If you are looking for an Air Force career that involves lots of flight time and travel, then this Air Force specialty may be just right for you.
Some of the duties and responsibilities that go along with being an Air Force In-Flight Refueler include:
- Participates in aircrew briefings
- Has to be able to do calculations for weight versus balance and other important load data to help ensure safe aircraft operation
- As part of an aircrew has set duties and responsibilities such as doing preflight, through-flight, and post-flight inspections checks
- Performs in-flight refueling aircrew duties including boom operation
- Communicates with the pilot and receiver aircraft from start to finish during a fuel offloading procedure
- Monitors all instrumentation for proper operation during aerial refueling
- Plays a role in aircraft loading and offloading
- Has to be able to maintain control in the event of an in-flight refueling emergency situation and act according to set safety protocols
- Documents all activity that takes place under their control during loading, preflight, through-flight, and post-flight activities
Being an Air Force In-Flight Refueler can be an exciting and rewarding position for those that pay attention to detail and know how to communicate effectively.
That’s what it takes to bring two aircraft together for purposes of aerial refueling that are flying at 100’s of miles an hour at over 20,000 feet up in the air.
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Air Force In-Flight Refueler Requirements and Qualifications
Here are the basic qualifications and other parameters one must meet in order to start training to become an Air Force In-Flight Refueler:
- High School Diploma
- GED with 15 college credits
- Minimum ASVAB Score of 55 in the general category
- Be between the ages of 17 and 39
- Height must be between 64 inches and 77 inches – no exceptions
- Have normal color vision and depth perception
- Be able to lift 40 lbs.
- Meet all other physical qualifications for aviation service
- Having background knowledge of electronics is much desired but not required
- Successful completion of 8.5 weeks of Air Force Basic Military Training held at Joint Base Lackland in San Antonio, TX (Not required of those with prior military experience or training)
- Must take the steps necessary to maintain eligibility to deploy and mobilize worldwide on a moment’s notice.
- Completion of a current Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI)
Once all of these conditions have been met and only then can an airman continue on to technical training school to become an Air Force In-Flight Refueler.
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Air Force In-Flight Refueler Training and Career Path
An airman that has just completed Air Force basic training does not have to go far for schooling for this air force enlisted position.
That’s because it’s held at the very same base where Air Force basic training is conducted.
Air Force Technical Training Information
Technical Training to become an Air Force In-Flight Refueler takes place right at Joint Base Lackland in San Antonio, TX.
This position will greatly appeal to those who like hands-on training more than they like schooling.
That’s because this Air Force technical training school is one of the shortest that the Air Force has to offer.
It lasts less than 4 weeks in total.
Approximately half of the way through technical training school an Airman will be made aware of their next duty station.
On the Job Training
Once someone has successfully passed the training course for this Air Force specialty, they will then head to their next duty assignment to begin several weeks of intense on the job training.
It must be noted that those in the position of Air Force In-Flight Refueling specialists are affectionately known as ‘boom operators’.
This is definitely an Air Force Specialty where someone learns much more by doing than by studying informational material.
It’s one of the reasons this Air Force job appeals greatly to some individuals who are not particularly fond of studying from books and other informational sources.
During this time the enlisted member will observe and practice aerial refueling with a seasoned veteran at this Air Force Job task.
These on the job training sessions may be conducted with simulators or in actual aircraft.
The length of the on the job training period depends on each individuals pace of learning and their supervisor’s confidence that they are ready to do the job on their own.
Also during this time, the enlisted member will learn how to do the associated paperwork that comes with the position and the way that communication takes place between the pilot and the incoming refueling aircraft.
How Much Are Air Force In-Flight Refueler’s Paid?
Despite the fact that this is a demanding position that requires an extreme amount of hand-eye coordination and precision, there are no special pay provisions that come with the position.
The position falls under the Air Force’s basic pay scale as dictated by the US Government.
Additional pay will, however, be given in the form of initial rank increases to those with appropriate schooling or that meet other job-related experience requirements.
Related Article: Air Force Ranks And Pay
The highest starting rank for an incoming enlisted Air Force In-Flight Refueler would be the rank of E-3 (Airman First Class).
Typically, all enlisted Air Force personnel who are new to the military will have a starting pay grade of somewhere between an Airman Basic (E-1) to Airman First Class (E-3).
The pay scale for enlisted members with less than two years of prior military experience is as follows:
Airman Basic (E-1): $1,680.83/Month
Airman (E-2): $1,884.09/Month
Airman First Class (E-3): $1,982.27/Month
This is what’s considered to be take-home pay.
Take home pay increases are done based on time in rank and qualifying test scores against peers of the same rank.
The more time in rank a person has the better chance they can advance in rank with a lower test score.
Miscellaneous Pay and Incentives
There is some opportunity for a good amount of miscellaneous pay that comes with being an Air Force In-Flight Refueler.
This list includes:
- Housing allowance for those that live off base (BAH)
Related Article – Basic Allowance For Housing (BAH) Calculator
- Subsistence allowance (Food – BAS)
- Temporary duty pay
- Hazardous duty pay
- Flight pay
Of course, all of the necessary health care that any enlisted member needs are 100% paid for with no out of pocket expenses in the majority of cases.
What’s Life Like as an Air Force In-Flight Refueler?
This is an Air Force specialty that is more suited for an adrenaline junky than it is for an enlisted member that wants a quiet home family life.
As a matter of fact, those Air Force enlisted members that do not like frequent travel on sometimes short notice should avoid entering into this Air Force specialty altogether.
Recruiters may also discourage those with families from entering into the position of an Air Force In-Flight Refueler.
So if you have a wife and family you may want to strongly consider choosing another career path in the Air Force.
This is a position that requires many flying hours each week and those on refueling aircrews can expect frequent temporary duty assignments to locations all over the world.
It definitely is not one of those Air Force job specialties that provide for somewhat normal living conditions even in peacetime.
When not on temporary duty assignments or flying, being an Air Force In-Flight Refueler does entitle an airman to take advantage of enlisted member on and off base privileges.
- The opportunity to participate in based sponsored sports and recreation
- The ability to take advantage of reduced price on base shopping facilities
- Use of the gyms, sports courts, bowling, swimming and golf facilities that exist on many large Air Force Installations
- Weekly days off and 30-days leave with pay each year
- Enlisted personnel are allowed to attend college courses in their off time in pursuit of a college degree
Those who have served as an active duty Air Force In-Flight Refueler have generally had positive things to say about their experience.
Here is what former boom operators/loadmasters had to say about their experiences on Indeed.com:
Ex-Air Force In-Flight Refueler Civilian Career Opportunities
Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks with this Air Force specialty is there is very little need for it in the civilian job market.
That’s because at the present time there are very few civilian aircraft that do or require aerial refueling capabilities.
Because of this, it’s definitely a better AFSC choice for those that are almost certain they want to enjoy a long career in and eventually retire from the Air Force.
There are a few civilian job positions that could use the background that one gains from being an Air Force In-Flight Refueler.
They are as follows:
- Apply for one of the limited positions around the world that need aerial refueling experts
- Manage or supervise ground-based refueling operations
- Oversee the loading and unloading of domestic and cargo aircraft
Companies that have been known to hire ex-Air Force In-Flight Refueling specialists for civilian positions include:
- Omega Aerial Refueling Services Alexandria, VA (One of the few companies that actually does aerial refueling operations all across the world)
- Air Force/Air Force Reserve (for training purposes in most cases) Various Locations
- Northrop Grumman Melbourne, FL
- Sallyport (Some military subcontracted aerial refueling services) Fort Lee, VA
- UPS Atlanta, GA
- FedEx Memphis, TN
- DHL San Francisco, CA
Typical starting pay for these jobs varies widely and is based on such things as experience, duty location, job difficulty, and if it’s done as part of a military subcontracting position in an area of the world that’s considered hostile.