Which Way to UPT or Flight Slot


New Member
Jan 5, 2015
To start out, I am sorry if this has been asked already. The search function does not seem to be working from my end and opens to a blank page. I am a freshman at a community college and I have always been very interested in becoming an officer in the military. Secondly, I have always dreamed of becoming a pilot and flying in the military and then hopefully for an airline one day. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations on which way to go? I have researched AFROTC, ANG, and the Reserves for getting a flight spot and I am confused on which program to choose. I like how with the guard/reserves you can fly for an airline and the military concurrently at the same time. Secondly, AFROTC has a greater pilot selection rate; however, I know there is no guarantee with this path and the closest university that has a detachment is 57 miles away. I desire to serve my country and be an officer first, but I am just looking for help in weighing my options. Thank you for your help and it is greatly appreciated.
Well, only officers can fly, so AFROTC would seem to be your best choice.
If you want to apply to a Guard or Reserve unit for a UPT slot, you will first need to complete your bachelors degree. Once you have the degree and a hundred or so flight hours, you can start applying to units. Many candidates apply to all available units across the country and it may take two or three years of applying to get an interview. Many candidates for the Guard or Reserve are already enlisted members of the unit before they apply for a pilot slot and have a big advantage over applicants who have no ties to the unit. The competition in going this route is huge. The Reserve unit at my son's base interviews once per year and on average hires one UPT slot every two years. A majority of their new pilots are active duty pilots who are separating from AD. Also, once you are selected for a slot, you will be on active duty orders for training, UPT, and three more years of "seasoning" with an active unit, so that time of flying for the airlines concurrently with your Guard/Reserve job is many years away. Also, getting an airline job will be dependent on having at least 750 hours of PIC time which can take 4-8 years in the Guard/Reserve depending on the unit and airframe.

AFROTC will give you a much better chance of getting a pilot slot. However, you probably should move from a community college to a school with an AFROTC unit or at least a nearby cross-town unit that you can participate in so that you get a good commanders ranking. There is a lot of information on here about AFROTC for you to read.

There are four different ways to gain a commission as an officer and have a UPT slot: Academy, ROTC, OTS, Guard/Reserve. I will break it down each route.
Academy: Getting a UPT slot in the Academy is easy as long as you state interest, be the top of the three tiers in ranking, and pass the medical but it's hard to get into the Academy yet not impossible. I know several guys in my ROTC detachment that got accepted into the academy their Freshman year and left for the academy. Granted you add an additional year into college so time is an issue for this route.
ROTC: Easiest route to get a commission into the Air Force but sometimes luck and needs of the Air Force is required to get a UPT slot. You are not guaranteed a pilot slot even if you play the cards right. Although there is demand on the news for more pilots and word on the street in every ROTC det is that more pilot slots will be given unless another base opens up and more instructors and trainer planes are available the amount of pilot slots will stay the same as previous years. Air Force is pushing for more personnel and therefore officers so more officers are coming out of ROTC but with the same amount of pilot slots that means your chances get slimmer and more competitive. If you don't get a pilot slot in ROTC you can get in later in active duty but I've heard it is near impossible as many in the AD side do want to fly. Another let down that no one knows outside of ROTC is that you can be waiting a year after graduation to get into Active Duty and you can wait another year from the start of Active Duty service to start flying.
OTS: Hardest route but you know that a pilot slot in guaranteed coming in. You can play the cards right to get a pilot slot and in the quickest time. Finish out your 2 year degree at a community college as fast as possible, go to a cheap 4 year college and complete it as fast as possible while gaining some flying time on the side. You can pound out an easy degree with 4.0 GPA which is favorable for an OTS applicant compared to a 2.5 GPA STEM major (Only applies to rated boards!). Biggest advantage is that you can shorten your time in college to get to earning your wings faster and you are in Active Duty once you are in OTS.
Guard/Reserve: As said before you must go around to Guard/Reserve units to see who has slots available. You will have to do a lot of cold calls and interviews but the Guard/Reserve lifestyle is very relaxed and for most people sought after for a more stable and predictable lifestyle. You will go to OTS if you gain a slot and you aren't guaranteed a full time job in the Guard/Reserve.

I would consider my goals to decide which path to go through. I was pretty undecided in what my job would be but thought pilot would be cool and I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded individuals so I chose the ROTC route. ROTC is very flexible and if you don't like it you can walk away (To a degree if you swore an oath of enlistment). If I had the same like-minded friends before ROTC and knew that I wanted to be a pilot I would have chosen the OTS route.
My DS opted for NROTC but found out that the Marine option is offering guaranteed flight school spots if you qualify to some four year recipients. He seriously contemplated this offer but accepted the Navy ISR scholarship. This is new this year and may be a good option for some if you are considering Marines.
I also have a question regarding flight slots. I applied for the Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC programs and I am planning on attending Liberty University, Jacksonville University, or Embry-Riddle Daytona (accepted to all 3 with Embry-Riddle being my most likely choice) and I'll be going to major in Aeronautical Science/Aviation with the military path. I know major has little to no effect at all regarding flight slots and other branch slots. Say one plays all their cards right, which ROTC program is most likely to have the most flight slots, or the best route to become a pilot? Would it be Air Force, Navy/Marines, or Army?

Note: I know all the branches' air services have different missions and operate different aircraft for the most part. My goal is to fly on the fighter platform, the attack or bomber platform, or attack helicopter but I would settle for other helicopter platforms if I had to. My question is simply based on which branch's ROTC would be the best choice to join to pursue a flight slot.
I feel like I need to echo what @5Day said. You need to decide which branch you like the most and will fit your lifestyle if you do not make pilot because it is a very real possibility.
Are you willing to fly a C5 for the AF, because the chances of getting an A, F or B airframe is less than 25%, less than 15% when you go start to finish for IFS and UPT.
Thank you for the advice @Sled @Pima @5Day I'm not really sure what other careers in the military I'm interested in because I've always wanted to be a combat pilot, but I guess my next choice would be armor or artillery which is Army but I also know if I do get a pilot slot through the army, commissioned officers don't fly for long. Are there any other combat/weapons/non-desk jobs for officers in any of the services you would recommend?
Thank you for the advice @Sled @Pima @5Day I'm not really sure what other careers in the military I'm interested in because I've always wanted to be a combat pilot, but I guess my next choice would be armor or artillery which is Army but I also know if I do get a pilot slot through the army, commissioned officers don't fly for long. Are there any other combat/weapons/non-desk jobs for officers in any of the services you would recommend?
For the AF side of the house you could be interested in ALO, STO, or CRO. Additionally, you can still backseat as CSO, fly RPAs, or work in AWACS' as an ABM.
I would say ABM is a hard career field from a lifestyle perspective. They are deployed alot....think @150-180 days a yr. Easy to say no problem, that sounds cool when you are 17. Not so much when you are 28 and married.

STO and CRO are insanely competitive because it is so small. Pm Christcorp here to get insight on this field since his DS is going that path. His DS is a USAFA grad that handed in a pilot slot for STO/CRO.

ALO is easier and unique. I would look into that 1st, especially a JUMP ALO.
~ Bullet was a Jump with the 82nd AB. Basically, his job was to jump into the field with the 82nd and call in airstrikes from the AF. There is a very famous ALO, albeit a Brit. Google Prince Harry. Long story short...he called in F15Es for air support and that is how the world found out he was in Afghanistan.

I agree that if you go Army for Rotor (Helo) unlike the AF, fliers have a short flight life. Scout pilot and Raimius would be the ones I would pm them to see how life is different in each branch.
~ For the AF they want to try to keep you flying for the 1st gate for flight pay. I can't recall the actual number of months, but basically you can expect they are going to try to keep you flying for 2 ops tours before you fly a chair, or around 9 yrs., including UPT. At this point it becomes a fork in the road. To make rank after O4 you need to fly a desk. We knew fliers that were okay with retiring as an O4 because all they wanted was to fly, thus they never stepped out of the jet. Others, like Bullet wanted to make rank. He stepped out for PME (school) and a jyt assignment, but overall he flew 15 out of 21 yrs.