WASHINGTON — Using a phased-application approach, Air Force senior leaders are casting a wider net to ensure more active-duty enlisted Airmen are eligible to apply for the service’s RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft program, a Pentagon official said Aug. 29.
The program expands the eligibility pool from career-enlisted aviators to all Air Force specialty codes with a revised timeline in which Airmen now have from Sept. 1-Oct. 14 to take the computer-based Air Force Enlisted Pilot Qualifying Test (AFEPQT) and the Test of Basic Aviation Skills (TBAS), said Senior Master Sgt. Kimberly Pollard, an RPA enlisted specialty manager.
“The timeline has become more specific and gives Airmen more time to test, to prepare their applications, and to complete their flight physicals” Pollard said. “Now all Airmen should be able to take advantage of this program if they meet the qualifications.”
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James explained the rationale behind the expansion and timeline change in which the first board packages are due by Dec. 16.
“Expanding opportunities in the RPA program is one of many ways the Air Force is tapping into the talent of our skilled, diverse and innovative enlisted force,” she said. “This gives Airmen an opportunity to excel in a new way, and we couldn’t be more pleased to open the doors.”
According to the Air Force Personnel Center, Airmen who meet the eligibility requirements may begin Phase 1 and signal their intent to apply by taking the AFEPQT/TBAS at the nearest testing facility, located by visiting the AFPC’s website and clicking on the “PCSM,” or pilot candidate selection method, link at the bottom of the page.
Additionally, interested applicants who have previously taken the pilot portion of the Air Force Officer Qualifying Training or the paper AFEPQT may request their scores be considered if they do not wish to take the new computer-based AFEPQT.
Finally, interested applicants who have taken the AFOQT or the paper AFEPQT within the past 180 days are prohibited from taking the AFEPQT again but may still send an email to confirm their intent to apply.
Applicants must hold a rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and be retainable for six years from course graduation date. Airman in all AFSCs are eligible for this program; however, a career field manager release is required for Airmen receiving a critical skills retention bonus or for Airmen in the following AFSCs: aerospace maintenance (2AXXX); battlefield Airmen (1C2XX, 1C4XX, 1T2XX, 1W0X2, 3E8XX); cyber (1B4X1, 3D0X2, 3D0X3, 3D1X2); missile maintenance (2M0XX); and nuclear weapons (2W2XX). Selection opportunities may be further limited or restricted during the board for some career fields in order to maintain acceptable operational manning levels.
Pollard explained that the AFEPQT, which covers four areas to include math and aviation knowledge, takes about 85 minutes while TBAS is a 75-minute exam. Testing terminals are located at 54 Air Force and Air National Guard bases, 54 ROTC detachments, and 65 military entrance processing stations (MEPS). Airmen can contact the military personnel element/flight customer support section or the base education office for more information regarding AFEPQT and TBAS testing.
Airmen who’ve already amassed off-duty flying hours can apply that experience toward their score, which Pollard said is the same scoring system used to select Air Force officer pilots.
“AFEPQT and TBAS scores are combined with an applicant’s flying hours to generate a pilot candidate selection method (PCSM) score, which if high enough, enables an Airman to advance to Phase 2 of the application process,” she said.
All applicants will be considered based on their test scores. No later than Oct. 28, AFPC will announce a pool of 200-300 candidates for Phase II, which entails submitting all of the required application documents to AFPC and completing an Air Force initial flying class II physical examination. Airmen will have until Jan. 27 to submit a certified flight physical to AFPC.
The results of the inaugural Air Force Enlisted RPA Pilot Selection Board, which meets Feb. 6-Feb. 9, will be released in late February 2017.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein expressed the importance of the ISR force.
“Our ISR capabilities are in demand by every combatant commander in every region,” he said. “We must continue to ensure that we recruit, train and retain the very best in our RPA force. They are simply vital to the joint fight and a strategic resource for our nation.”