A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter takes off after unloading a team in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (Army)
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Calling all Army aviators: Now is the time to go spec ops. Army Special Operations Aviation Command is seeking helicopter pilots and aviation officers to fill critical slots in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and to keep up with the overall high demand for Army pilots.
In fiscal year 2013, the command is looking for about 300 applicants.
The recruiting effort will continue at least through fiscal 2015, when the command hopes to reach 90 percent of the 160th's authorized strength, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Witzler, the command chief warrant officer for Army Special Operations Aviation Command, said.
"The 160th has received authorizations for personnel growth, and the regiment already has the additional helicopters and equipment on hand and is employing them in combat," Witzler said. He said the unit is now operating at 75 percent of authorized personnel strength.
This unit growth, coupled with low recruiting numbers because of the high deployment tempo for Army aviators, has made it difficult for the command to grow at the desired rate, Witzler said.
"Special operations aviation capability is a precious resource that the nation has asked the Army to build," Witzler said. "You only need to read the paper to understand the contributions [special operations aviation] is making on the battlefield and across the globe every day. Demand for [this] capability has never been higher, and current manning levels make meeting our operational commitments a concern," Witzler said.
As outlined in a personnel message released in September, the command is seeking aviation warrant officers in these military occupational specialties:
• 152 — Scout/attack helicopter pilot
• 153 — Medium lift/utility helicopter pilot
• 154 — Heavy lift/cargo helicopter pilot
The command also is seeking aviation captains, MOS 15B.
There is no minimum rank or experience requirement, but the command is targeting aviation warrant officers in the grade of chief warrant officer 2 who have completed their first assignment or combat deployment, Witzler said.
As for the aviation captains, the command is seeking officers who are preparing to attend the captain's career course, as well as captains who have completed a company command, he said.
Once an application is submitted, it will take three to four months of processing before that soldier finds out if he or she will be given the opportunity to assess for the elite 160th, also known as the "Night Stalkers."
If the candidate is offered an assessment, he or she will go to Fort Campbell, Ky., where the unit is based, for a one-week assessment, Witzler said.
"Night Stalkers are not made overnight," he said.
Candidates who pass the weeklong assessment will then attend Green Platoon, the initial training program that all future members of the 160th must go through, Witzler said. The training ranges from five weeks for nonaviation warrant and commissioned officers to six months for aviators, he said. This training includes advanced soldier skills followed by special operations helicopter and mission training.
To bring in the best, the 160th is offering a number of incentives not only to attract more applicants but also to retain those already in the unit, Witzler said.
He did not provide specifics but said applicants should contact the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion for more. "The primary incentive for all candidates is the opportunity to be part of the most cutting-edge aviation unit in the Army," he said.