The Coast Guard, which is a comparatively lesser known wing of the Armed Forces is in reality one of the most active, as its duties mainly include every aspect of coastal security. As helicopters are more versatile than aircraft, they play a significant role in the Coast Guard as they can operate at speeds slow enough to nab a motor boat or to conduct search and rescue operations. If a life of adventure appeals to you and you like to be driven by challenges, you could consider becoming a helicopter pilot in the coast guard.
How to go about becoming a helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard
- Become an Officer in the Coast Guard: You need to become a Coast Guard officer as only officers can become pilots. However you need to have a college degree before you can become an officer. After getting your degree, the next step is to find a place in the Coast Guard Academy for officer candidate training. This duration of the course is four years where you will be taught about seamanship, leadership and other important skills necessary for a coast guard officer along with the regular academics. In return, you would have to offer obligatory service in the Coast Guard for the next 5 years.
The other way to get commissioned into the Coast Guard is by attending Coast Guard Officer Candidate School (OCS). During this 17 week course, you will be tested in every aspect for suitability for this cadre – mentally, physically and even academically. This course necessitates you to make a 3 year bond of mandatory service in the Coast Guard.
Some people also become officers via direct commission programs where people with special skills are granted commission as recognition of their expertise in their field.
- Physical Fitness test: You will have to undergo a thorough medical check-up by a Coast Guard Flight Surgeon. Your general state of health and entire medical history will be reviewed and suitability for the rigours of flying will be assessed. This happens to be one of the toughest stages in the application process and it is here that many candidates get eliminated.
- Naval Flight Training: Sometime during your first four years as officer, you would need to apply for a seat in Naval Flight Training. There is tough competition and many candidates have to apply several times before obtaining a slot. You need to have performed remarkably well in your course and earned a high grade which will maximize your chances of getting selected for the naval flight training course
- If you get through to the Naval Flight training, you will be reporting to Pensacola Florida where you will undergo training with officers from all three wings. The two year intensive training is extremely challenging and includes academics and flight lessons. At the culmination of this arduous training, you will earn your wings as a Coast Guard Aviator.
- Transition Course: However your real journey as a coast guard helicopter pilot will begin only after you attend a transition course at the Coast Guard Aviation Training centre. Here you will need to qualify in the aircraft freshly assigned to you and finally, you will achieve your designation as a Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot.
What does the job of a Coast Guard Helicopter pilot involve?
Some of the duties of helicopter pilots in the coast guard include:-
- Performing search and rescue operations: finding and saving missing persons at sea, retrieving lost property at sea and render emergency aid to people while in flight
- Provide transportation: It is their duty to transport Coast Guard personnel and cargo to military bases or other places as per the requirement.
- Conducting patrol missions to protect all national ports, fisheries and to nab smugglers, curb drug trafficking via sea, maintain vigil for maritime terrorist activity
- Assist and provide every support in case of natural calamities like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and also in times of man- made disasters like oil spills
- Miscellaneous duties: These include maintaining lighthouses and other navigational aids, flying personnel, equipment and relief to locations that would otherwise be impossible to access
Now that you are well familiar about how to become a helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard and if you believe that you have what it takes, go on and brace yourself for a thrilling but extremely satisfying career ahead of you.