get shot at on the airdrop mission. It's rare, but that just goes to show how close they can get to the action.

Also, since I was in the same position a few years ago, it's good to gather info on the opportunities out there, but don't sweat it too much. By the time I actually got to drop night and had the chance to make my dream sheet, it was a super easy decision to make and in many cases the decision is made for you. Worry about getting into a commissioning source, getting a pilot slot, and finishing UPT.
 

OldAFRet

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C-130s we like to joke are pretty much in the Army at this point. Lots of sleeping in tents, landing at remote airfields on night vision goggles, etc. Still get some nice trips, especially the Yokota and Ramstein folks, but they're a lot more "tactical" than the other airframes, even the C-17, which has some tactical airlift capability. Also, C-130s sometimes get shot at on the airdrop mission. It's rare, but that just goes to show how close they can get to the action.

While the BUFF gets more press, the C-130 has been around just as long (and isn't the J still in production). And no way a C-17 could replace Fat Albert. Give those 130s some love - your grandpa could have flown one.
 

AF6872

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Need a Taxi and a C-130 will be there. But you have to sit in those web seats:D Always remember dynamite comes in small packages:thumb:
 
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