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Direct Commission Aviator (DCA) Timeline
Last Post 21 Apr 2020 09:12 PM by kirkaland. 7 Replies.
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wannabeecoastieUser is Offline
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wannabeecoastie

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18 Feb 2020 02:11 PM
    Hello. I've been searching online and in a few regulations about DCA officer timeline. So far, I understand that you commission, then report to your first duty station. I'm currently a Captain in the Army, so I understand I will get bumped down to O2, but I'm having trouble understanding the officer timeline following commissioning. First Duty Station - 4 years (Promote to O3 after 2.5 years, Work my collateral, focus on flying and becoming proficient) Second Duty Station- 4 years (Work a different collateral day to day, continue flying and work to gain hours). After 8 years, what the hell happens next? In the army you'd be working towards a command or some unique staff time/broadening assignment. After your first two duty stations as a pilot, what is next? I will retire after about 11 years in the CG (9 Army, 11 CG). Just looking for some sample timeline that someone could explain to me since there's no staff/command time you're working towards. I attached the "basic" army officer career timeline that everyone passes around. It paints a good picture for timeline, rank, and training. I wasn't sure if anyone had something like this for coast guard. Any information helps. Thank you much!!
    sardaddyUser is Offline
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    sardaddy

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    19 Feb 2020 08:44 AM
    A couple of things can happen during your career as a CG aviator. The primary thing to realize is that it is far different than the Army on how you progress and what you are in charge of at any particular pay grade. As you noted, you go from one Air Station to another and you take on collateral duties. What really changes is the collateral duties you hold and the responsibilities that come with them. In addition, your career can go in so many directions, there is not a one size fits all.  It is tough to compare Army to Coast Guard but I will try to do it as best I can and give you some generalities. 

    It is a little off track compared to the Army. You have to look at an air station two ways. Staff wise, you have about as many people as an Army Company. But responsibility wise, it is at least as challenging as having an autonomous battalion. You have to maintain the entire air station. That means working on everything from maintaining the base, including housing in some locations, working with airport officials to ensure they want to keep you there, and working with assets around the country to deploy your aircraft and crews to a ship somewhere in the middle of the ocean. In Port Angeles we have to maintain an entire airfield. Collateral duties can be a big deal. To the point that the entire base relies upon you to deliver. There isn't a brigade command to assist you. It is all you. 

    I have to start with an observation I have made over the years. In the Army, every officer starts off wanting to be a general. After the first obligation of service comes up, many of the really great officers leave because they are tired of hitting their head against a wall. Some really great officers stay in because they want to make a difference. A lot of really bad officers stay in because they have nothing else they can do or are afraid to leave. When promotions come along, the Army is not selecting from the best of the best, they are selecting from the best of who stayed in the service. The pool of truly great officers shrinks the higher the rank. In the Coast Guard, you have your good and bad officers but it is inversely proportional to the Army. Each selection board weeds out more and more sub par performers. Not all of them are weeded out but most are. People really want to stay in the Coast Guard. I say that because believe it or not, you are competing for a command from day one. In the beginning how well you do your collateral duties, no matter how insignificant they may be, is the deciding factor between how you are rated by your command.

    With that said, here is what to expect:


    Day one: This can go a couple of ways but generally as a DCA, you will sign the dotted line and receive your commission wherever you happen to be. You will then either report directly to the DCO course or go to your unit and then report to the DCO course in the near future followed by your aircraft transition course. Unless you are me. Then you report directly to the transition course, go to your unit and go to the DCO course almost a year later. I do not recommend that.    

    First duty station: you will start as a copilot trying to figure out what the heck you just got yourself into. My advice, remember you are a professional pilot but you also have no training in Coast Guard missions. Learn from everyone you fly with including the junior pilots. They will teach you something if you let them. "That's not the way we did it in the Army" doesn't cut it. You joined the Coast Guard for a reason. Do it their way. You will eventually be in a position to influence how things are done so be patient. You will then be a first pilot, then a Pilot in Command. During that time your collateral duties will be fairly small. You will be an assistant something or other, you will most likely be in charge of maintaining the wardroom at some point, and you will do some jobs that seem pretty insignificant. Do them all well and don't complain. Everyone has done it.

    Second duty station: If you haven't already been to HITRON or Atlantic City on you first tour, guess where you are going? You might also get tapped to be an instructor at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL. All are rewarding jobs. Regardless of the duty station, you will now have the responsibility of being a second tour aircraft commander.  You somehow hear way more things in the aircraft than you did before. They may ask you to become an instructor pilot, the safety officer, or you can try to become a student engineer followed by being the assistant engineer, or you might just take on some other significant roles in the organization. Things like the administrative officer (S-1) for the entire base, or the facilities manager or you might play a significant role in the operations department. It all depends on how big the air station is. Small Air Stations will have you in a department level role. Large air stations will have you as the assistant in those departments. Admittedly, some jobs are far easier than others. That is why I said do whatever job you get well because that will keep you moving up in responsibility.


    Third duty station: This is where things can change significantly. If you go the engineering path, congratulations, you might just be the engineer of a small duty station or be at the repair center in charge of a section overhauling the aircraft fleet. If you like safety you could be heading to graduate school followed by a tour as a safety officer at one of the senior safety officer positions. or you could go to headquarters for a tour hoping to leave there with a follow on tour as an OPS officer or XO at an air station. If you go to another air station, you will probably be sent to to a larger air station and hold the same jobs as you would have at your second tour but with more scope and responsibility.

    Fourth duty station: Could be very similar to the third depending on what happened in prior tours. There are so many factors at this point, it is not even worth speculating. You might still be a line pilot, or an OPS Boss, XO, Engineer, go to Headquarters, be a Sector liaison, be a part of NORAD staff, Overseas liaison. The list goes on an on. After that, most hope to command an Air Station somewhere.

    It will all depend on how the first part of your career went. Some stations are four years, some are three, you might even have done two years somewhere. Because of that different people will see different things at different times in their career. The best advice I can provide is enjoy it all and remember that your career will go as far as you want to take it.

    This was very long. Sorry but I do wish you Good luck.

    kirkalandUser is Offline
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    kirkaland

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    19 Feb 2020 03:08 PM
    As a DCA expect 3 flying tours. Coast Guard does not have interim PCS assignments like CCC or ILE. Those 3 tours should put you at 20. If you want to continue in the CG expect to do a staff tour of some kind at that point to be competitive.
    wannabeecoastieUser is Offline
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    wannabeecoastie

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    25 Feb 2020 11:43 AM
    Great thank you for the replies. But with this timeline, I should except 3 tours, each 3-4 years long?
    kirkalandUser is Offline
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    kirkaland

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    25 Feb 2020 04:04 PM
    Posted By wannabeecoastie on 25 Feb 2020 12:43 PM
    Great thank you for the replies. But with this timeline, I should except 3 tours, each 3-4 years long?

    Yes. 4 years for most tours, 3 years for OCONUS and HITRON.
    kylehin93User is Offline
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    kylehin93

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    13 Apr 2020 04:18 PM
    I've seen older threads discussing waivers for remaining ADSO years from flight school and I'm curious if anyone has submitted and/or been approved for a waiver to leave Army Aviation early in order to transition to Coast Guard Aviation? If so what was that process like as you also completed your application to the DCA program. I'm seeing the over strength of Army junior officers and manning shortage of USCG aviators and to me it makes sense that one service would be willing to help the other during this time.

    If I'm reading AR 614-120 right it states that "No Army officer will be approved for an inter-service transfer until all service obligations incurred, under the provisions of AR 350-100, AR 351-3 and AR 27-1 have been completed." But then I've also read in DOD Instruction 1300.04 that "Additional military service performed after such transfer will be counted toward fulfillment of a previous obligation."

    Which makes me think that a transfer is possible with years remaining on ADSO. Any insight on previous experiences is greatly appreciated.
    sardaddyUser is Offline
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    sardaddy

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    14 Apr 2020 07:37 AM
    In the past, I have seen pilots be able to leave the Army before their ADSO for other service programs but that does not mean they are doing it now.

    I will say, it has nothing to do with one service trying to help the other. It has everything to do with ONE person somewhere in the chain who wants to determine the meaning of the reg their way. Your job is to find a way to convince them your interpretation is the right one.

    I had that happen to me a couple of times and saw it happen multiple times. We all think it is this big military machine that is driving the train when literally one person is making the decision.

    One quick story to prove the point. When I left the Army, I was at Ft. Campbell and went to the central outprocessing point to get my DD214. It noted that I owed two years to the IRR even though I served 10 years of active duty. Clearly wrong. I had exceeded the initial eight year requirement two years prior. The civilian who had written the DD214 told me that I owed two additional years because I had gone to flight school and needed to pay that time back.
    She insisted I needed to sign it as is and I insisted she needed to provide a regulation noting her position. To shorten a very long story, things went back and forth for many days before senior leadership, that I went to, showed her the error of her ways. She never went to anyone else to see if she was right the entire time. She simply went with her gut.

    Those are the people you have to fight in order to get what you need. Know the regs, have them on your side, and find the right people to help you. Good luck.

    kirkalandUser is Offline
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    kirkaland

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    21 Apr 2020 09:12 PM
    It's highly unlikely that the Army will release you prior to your adso being completed. Perhaps if the Army goes into a draw down mode.

    Also DCA isn't an interservice transfer. If it were you couldn't be bumped down in rank. It seems like it is but I think an interservice transfer is a kind of unicorn where the Army sends you to another service for the genuine benefit of both services. I don't know of specific instances but i suppose it could happen.

    DCA involves you getting out of your current branch (ETSing) and commissioning in a new branch. Really the only parties that benefit are you and the Coast Guard.
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