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Spec ops aviation unit seeks female pilots, mechanics

Jul. 11, 2013 - 04:56PM   |  
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How to apply

Officers and warrant officers can contact the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion at 270-798-9819 or recruiters@soar.army.mil.
Enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers should visit the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion website, download the enlisted application, and submit the completed form to the 160th enlisted recruiter in their respective area or duty station.
The website is
www.sorbrecruiting.com/160th.htm
.

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is now recruiting women to be pilots and mechanics, the first special operations unit to do so.

This move, officially authorized June 19, is part of the Pentagon’s effort to open all military jobs to women. The 160th, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., is the Army’s elite special operations aviation unit.

“Women currently serve in enabling functions within special operations forces, so this is a natural transition as these aviation [military occupational specialties] are already open to women in the Army,” said Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher, commander of Army Special Operations Aviation Command.

The 160th is able to open its ranks to qualified women because the Defense Department eliminated the direct combat assignment rule, which barred women from being assigned to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.

The Army and U.S. Special Operations Command are still studying whether or how to open closed specialties and units, such as Special Forces and Rangers, to women.

Soldiers in the 160th typically deploy more frequently but for shorter periods, and they do most of their work at night, earning their Night Stalkers moniker. Much of what the unit does is dangerous, highly classified missions in support of special operations forces.

During a typical year, the regiment seeks to recruit about 350 officers or warrant officers and about 560 enlisted soldiers.

There is no quota for how many of those recruits should be women, Hutmacher said.

“The 160th will continue to recruit, assess, select and train the most highly qualified applicants who meet the stringent standards required to serve in this elite unit,” he said.

Fourteen women already serve in the 160th, and the unit will ensure a “sufficient” number of midgrade or senior officers and noncommissioned officers are in place to “ensure the future success of females in the 160th,” Hutmacher said.

The unit also will conduct enhanced sexual assault and harassment prevention training, to include group development activities, climate surveys and small group discussions, he said.

“Successful implementation relies on a phased approach that ensures leadership or cadre is in place before assigning junior soldiers, as well as reinforcing the Army values of dignity and respect,” he said. “The 160th is filling these newly opened positions with officer and noncommissioned officer leaders to pave the way for prospective junior soldiers.”

Hutmacher also said the assessment standards will not be changed for female candidates.

“Our standards have always been gender neutral and are what we have deemed necessary to perform operational requirements,” he said. “We will integrate women as expeditiously as possible without sacrificing war-fighting capability or the trust of the American people.”

Recruiters for the 160th are actively seeking candidates — male and female — in the officer, warrant officer and enlisted ranks, said Master Sgt. Tom Mattingly, the 160th’s recruiting NCO in charge.

The regiment is seeking pilots for the MH-6 Little Bird, MH-60 Black Hawk and MH-47 Chinook. The unit also is seeking officers in MOS 15B, aviation combined arms operations.

Among enlisted soldiers, the 160th is recruiting mechanics for the Little Bird, Black Hawk and Chinook. The target population is soldiers in E-1 through E-6, but sergeant first class candidates will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Mattingly said.

When they'll fly

It could be a while before a female pilot is flying for the 160th.

The recruiting and assessment process for aviators takes about a year, Mattingly said, and the officer then must attend Officer Green Platoon training.

“Once the officer begins OGP, he or she can expect to spend the next six months training before assignment to an operational line company,” he said.

Also, about 35 percent of aviator applicants successfully make it through training, Mattingly said.

“We have already had a handful of female aviators apply,” he said. “Applications are currently being accessed, and once favorably assessed, will be assigned training slots based on availability.”

The path for enlisted soldiers is a little bit shorter, but the process still takes at least four to five months from assessment and training to an assignment in an operational line company.

There are many benefits to serving in the 160th, Mattingly said, including flight pay, special duty assignment pay and opportunities for training.

“Our aviators, maintainers and support personnel receive the most advanced skills training the Army and special operations has to offer,” he said.

The 160th is growing as the Army shrinks the active force by 80,000.

The unit has openings in all aircraft and all three duty locations — Fort Campbell, Ky., Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Mattingly said.

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