My goal is to become a pilot, I am dead set on that. But which route would be "better" or more guaranteed? I got wait listed at the USCGA, but hoping I eventually get accepted, my choices then would be there or joining the Air Force ROTC at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Which school or program would be best for becoming a pilot. USCGA or UCF AFROTC and please give reasons why! Thanks
I'll take a quick stab at helping you...but ultimately, there are way too many variables that can influence where and how you serve. I'm a firm believer that there isn't a bad job in the military - it is always what you make of it. Before you make the decision to enter the military, accept that the needs of the service come first and everyone has a unique career path.
I flew in the USAF for 20 years and retired about 18 months ago...but things are changing quickly. Even things you have found from 5 years ago on this forum can be a bit stale. End strength figures for USAF have changed dramatically over the past 5-10 years (the service is getting smaller every year). Trying to calculate you chances of getting a pilot slot in one branch of service vs. another will never be an exact science. All that being said, you can check the most recent USAF demographics here: http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/airforcepersonneldemographics.asp
In round figures, there are about 1000 pilot slots per year nation wide. There are about 1000 USAFA grads a year. There are about 500 pilot slots per year for the USAFA grads...so traditionally 50% chance. The way things are going in the next few years, every medically qualified USAFA cadet who wants to fly will be offered that opportunity. There are about 2000 ROTC grads commissioned per year. There are about 1000 commissioned via OTS per year. There is a higher percentage of ROTC folks who are offered UPT (pilot training) - but OTS is used by the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) to manage short term needs...so it is always a moving target between ROTC and OTS. You have ROUGHLY a 20% chance to go to UPT out of ROTC - but that number is subject to change. Also, remember that ROTC is much more programmed than either USAFA or OTS when it comes to academic major and type of career field you are offered - it is the most rigidly managed commissioning source that AFPC has.
Like the Coast Guard, the USAF also has a "late rated" opportunity for officers in other career fields. AFPC uses this process at a very tactical level to manage student flow at UPT bases. In certain years there will be no flying boards...in certain years there will be multiple boards. My point is that even if you commission as a support officer in the USAF, there MAY be an opportunity to still get that pilot slot (but it is quite random when and if it might happen). If you want more info on this, research "USAF Undergraduate Flying Training Boards" to learn more.
The numbers have already been laid out in the thread when it comes to your chances in the Coast Guard. All that being said, here are the takeaways:
1. Pick the military branch that has the mission you are most interested in being a part of - flying is never a guarantee. You could be medically disqualified, or the needs of the service could change dramatically during your 4 years of college. However, the mission of the military branch won't change much over the short term - so choose the branch by whichever you are most passionate about.
2. Your chances of flying fixed wing are probably better in the Air Force.
3. Your best chances of flying in the Air Force are to commission via USAFA. If you need to enter you local university or community college and re-apply to USAFA next year - that is the path you should choose.
4. You have a better chance of EVENTUALLY flying in the Coast Guard than you do as a USAF ROTC commissioned officer.
5. It is great to have a goal - but make sure you have thought about the contingencies and weigh the possible outcomes of your decisions before you choose your path.