All posts by TSgt Grever

Freedom: A beautiful thing

by Senior Airman Mariah Tolbert
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

120606-F-XX000-010SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — “I was pretty young with all this but I was probably, at first, more revengeful than I should have been. When the occasion arose, I did not give the Germans very much of a chance. I took it out on them. I may have been wrong but I guess I was very vengeful so I didn’t give them a break, but I overcame that,” explained retired Air Force Lt. Col. Harry Pawlik.

From concentration camp survivor to fighter pilot in the world’s greatest Air Force, Pawlik has turned what would be a horrific experience into a life that was unimaginable to him nearly 74 years ago.

Pawlik was born in Poland Dec. 19, 1929, but that is just the beginning of his story.

On Sept. 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the world was forever changed, and for Pawlik, who was nearly 10 years old, life became a whirlwind journey.

The 1939 invasion resulted in Pawlik being separated from his family, never to see them again or really remember them. He explained at some point during World War II, he suffered a head injury from a piece of shrapnel, resulting in some memory loss.

“When they took me on that train, that’s when I lost my family. Never to be seen again,” he said. “Somewhere along the way, the train was stopped and the SS took over. They took us to a concentration camp — to Mauthausen, in Austria.”

After being separated from his family, Pawlik was immediately placed into several slave labor and concentration camps. For the next five years, he moved around Europe, forced to work under extreme conditions.

120103-F-YC840-020“We weren’t treated very well and one of the big things I know is if it hadn’t been for the older people, (the younger ones) wouldn’t have survived,” Pawlik said. “They did everything they could to help and that’s one of the reasons I now admire and support anything similar to what I went through.”

Prisoners, including Pawlik, were denied open access to bathrooms, water and clothing, and lived off small rations of potatoes, cabbage and beef or bean soup. They were expected to work long, hard hours and if they got sick or couldn’t work, the prisoners were killed.

Pawlik reminisced about many things he witnessed in concentration camps.

“It was called the Todesstiege — the Staircase of Death,” he explained. “They had people six abreast carrying 40 to 50 pound granite slabs up the steps to build the fence. You can imagine, with the condition the prisoners were in, what it was like. Most of the people were killed on those steps. They didn’t even have a chance.”

In the winter of 1944, things took a turn for the better.

While held in a concentration camp near Belgium, he and other prisoners were freed by a contingent of Polish forces with General Patton’s 3rd Army and 11th Armored Division. From here, he connected with the 11th AD and learned to speak English from the soldiers.

“Of course being rescued by the American Army was a super thing,” he said. “I was very fortunate to be picked up. You can imagine there were many of us in the same boat, and I was one of the lucky ones who survived. I was treated well and given a new life to look forward to.”

In Dec. 1944, Pawlik got his first taste of combat when the 11th AD engaged the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge. By default, Pawlik became a 14-year-old American soldier, a Freedom Fighter, serving alongside U.S. forces.

He tells his friends and family that fighting against the Germans gave him an opportunity to rise up and fight those who took away his freedom, innocence and family.

“I realized we were on opposite sides,” he explained. “They were doing their job and I was doing my job. Of course, I didn’t agree with everything they did. But, that was their business.”

After fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and several other conflicts, Pawlik moved to Vienna, Austria, with a friend who was assigned to the 505th Military Police. Here, Pawlik was an invaluable resource to the unit he worked with by serving as an interpreter for the International Patrol.

Pawlik soon made it known that he wanted to come to the United States.

“Europe was not for me,” he said. “It was devastated. I had no people left, no family, no anything. As soon as I learned things about America, I made plans and did everything I could to get there, and I had help.”

There were more than 2 million applicants wanting to come to the United States in the summer of 1947. However, with Pawlik’s connections and recommendations, he was moved to the head of the list and received approval from six different countries in less than two months.

At the age of 17, he arrived in New York Harbor nearly three months later with just two suitcases and $120 in his pocket.

“We pulled into New York Harbor at night,” he explained. “When we were getting in, I asked who was in charge if I could stay on deck and see the lights of New York. I took a rope and I tied myself to a pole on the deck so I wouldn’t be blown away. I saw the Statue of Liberty, the beautiful lady with that flame. It was quite a moment for me.”

After graduating Albemarle High School, N.C., in 1950, a local businessman named Chuck Daniels, paid for Pawlik’s first two years of college at the University of North Carolina.

During his time in college, Pawlik was selected as the Outstanding Junior Air Force ROTC Cadet in the Nation and received the General Hap Arnold Silver Medal. He was inducted into three honor societies, all on top of being a co-captain of the university’s soccer and wrestling teams and working several jobs.

After becoming a U.S. citizen in July 1953 and graduating University of North Carolina in 1954, Pawlik commissioned into the Air Force.

“I wanted to pay the country back for being so great and nice to me,” he said. “I didn’t have much money or education, and I wanted to start out making something of myself. And of course, they gave me a flying job, and I loved flying.”

Throughout his career, Pawlik flew T-28s, T-34s, T-33s, B-47, B-52s, F-105s and F-111 aircraft. Overall, he flew 101 missions over North Vietnam, 21 over Laos, and 33 other missions and was hit by enemy fire seven different times.

Pawlik says that his story is not about being a prisoner of war; it’s about his first taste of freedom after being held captive and what those experiences have done for him.

“I owe freedom and the chance for a new life to this great nation,” Pawlik explained. “Back then, the idea of freedom, to me, was a wonderful thing. It really was. And all these years later, it still is. Freedom is still just a beautiful thing.”

PHOTO 1: Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Harry Pawlik, center, and his team pose together after earning first place in a bombing competition in Upper Heyford, England, in 1975. Pawlik is a concentration camp survivor who joined the Air Force after gaining citizenship. (Courtesy photo)

PHOTO 2: U.S. Air Force retired Lt. Col. Harry Pawlik reviews a speech written in his honor at his home in Greenville, N.C., Jan. 3, 2013. Pawlik, a World War II concentration camp survivor, recalled several obstacles from the time he was captured by Nazi forces at the age of 10, to the day he graduated from the Naval War College during a recent interview. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aubrey White)

True resiliency: How a Korean orphan became an American Airman

130514-F-RR679-966.jpgBy Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Public Affairs

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Someone once told Tech. Sgt. Holly Mays that people either completely forget or vividly remember their most traumatic experiences. That’s the only way she can explain her fragmented recollections of the day she became an orphan, at less than two years old.

It was roughly 37 years ago when two women brought her to a street corner in South Korea and set her down on the sidewalk. As they turned to walk away, they told her to just stay there and wait.

So, she stayed. She cried for a long time.

“It got dark. It was cold. I remember my diaper was soaking wet,” she says.

Sometime after sundown, two male figures picked her up and brought her to a building full of uniformed people. It should have marked the end of the worst day of anyone’s life. For her, it was only the beginning of a long childhood of torment.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be easy.

She was brought to a large Christian orphanage. Like many orphanages, affection was as scarce as the resources. They named her Kim In Sook, gave her unmemorable food, and assigned her a specific space on the cold, hard floor for sleeping.

Mays says the faith teaching is the only positive memory she has from her five-plus years at the orphanage.

“I didn’t know why I was on Earth,” she says. “It gave me something to believe.”

Beliefs were better than nothing. But the important thing was to stay “focused on surviving,” which amounted to a constant effort to follow the strict rules of the institution. She often failed.

She says she struggled with discipline many times, and it culminated with her sleep habits. Almost every night, she unconsciously urinated all over her floor space and was repeatedly found sleeping outside her designated rectangle. Morning after morning, she woke up to angry nuns berating her.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be calm.

Eventually, the orphanage staff rounded up several of their biggest troublemakers, including 6-year-old Kim In Sook, and decided to find somewhere else for them to live. A small group of adults from a nearby all-girls orphanage came and led the delinquent group on a long walk to their new home.

It was better there. The adults were kinder, there were fewer girls sharing space and they even went to a local grade school. But the education experience wasn’t exactly typical.

“Picture a girl at public school with raggedy clothes who smelled and had no money.”

They couldn’t pay for lunch at school, and there was never enough food at the orphanage. She and the other girls were always hungry.

“Hungry and thirsty,” she says pointedly.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be fulfilling.

And her bed, again, was a plot of hard floor. There was no heat in her building. The below-freezing winter temperatures made their sleeping quarters nearly unbearable for months at a time. Every day, they warmed enormous charcoal bricks in a huge furnace, and then someone placed the bricks in special slots under the floors. One brick per room. The youngest girls slept closest to the warm center. As an 8-year-old, Kim In Sook was relegated to the frigid space along the walls.

About two years later, she met an American Soldier and his wife. They were stationed in Korea, and they began regularly volunteering at the orphanage. They immediately took a special interest in Kim In Sook, seeking her out every time they came. She tried to hold her excitement at bay, always aware that nothing truly good had ever happened to her.

“By age 8, I’d never been shown love,” Mays says. “Nobody gave me hugs or kisses or pats on the back. But from being at school and hearing stories, I knew about moms and dads. I knew there was such a thing as love, and I wanted it.”

The couple kept visiting. They kept talking to her, and they kept making her smile. She found herself crying when they left, believing every visit was their last.

The orphanage staff frequently reminded her that no one would ever adopt a girl her age, so she was shocked when the military couple wanted to “try her out” for a weekend at home. She resolved to stay on her best behavior, and she did. The two-day visit led to another, and another, until she found herself staying for a week at a time.

Her dangerous hopes were realized less than a year after meeting the military couple. Unable to have kids of their own, they decided to adopt her. They renamed her Holly, and she was happy.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be happy.

130507-F-RR679-072.jpgThe lonely, disconnected existence of public care facilities was a thing of the past. In its place was a new world of verbal, emotional, physical and even sexual abuse. Her parents then adopted another Korean child, this one a baby, and Holly immediately felt forgotten by her mother. Resentment flourished and flowed in all its dysfunctional directions.

“I still feel bad,” Mays says. “I was such a mean big sister.”

The family moved to Maryland, but nothing got better. The abuse, in all its forms, continued. She remembers her father retired there, when Holly was about 12. Roughly two years later, they moved again, this time to Florida. That’s where her adoptive parents finally separated and later divorced.

She was free from her father’s abuse, but left alone with a mother who doted on the younger daughter and treated Holly with vicious disdain.

At school, she didn’t fit in. Some kids outright bullied her. Many others were just content to remind her, every day, how different she looked, how different she talked.

“I felt I had no one…no friends, no family. I didn’t see any future. I didn’t see how it could get any better. Or worse.”

Three years went by, in a “living hell.” She wanted to commit suicide and considered it several times. For a long time, the only thing that stopped her was her belief — instilled at the Christian orphanage — that it was an unforgivable sin. She was simply too scared to kill herself.

But that fear, too, would be replaced by another, more imminent one: teen pregnancy.

That was Holly’s reality, a few months after meeting her first boyfriend. When she imagined her mother’s reaction, there was no coping. She was terrified, and she lost the last sliver of hope she had. Finally, she had a problem she just couldn’t handle.

The next morning, after years of imagining it, she made the real decision to take her own life. She would do it that night after school.

She gave all her valuables to her sister, “just like our suicide awareness training tells us,” and told her she loved her. Then, she went to her mom’s medicine cabinet and secured a bottle of sleeping pills.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be worth living.

She went to school and spent her first couple of classes serenely enjoying the thought of being done with life. “That day, I was at peace,” Mays recalls.

Suddenly, she felt the urge to go the restroom. She went. A few minutes later, to her immense surprise, she realized she wasn’t pregnant after all. She was never pregnant — just late. A wave of intense emotion cascaded over her.

“I sat there in the stall and cried,” Mays says. “It was a huge turning point for me. I actually felt happy that I didn’t have to kill myself, and I thanked God for a second chance.

“I went home and hugged my sister and tried to start living a positive life.”

She got a job at a local grocery store, where she met a 22-year-old Army Soldier. She tried not to fall for him, but she did. He asked her to marry him. First, she said no. Then she thought about life away from her mother, and she said yes. She was only 17.

After she graduated, they moved to Fort Campbell, Ky. At first, it was good. She thought she had finally found love and security.

It wasn’t long before she was introduced to the angry version of her husband. Soon, he was beating her with the same intensity and regularity as her mother had. But she knew life could be worse, and she desperately wanted to be done with her tragic past. She knew she could endure it, so she did.

One day, less than a year later, her husband announced he didn’t love her anymore. He wanted a divorce.

Part of her couldn’t believe it was happening. The other part of her — the narrator of her hardened memories — wasn’t surprised. She had no reason to believe she was lovable.

Depression and loneliness, her most reliable companions, returned to her. For several months, she was just “existing.” She had no idea what to do with herself.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be purposeful.

Holly Mays will never forget the day she saw the Air Force commercial on TV. For the first time in days, she found herself abruptly, thoughtfully attentive.

She knew about the military from her father and, later, her husband. She realized the Air Force might be able to give her a good, stable life. At that point, it was all she wanted. She called the local recruiting office a few minutes after the commercial ended.

“I just wanted to find a place where I belonged.”

As it turned out, she belonged right away, and she hasn’t stopped belonging for 17-plus years.

“I feel the Air Force gave me a second chance at life,” she says. “I’m healthy, I’m happy and I’m loved by so many people. People actually describe me as a positive person.”

One reason for that is her current job, which gives her plenty of opportunities to show her smile. As a member of the Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s official jet demonstration team, Mays gets to travel around the country and talk to thousands of young kids at air shows. She knows some of them are going through difficult childhoods like hers, so she tries to share her hard-won optimism.

According to Air Force Instruction 1-1, “Air Force Culture,” paragraph 1.5, Airmen “must strive to be resilient: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to meet the challenges inherent to being a member of a fighting force.” Challenges, of course, are relative. Resilience is transcendent.

“It’s easy to spend your time sulking in your misery, but I want them to know that every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around,” she says. “You don’t have to live the life that’s laid out for you.”

Holly Mays stopped living her old life the day she decided to join the Air Force.

She doesn’t know the name her real parents gave her, but she’s got five stripes on her sleeve and an impressive duty title. She barely passed elementary school, but she’ll soon have her master’s degree. She doesn’t know when she was born, but she knows she’s two-point-five years away from a comfortable retirement.

She doesn’t claim to have any unique toughness or wisdom derived from her years of struggle, but she understands how resilience can pay off.

Life, for an orphan, isn’t supposed to be good. But for one orphan who became an Airman, it finally is.

PHOTO 1: Tech. Sgt. Holly Mays was orphaned on the streets of South Korea before she was two years old. Now, she’s the unit training manager for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and a 17-year veteran of the service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

PHOTO 2: Tech. Sgt. Holly Mays holds her childhood passport, the earliest identification document she has in her possession. It was issued in 1974, not long after she was abandoned on the streets of South Korea at the age of 1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

AFRS participates in first tweetchat

Carissa PictureThe Air Force Recruiting Service participated in its  first tweetchat June 6 and received more than 100 recruitment questions from online participants. During the hour-long Web event, AFRS officials answered questions about enlistment eligibility requirements, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test scores and other career field-specific questions. The first 15 questions were answered during the tweetchat and are available here. The rest of the unanswered questions are below. AFRS will host monthly tweetchats showcasing Airmen from different career fields who will share their Air Force experiences.  

PHOTO: Carissa, Air Force Recruiting Service online advisor

Q16: Can I still try out for Pararescue even though I wear glasses?
A16: Yes, but you must meet all physical and ASVAB requirements and the physical ability and stamina test (PAST). Vision requirements for Pararescue include passing a color vision test, having uncorrected vision 20/70-20/200, corrected vision or 20/20 vision each eye.

Q17: Could I join the Air Guard on top of ROTC if I don’t get a four-year scholarship and then transfer to active duty upon commission?
A17: For Air Guard information, you may contact the Air National Guard on their website. They have a live chat capability to answer your questions:

Q18: Can you join with type 2 diabetes?
A18: Unfortunately, this is a potentially medically disqualifying condition. However, the doctor at the Military Entrance Processing Station  (MEPS) will make that determination. Your local recruiter can have your medical records for this condition prescreened by the doctor at the MEPS for you to find a preliminary ruling in your particular situation.

Q19: In regards to the Health Professions Scholarship Program, do Air Force physicians choose their specialty or does the Air Force assign a specialty based off of their need?
A19: Physicians can list three specialties and the specialty may be determined by the needs of the Air Force. You can find all of our health profession job descriptions here:

Q20: Will a professional pilot’s degree with a commercial rating and several hundred flight hours give me a leg up for a pilot’s slot?
A20: Here are the general requirements to be a pilot:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • 4-year college degree
  • At least a 2.5 GPA
  • Must meet the selection board before age 28
  • Between 5’4″ and 6’5″ in height
  • Distance vision no worse than 20/70, correctable to 20/20
  • Near vision 20/20, uncorrected.

There are many possible paths you can take in pursuit of earning your wings. You could choose to get your degree on your own and apply for your commission following graduation. Or, you could choose to come on to active duty and let the Air Force pay up to 100 percent of your college tuition.You could gain valuable Air Force experience while getting your degree. Once you have obtained your degree, apply for your commission and select to become a pilot. Having earned your private pilot’s license will increase your chances of being selected, as well as earning a technical college degree, though you may apply with most any type of degree.

Q21: Is it likely for a girl to be able to go to Airborne School?
A21: Airborne is an Army Military Occupational Skill (MOS). The Army runs the Airborne School and the Air Force does not have this job. However, Battlefield
Airmen (males only) attend Airborne School. There has been no official Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) announcement of any change in policy to allow women in combat positions. As soon as we learn more details, we will provide them.

Q22: I will be graduating my junior college with around 62 credits. Will that help out at all when trying to enlist?
A22: Advanced rank can be earned through many different channels for your accomplishments before entering the Air Force.
College Credits (Qualifying):
– 20 semester or 30 quarter hours = E-2
– 45 semester or 67 quarter hours = E-3
You will need to provide official college transcripts to verify the amount of college credits you have earned.

Q23: What is the best way to become a helicopter pilot in the Air Force?
A23: Here are the general requirements to be a pilot:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • 4-year college degree
  • At least a 2.5 GPA
  • Must meet the selection board before age 28
  • Between 5’4″ and 6’5″ in height
  • Distance vision no worse than 20/70, correctable to 20/20
  • Near vision 20/20, uncorrected.

There are many possible paths you can take in pursuit of earning your wings. You could choose to get your degree on your own and apply for your commission following graduation. Or, you could choose to come on to active duty and let the Air Force pay up to 100 percent of your college tuition.You could gain valuable Air Force experience while getting your degree. Once you have obtained your degree, apply for your commission and select to become a pilot. Having earned your private pilot’s license will increase your chances of being selected, as well as earning a technical college degree, though you may apply with most any type of degree.

Q24: How long would it take an enlisted airman to work up to an officer after their BMT and starting tech school?
A24: If you are active duty United States Air Force and inquiring about a commission, applying to Officers Training School, your point of contact is your Base Education Office. The Base Education Office is responsible for the application process and will answer any inquiries pertaining to this process. If you are not active Air Force, the length it may take you to earn your college degree depends on how motivated you are toward earning your degree in your off duty time.

Q25: I’m interested in security forces. What are the qualifications? Requirements?
A25: You must meet the requirements to enlist in the US Air Force, to include qualifying on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and passing a physical examination. You must have a minimum of a 33 in the General Aptitude Area of your ASVAB test. It is mandatory that you have a valid driver’s license.

Q26: What’s the best way to get in touch with someone to talk about OTS if there aren’t any offices nearby?
A26: You will need to contact your nearest active duty Air Force recruiter and ask to speak to an officer accessions recruiter. Or you can visit the OTS website.

Q27: I was DQ’ed for asthma a few months back. Is there any chance of being able to reapply? Do the MEPS stations ever drop files?
A27: Asthma, including reactive airway disease, exercise-induced bronchospasm or asthmatic bronchitis, reliably diagnosed at any age, is disqualifying. However, you are disqualified after your 13th birthday if any evidence of it still exists. The doctor at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) will make the determination of whether or not your situation is disqualifying. Your local recruiter can have your medical records for this condition prescreened by the doctor at MEPS for you to find a preliminary ruling. Yes, the MEPS does drop/delete files.

Q28: With fewer slots available today, what are the minimum requirements for enlisting?
A28: To quality for the Air Force, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or have a valid unrestricted alien registration card from the USCIS with at least two years remaining until expiration. (You must obtain this status on your own, the Air Force cannot assist you with obtaining it.)
  • You cannot be a conscientious objector. A conscientious objector is an individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.
  • Any law violations will need to be evaluated.
  • Any use of illegal drugs or misuse of prescription medication will need to be evaluated.
  • You will have a credit check run looking for delinquencies and overbalanced credit.
  • Be between the ages of 17-27. If 17 you will need parental consent.
  • Be of good health all medical issues will need to be evaluated. Meet our height and weight requirements.
  • To enlist, be a high school graduate, junior or senior.
  • To be an officer, be a college graduate or a senior.
  • The Air Force allows you to be single with no dependents, married to a military member with no dependents, or married to a civilian with one dependent upon entry to enlistment.
  • You will need to have a Social Security Card.

Q29: What jobs are typically in demand right now?
A29: The job you train and serve in is dependent upon your successful qualifying in the United States Air Force. Jobs in demand are ever-changing, and are based upon the needs of the Air Force.

Q30: I went Palace Chase a few years ago. I was in four years. Can I go back AD after I graduate from dental hygiene school as a 4yh?
A30: You must meet the requirements for the Air Force Prior Service Program. If you have been out of the military for six years or longer, you will not qualify to reenter the US Air Force. Prior Service vacancies are based upon the Air Force Special Code (AFSC), and the total number of years you have served in that particular job. Jobs are based upon your successful qualifying to reenter the Air Force, and the needs of the Air Force.

Q31: After attending the Academy, what continued medical educational opportunities you offer?
A31: Those individuals who are graduating from the Air Force Academy and are continuing education or pursuing higher education in the Health Professions area, may apply for the Air Force’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), or depending upon the type of degree, may apply through the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT).

Q32: What are the height and weight requirements to be a pilot?
A32: Height requirements for pilots:
– Standing must be between 64 and 77 inches
– Sitting must be between 33 and 40 inches

Q33: Do Airmen receive vacation time?
A33: Active Duty Air Force members earn 2.5 days per month or 30 days of vacation each year.

Q34: If you get injured in Basic Military Training, what happens?
A34: If you become injured while in Basic Military Training, you will be referred to a doctor(s) who will make a medical eligibility determination to continue training or separate, depending upon the severity of the injury.

Q35: Can you join the Air Force with a peanut allergy? Can you be a pilot?
A35: Peanut allergies are medically disqualifying, and would not be eligible to pursue Pilot Training.

Q36: What heart conditions, confirmed or suspected, exclude someone from joining the Air Force?
A36: Unfortunately, heart conditions are a potentially medically disqualifying condition. However, the doctor at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) will make that determination. Your local recruiter can have your medical records for this condition prescreened by the doctor at the MEPS for you to find a preliminary ruling in your particular situation.

Q37: How much physical preparation is needed before MEPS?
A37: There is no preparation to take the Air Force entrance physical examination.

Q38: What jobs are open to a Security Forces Specialist after time in the Air Force? What educational degrees are helpful?
A38: Individuals who have been trained in Security Forces in the Air Force, most always qualify as a Peace Officer, Law Enforcement in the civilian sector. With a degree earned while serving in the Air Force, you may qualify to apply for most all federal law enforcement jobs. A degree(s) earned in Criminal Justice is helpful.

Q39: What are the steps needed to become a fighter pilot? What are the requirements?
A39: Here’s what it takes to become an Air Force Pilot:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Any four-year college degree
  • Must meet the selection board before age 28
  • Be between 64 and 77 inches in height
  • Distance vision no worse than 20/70, correctable to 20/20
  • Near vision 20/20, uncorrected, color vision is required.

Path to a Pilot seat:
Once you are qualified to join the Air Force as a commissioned officer you will take this path to get your wings.
1.) Complete Officer Training ( AF Academy, AF ROTC, OTS)
2.) Enter Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) and begin your flight training. (one year)
3.) Nearing completion of UPT you will be assigned an aircraft. It’s called getting your Seat Assignment. This is determined by these factors: class ranking, training performance reports, instructor recommendations, your aircraft preferences, and our needs.
4.) Upon completion of UPT and your seat assignment, you continue your flight training for the specific aircraft you were assigned. (six months to one year)
5.) Nearing completion of your Advanced Flight Training, you will be given a squadron and location assignment. Your location preferences are considered.
6.) The commitment for an Air Force pilot is 10 years of active duty service after completion of pilot training.

This website offers excellent information regarding pilot testing, selection, training and lifestyle:

Q40: As a CSO, can you choose a specific aircraft?
A40: The type of aircraft a Combat System Officer is rated in is determined by academic achievement(s), commander/supervisor recommendation, and the needs of the Air Force.

Q41: Can I enter the Air Force with increased rank if I am in Civil Air Patrol?
A41: Yes, if you have earned the Billy Mitchell, Amelia Earhart or Carl Spaatz award, you may qualify with advanced rank of E-3.

Q42: I am a junior in college, should I wait until I graduate to join the AF? Should I enlist and try to become an officer later?
A42: The decision and time to join the U.S. Air Force is yours to make. If you are a junior in college and progressing toward a Bachelor’s Degree, once you have earned it, it may qualify you to apply for Officers Training School. Should you decide to quit college and complete your education while enlisted and serving in the Air Force, college credits you have earned may qualify you for advanced rank up to E-3. Your Air Force recruiter will discuss qualifying, options, and opportunities with you.

Q43: What is it like to be a Pararescue Jumper?
A43: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to save a person’s life? To parachute, scuba dive, rock climb or even snowmobile into hostile territory to get to a wounded Airman who needs your help? Then you may be ready to be a Pararescue specialist. You’ll be trained in emergency medical tactics, as well as in combat and survival skills so you can go anywhere necessary. You’ll train extensively and be on alert 24 hours a day, because when the call comes, it will be up to you to answer it.

Q44: What are the standard ASVAB requisites and training for Security Operations Specialists?
A44: The score required for Security Forces is General 33; based on Air Force requirements, the minimum Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT) score required for entry on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is 36. However, due to the high number of individuals who are qualified and waiting to depart for Basic Military Training (over 90 percent of them possessing an ASVAB score over 50 percentile) your recruiter may not be able to process you and may ask you to return when they have space on their waiting list to add new applicants. So study hard and good luck!

Q45: Does it matter what field of study your bachelor’s degree is in for OTS?
A45: No, it does not. You may apply for OTS with most any type of college degree. To be eligible to apply for Officer Training School, one must have a baccalaureate degree or be a senior at a college or university that is accredited by one of the six regional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education. Applicants who have graduated from a non- accredited college or university in the United States or from another country may apply. However, they must present evidence from an accredited institution of higher learning that their credits are acceptable for graduate work. You must have earned a GPA of 3.0 or better to be eligible to apply.

Q46: What is the probability of a female becoming a top-ranked sniper?
A46: It is possible as females are a part of Security Forces. You could apply after two years as a Security Forces member to be a part of the close precision engagement (sniper) team.

Q47: I was medically separated in March. Do I need to wait six months to reenlist or can I do it sooner?
A47: Yes you must wait six months before reapplying to join the Air Force. Make sure you keep all of your paperwork, and the reason for being medically separated no longer exists.

Q48: What is the outlook for flight training candidates needed in the next few years?
A48: The Air Force accepts applications for Officer Training School (OTS), and pilot training from highly qualified applicants for scheduled selection boards throughout the year. Selection boards meet to select candidates, based on the needs of the Air Force.

Q49: How big a demand is there for accounting and business majors in the AF?
A49: The OTS selection board selects the best qualified applicants to become Air Force officers. A board of senior Air Force officers at Headquarters Air Force Recruiting Service will review your application. Selection is competitive and based on your desires, qualifications (such as aeronautical ratings, type of bachelors or master’s degree, or civilian or military specialty skills), and specific Air Force manpower needs. Each applicant is evaluated for character, academic accomplishments, community service, and leadership potential. As part of the selection process, board members review both objective and subjective factors. Objectively, the board considers each applicants academic discipline, and AFOQT scores. Subjectively, board members evaluated work experience, accomplishments, adaptability, character, leadership ability, potential for future growth, and other recommendations. For active duty enlisted members, performance reports and commanders recommendations are also evaluated. A minimum of three Air Force colonels reviews every application. The selection process is similar to an Air Force Officer Promotion Board. Key to the entire process is that no single factor leads to an individual’s selection. Boards meet to select candidates, based on the needs of the Air Force.

Q50: I want to go in as an officer in International Affairs? What is your best advice for jobs associated in that specialty?
A50: There isn’t an International Affairs career field, but Public Affairs officer would be close. Here is a link of our officer careers:

Q51: Are actual manned aircraft being replaced by unmanned drones in the near future? Do we use drones for anything other than military missions?
A51: There is the possibility of unmanned aircraft in the future. Drones can be used for many different purposes like visual check of an area after a natural disaster and patrolling U.S. borders. The use of drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft contribute to our aircraft inventory and successful mission accomplishments

Q52: Can you go to airborne school if you are Air Force Reserve?
A52: Airborne is an Army Military Occupational Skill (MOS), and training is provided by the U.S. Army. You may contact the Air Force Reserve, a Reserve component of the U.S. Air Force, on their website. The Air Force Reserve has a Live Chat to answer your questions.

Q53: Is it difficult to get into the ROTC program?
A53: Air Force ROTC is a highly competitive program that leads to commissioning as an officer in the U.S. Air Force following graduation from college. For further assistance, you may contact Air Force ROTC on their website for more information.

Q54: Does the AF Reserve offer TACP as a career field?
A54: Yes, the Air Force Reserve offer Tactical Air Command and Control as a career selection provided you meet the requirements. You may contact the Air Force Reserve, a Reserve component of the U.S. Air Force, on their website. The Air Force Reserve has a Live Chat to answer your questions.

Q55: How difficult is it to switch from AF Reserve to active duty?
A55: It will depend upon your qualifications and what jobs the active duty Air Force is looking for. You would fall under the Prior Service program. The Prior Service (PS) program is an enlistment program allowing a select number of separated individuals to return to active duty. The program will access a total of 250 applicants during FY13. The total accession is subject to change based on Air Force needs and is separated into three categories: Category I – Direct Duty (DD): return without consideration of years of service (YOS) and Category II – DD: YOS restriction. Category III – Retraining. Your Air Force Recruiter has a listing of jobs which we are currently looking for, based on the job you are qualified in, years of service, and your successful qualifying. Applicant must not have a break in service exceeding six years. Applicant must have performed duties in the requested return AFSC during their last term of enlistment. An Air Force Recruiter will determine if an eligibility determination is required, to permit you to enlist. Please contact a recruiter nearest you for details. The prior service program is open at this time, and positions are filled based upon the needs of the U.S. Air Force.

Q56: Is loadmaster a high-demand job?
A56: This Air Force no longer offers Loadmaster as a job. This job has been incorporated into the Special Missions Aviation Apprentice (1A931). This job, just as the loadmaster, is a highly demanding, yet rewarding job. Contact your Air Force recruiter to discuss qualifying, options, and opportunities.

Q57: What are the jobs that are in high demand?
A57: Our Special Operation careers are always in high demand as well as cryptologic linguist.

Q58: Are there jobs that include signing bonuses?
A58: Yes, currently they are:

  • 1T2X1 PARARESCUE – $15,000
  • 1C4X1 TACP – $14,000
  • 1T0X1 SERE – $13,000
  • 3E8X1 EOD – $13,000
  • 3P0X1 SECURITY FORCES – $1,500
  • 1W0X2 SPEC. OPS. WEATHER – $13,000

Keep in mind that these bonuses can change based on the needs of the Air Force.

Q59: What is the process to becoming a Special Operations TACP?
A59: You will schedule an appointment with a recruiter and start the process of ASVAB testing and completing a medical exam. Your ASVAB and your medical exam determine your job qualifications. After you have completed processing, you will then be schedule by your recruiter to take the TACP Physical Ability Stamina Test (PAST) to see if you can qualify for that career.

Q60: Does the AF Reserve offer engineering jobs?
A60: Yes, the U.S. Air Force Reserve offers engineering jobs. You may contact the Air Force Reserve, a Reserve component of the U.S. Air Force, on their website. The Air Force Reserve has a Live Chat to answer your questions at

Q61: Can graduates with degrees in English Literature join as officers, or do you need a science/math-related degree?
A61: Yes you may apply for Officers Training School (OTS) with most any type of college degree. To be eligible to apply for Officer Training School, one must have a baccalaureate degree or be a senior at a college or university that is accredited by one of the 6 regional accreditation commissions recognized by the US Dept. of Education. Applicants who have graduated from a non- accredited college or university in the United States or from another country may apply. However, they must present evidence from an accredited institution of higher learning that their credits are acceptable for graduate work. You must have earned a GPA of 3.0 or better to be eligible to apply.

Q62: Does the AF still offer tuition assistance?
A62: Yes we do still offer the tuition assistance program. Tuition Assistance is a program that the Air Force uses to pay 100% of the tuition cost for college classes that you take in your off-duty time. This is not a loan, and is at no cost to the Air Force member. Using the tuition assistance program will not have any effect on the availability of the Post 9-11 GI Bill funds.

Q63: Does previous flight experience give you a better chance at becoming a pilot?
A63: Along with meeting requirements to apply for Officers Training School (OTS), and pilot training, earning a technical degree and a private pilot’s license will increase your chances of being selected.

A chance encounter

Lorenz photoby Retired Gen. Steve Lorenz
U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment President

As a leader, you must always be observant of what is going on around you. Literally you need to observe, listen and sense in a 360 degree circle in real time. To truly be effective, you need to have your radar up and running at all times because you never know when you can make a difference.

Recently, I was walking to my car after a meeting with the Air Force Academy Director of Athletics and I chanced upon a cadet walking back to the cadet area. She seemed deep in thought and very preoccupied. I turned and asked her how she was doing. I could tell she was thinking, “who is this stranger and I don’t have time to talk to him.”

I persisted and once again asked how she was doing.

She said “fine”, but I could tell something was wrong. I introduced myself and reminded her that I had talked about leadership with her cadet class about six months before. She seemed to remember and then finally told me about her recent academic and discipline challenges. I listened carefully, paused and related to her some similar challenges I faced 40 years before when I was cadet. We talked about the struggles of having to study harder to make better grades, and that when you break the rules you must be a leader and accept the consequences of your bad decisions. I asked her what her personal goals were and she said she wanted to graduate from the Academy and be commissioned an officer in the Air Force.

I remember all those many years ago when I was restricted to my room studying and serving confinements. I would get depressed and start feeling sorry for myself. To keep my motivation up, I would look at a picture of my class ring and remind myself why I was at the Academy. It helped me on my darkest days. This cadet was still a year away from ordering her ring, so I gave her my tie tack which had the Air Force symbol on it. I told her that she must never give up on her goal and that when she was down in the months to come, she should hold that small Air Force symbol in her hand and let it remind her why she was at the Academy. She took it, said thank you and said she had to get back to class. As she walked away, I realized that I never even got her name. I told my wife about this encounter and put this chance meeting out of my mind.

However, much to my surprise, two days later I received an e-mail from the cadet’s father. In part it said:

“Hello Mr. Lorenz, I have not had the honor of meeting you, but…my daughter, though, has had the opportunity. You see, my daughter was the cadet you came across two days ago outside Clune Arena. Although you may believe it was a chance encounter, she believes it was something quite different. Her exact words to her mother and I was that running into you was ‘a sign.’ What you told her and said to her had a huge impact on her, one that she will never forget. You helped her to reaffirm her commitment to the Academy and why she went there.

“After a hard day with some difficult conversations and the normal struggles that most cadets face, she was starting to question whether she belonged at the Academy. Suddenly, you appeared, and were kind and compassionate enough to realize she was in need of a sympathetic person who could relate to her. Your conversation impacted her greatly, and she left your encounter more determined and intent on graduating because she received (your message) when she needed it most.

“Her mother and I live close to 650 miles away. We couldn’t be there for her at that moment, but we want to thank you for taking the time to stop and help someone in need. Taking time and having the patience to listen, be understanding, sympathetic, and impacting a stranger’s life forever. This is not an exaggeration, but a fact we feel strongly about. There was a reason you were there to help her and, for that, we will always be thankful to you. We just wanted you to know the influence you had on our daughter and that you made a difference in her life that day … Thank you again!”

Let me emphasize that this story is not about me. I was just there and asked the cadet how she was doing. It is about observing those around you and making a difference when you least expect it. If you are observant, even chance encounters provide an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. So, the next time you are out among people, even if you are just walking down the street, take the time to notice each one as an individual. You may have the chance to make a huge difference.

PHOTO: General Stephen Lorenz, Air Education and Training Command commander, visits with 312th Training Squadron students at the fire academy Sept. 8, 2008. Lorenz retired from the Air Force Jan. 1, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. John Barton)

Airmen contribute to success of EDC campaign

130416-F-SC698-001Throughout the month of May, Airmen submitted more than 11,000 cost-reducing ideas during the “Every Dollar Counts” campaign, an initiative that empowered Airmen to find and recommend areas of savings that may be used to support more urgent readiness needs.

In a letter to all Airmen June 5, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer highlighted the great ideas Airmen submitted and also encouraged Airmen to continue looking for innovative ways to save Air Force resources:

Fellow Airmen,

Thank You! We asked for your help to find more cost effective ways to deliver airpower and you delivered — big time! The response during the “Airmen Powered by Innovation Call” generated 11,000-plus ideas in just 30 days! Now the ball is in our court to quickly assess the ideas and implement those that show the most promise — several of which have been implemented already!

To provide a recap of what we received, most of the ideas, 38 percent, affect personnel policy, 23 percent involved logistics and installation support and 11 percent recommended changes in information technology. Next, in order of the most suggestions, were current operations, financial management, health services and acquisition. Recommended changes in personnel ranged from eliminating enlisted performance reports for chief master sergeants, (we’re giving that serious scrutiny now) to suggesting Airmen remain at permanent change of station locations longer. In the logistics area, many of you suggested creative ways to save energy, and Airmen at Joint Base Andrews, Md., suggested transitioning to lower-cost, leased vehicles for visiting distinguished visitors, which we implemented this week.

We also received several suggestions to limit the number and use of portable mobile devices.

Again, we extend our personal thanks for your enthusiastic support of our Air Force. As ideas are approved and implemented, I will continue to share them. In the meantime, I want to share some stories I have received about some of the amazing initiatives our Airmen are undertaking out in the field.

In a cost savings effort, Airmen at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., are sharing training facilities and conducting joint exercises between the base fire department and Miami-Dade, Broward, Charlotte and Lee counties. The joint exercises save a cumulative total of approximately $500,000 a year. Additionally, the 482nd Communications Squadron at Homestead ARB developed a procedure to audit their telecommunications bills for discrepancies. This effort ensured they were being charged correctly for services and constituted a total of $400,000 in savings.

Sometimes change happens because Airmen believe there might be a better way to get the job done and that’s what happened at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. The 50th Flying Training Squadron transitioned to a centralized scheduling operation where all instructors were pooled together, maximizing their ability to fill the schedule while giving back hours each day to the flight commanders and flight schedulers. With this fairly drastic change in how they did business, they were able to fill their flying schedule and reduce their flying window by one hour. Although it is hard to quantify the specific savings generated from the change, the new system allows pilots to work more efficiently and take better advantage of their time and resources.

Then there are superstars like Stacy Burgess, from the 97th Comptroller Squadron, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Stacy realized that many mandatory deployment items could be returned to the unit deployment manager and reissued to others who are deploying. The cost for required items prior to this policy was $2,892.64 per member; by reissuing many of the required items from returned inventory, the cost for new purchases was significantly decreased to $1,498.67 per Airman. On average, Altus deploys 188-236 individuals per year. This new policy has the potential to save the base and the Air Force approximately $50,000 to $100,000 per year. Our job as a headquarters is to share great ideas like Stacy’s with every base around the world — think of the savings!

Air Mobility Command’s Theater Express program is also a praiseworthy example of how a team can achieve significant cost savings. Aided by a decrease in overall airlift demand and the implementation of a more robust software tool, the Air Mobility Division team was able to more accurately estimate military airlift costs. This allowed them to increase the amount of cargo transported by regularly scheduled military aircraft resulting in a $342 million savings this year. Also, for the first time in AMC’s history, the AMC commander held a commander’s conference using Defense Connect On-Line and milBook. Both tools allowed approximately 250 people to participate in a fully interactive conference without the associated TDY costs.

While you were submitting your innovative proposals, I had a small team examining our current idea programs. Their task focused on four areas: consolidating and streamlining the processes, decreasing the cycle time from submission to approval, increasing the effectiveness of harvesting ideas that generate tangible savings and increasing replication of approved ideas across multiple locations. Early progress updates indicate a promising new innovation idea process that will be more responsive to submitters, and is expected to generate a higher percentage of approved and implemented concepts. This effort will result in a revamped Innovative Development through Employee Awareness and Productivity Enhancing Capital Investment programs. We will continue accepting your outstanding suggestions for improving our Force, but will take a 30-day pause on processing ideas while the team prepares to stand up the new capability. In the interim, ideas can be submitted at the following website:

I encourage you to keep thinking about how we can accomplish our mission faster, better and cheaper. Today’s fiscal constraints are the tightest our Air Force has experienced in many years. Your overwhelming response during the Airmen Powered by Innovation Call for Ideas has emboldened us all with confidence that our Air Force will persevere through these tough times and emerge a more effective and efficient fighting force for America.
General, USAF
Vice Chief of Staff