Hushed voices echo in the background as the pilot boards his plane and starts the engine. Slowly, the plane inches forward as an air traffic controller directs his path along the landing strip. The plane flies over the air traffic controller on the ground, dips down above the water and rises into the sky. The pilot glances down at the aircraft carrier, bustling with men and women from all branches of the military, before he embarks on his mission.
The process to become a member of the United States Air Force can be extensive. While the list of qualifications is continuous, the Air Force primarily focuses on medical records from the last seven years from the point of enlistment and history with law enforcement. Certain medical conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), asthma, suicidal thoughts that accompany moderate to severe depression and anxiety can lead to disqualification. Additionally, the Air Force has strict standards when it comes to ones offenses; to elaborate, offenses greater than speeding tickets can be disqualifying as well.
Once one meets the requirements, they can begin the recruitment process which can be brief or long depending on the applicants medical and law violation history. According to Sergeant Martin Vlacich, a recruiter in Havasu, applicants have been sworn-in anywhere from four days up to two and a half years, depending on how comprehensive their medical and law violation history is.
The enlistment process begins with a general conversation between a recruiter, applicant and their family to discuss why they want to join and how it can benefit them. If the applicant decides to join, they then must complete 60 minutes of general paperwork pertaining to their medical and law history. Afterwards, they must complete the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and military physical about a week later, swear-in to the USAF, choose a job and prepare for basic training.
“On average, if an applicant with a clean prescreen came into my office and signed up today they would leave for basic training in March,” said Vlacich.
As for basic training, applicants should expect to be yelled at, held accountable for their actions and have their behavior corrected if needed. If applicants refuse to correct their behavior, it will result in a loss of privileges and “liberties” such as phone calls home for everyone
in the trainee group. “We try to correct those behaviors on the spot because that is unacceptable in basic training. Everyone needs to function as one, and we don’t tolerate the ‘bad apples’.”
Comparatively, Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) allows future airmen and airwomen to get military training in college. The program is competitive and not all applicants are guaranteed acceptance, and in some cases the applicant process must start junior year of high school.
If accepted, the graduate will become a commissioned officer when they enlist. Upon graduation, the graduate will be required to serve in the USAF for a minimum of four years.
Furthermore, the Air Force has numerous educational opportunities. All of their training is college accredited so graduating basic training can amount to 10 college credits in two months. Additionally, they are the only branch that will give all enlistees an associates degree in their job. The GI bill and tuition assistance program allows them to gain multiple degrees up to a Phd in various fields throughout their service as well.
The USAF has over 200 benefits. However, most notably, “the major ones are full health insurance, free college and technical school education, free travel and service to their country.”