JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
It is not unusual for the masses who raise their right hand in service to the U.S. Air Force to end up in a career-field that does not include flying; in fact, they are the majority.
However, the path to flying is not one-size-fits-all, and the Air Force is continuously searching for aspiring-aviators of diverse background, experience and thought. An opportunity to collect unique perspectives from a variety of trained experts, leveraging Airmen from our non-rated Air Force specialties.
Active duty officers and enlisted who are interested in becoming rated officers, can apply to a program for an opportunity to gain and strengthen aviation skills before applying to a rated selection board.
In the Rated Prep Program, or RPP, each student will receive self-paced ground training, instructor-led instruction, at least two and a half hours of flight simulator instruction in Federal Aviation Administration-certified simulators, and approximately 7-1/2 flight hours in a Cessna 182T aircraft, during a one-week class.
The class is usually held four times a year; two one-week iterations in the spring in Denton, Texas, and two one-week iterations in the fall in Columbus, Indiana.
Rated career fields consist of pilots, combat systems officers (CSO), air battle managers (ABM) and remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilots.
RPP is led by Air Education and Training Command’s Rated Diversity Improvement Team, headquartered here, and supported by Civil Air Patrol, or CAP, which is the official auxiliary of the Air Force. CAP supports the Air Force by providing emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education and activities.
According to Eric Templeton, CAP’s senior program manager for operations training, the majority of CAP’s funding is provided by the Air Force and is used on various cadet and flying training programs, both for civilians and active duty personnel, including the RPP.
Templeton is responsible for gathering proper materials and building the RPP curriculum for the students.
“I can tell you that we have not changed the curriculum since this started about three years ago. It’s hit the mark from the get-go,” he said. “Everything the students are learning is sticking with them and it’s really amazing to see that.”
He said some students’ Pilot Candidate Selection Method scores increase about 30 points when they retake the exam after attending the RPP.
Templeton also explained that one of the goals for the RPP is to increase the students’ aviation knowledge and skills to help increase their Air Force Officer Qualifying Test and Test of Basic Aviation Skills scores. Both scores are considered at rated selection boards.
“In the RPP, students get to physically experience aviation-related scenarios that may be asked on the TBAS exam,” he explained. “Instead of staring at a question trying to think about it, the student will have the muscle memory of how an instrument will look like when a plane is climbing or descending, for example.”
All RPP instructors are volunteers from CAP. CAP also provides six simulators and 15 aircraft with an additional three aircraft ready, if needed, for each class.
Officer RPP requirements:
- Be of high moral character.
- Obtain group commander or higher endorsement on application.
- Score at least minimum passing on Air Force physical fitness test.
- Have less than five hours civilian flight time. Applicants with more than five hours of flight time will be considered on a space-available basis.
- Prior to attending RPP, obtain the appropriate flight physical specific to the rated career field.
- Review Civil Air Patrol-assigned study material prior to class start date.
- Meet UFT board requirements post-RPP in accordance with AFMAN 36-2100.
Templeton stressed they’re always prepared for courses and there are about 75 volunteer instructors for RPP. He said although there are 15 active instructors who participate during each class, there are two extra instructors on standby, if needed. This gives a two-to-one training experience with an instructor since each class has about 30 students.
“All instructors are certified flight instructors who have some military experience,” he said. “We want to make sure the students learn from and relate to their instructor as much as possible all week long.”
Another group of mentors who provide vital insight and relatability to the aspiring aviators are pilots of the Aviation Inspiration Mentorship program. These rated officers offer their personal experiences as professionals of their weapons system, and field students’ questions regarding life and training on the other side of commissioning as a pilot. Christy Eplee, division chief for AETC’s Integrated Resilience, says the RPP aims to increase diversity in the Air Force rated career fields to better reflect the gender and racial eligible population.
“AETC’s RDI Team works tirelessly to ensure the pool of students selected reflects what our Airmen and Air Force deserve – diversity and inclusion,” she said. “The RPP’s goal is to set up our diverse students for success not only in rated career fields, but also as a multi-capable Airman.”
Airmen interested in applying to RPP or have questions, email AETC.RDI.Workflow@us.af.mil with “Attn: Rated Prep Program” as the subject line or call (210) 652-7761.
RPP is not a commissioning program, and it does not guarantee participants will be selected for an Air Force rated position.