The military is full of traditions, and each branch does things a little differently. We cling to that which is familiar for us, and for those of us in a flight community, we cling especially hard to the aircraft our service member flies. Aircraft transition can cause anxiety and excitement, just like a PCS or promotion.
The flight community is a very different one. There’s a different set of worries, schedules, and acronyms that are unique to the aircraft platform. From fixed wing to rotary, there are similarities and differences. From one branch to another there are things alike and things so different we wouldn’t even understand what another family is saying—even if their service member flew the same thing.
Friendships are strong in the flight community, and though they often cross the flight lines, our spouse’s jobs are completely different. When faced with the idea of transitioning to a different aircraft, there are so many things to consider. It’s sort of like moving to a foreign country, you almost need someone to help you through it. Like all changes in life, it comes down to expectation management and communication. Learning to manage aircraft transition expectations is a team—and family—effort.
This transition piece is written by a Marine Corps spouse, and may not reflect the same experience a pilot’s spouse has in another branch. If you have experienced aircraft transition as a family and want to share your story, we’d love to hear it!
Is Transitioning to A New Aircraft an Option?
With the amount of paperwork, endorsements, and deadlines your spouse may find completing the transition package can be daunting. But many say the package itself is the most daunting part of the process.
When the rumors of the release date for the MarAdmin—the message stating what is available and whe—start circulating, you may start walking around on eggshells. The anticipation is terrible! Once released, your pilot can see the available slots and your (always tentative) future plans may change with whatever it says.
The MarAdmin comes out at various times, during our transition year it was April. My husband was a Huey pilot wanting to transition to C-130s. Then the MarAdmin stated that there were only three available slots for C-130 transition pilots. He was still set on submitting a transition package. You could say my aircraft transition expectation was there would be no aircraft transition. Three available slots is not a lot.
Which Aircraft are Available for Transition?
The requirements for a transition package are listed online, and there really aren’t any minimums for military transitions when it comes to hours. You do have to have 18 months time in station—you must have been part of your current fleet for at least 18 months. The package must be completed to include a recommendation from a Colonel. This can be a hard conversation as your spouse has to tell their command that they no longer want to fly the platform.
This conversation is hard for anyone looking to leave a unit or a job. It takes confidence to say, “I really would prefer something else.” This person could say “no” and it would add a significant amount of stress and panic in getting the package complete. Also, once the command knows that you don’t want to be there they could easily make life quite miserable. If your spouse does not get selected for one of the positions, it is possible that their work environment will change.
Managing Aircraft Transition Expectations
When the anticipation finally ends—it takes anywhere from two to eight weeks to find out— you’ll find out whether your spouse has been selected or not. If selected, orders are usually cut quickly. If transitioning to C-130s, orders will send your family to one of two places, either MCAS Miramar, CA or MCAS Cherry Point, NC.The program is approximately 6 months so it is a brief stop, but it is a busy time with a heavy course load for your spouse.
This training will be your first exposure to the new dynamics of a different platform. Your spouse will learn new acronyms, which means you will too! They’ll probably enjoy the excitement of learning about a new platform, which really helps you transition as well. It’s always easier when they are happier at work.
Once the training is complete C-130 pilots really only have three duty station options. Those include Iwakuni, Japan, MCAS Cherry Point, and MCAS Miramar. You will receive new orders again to join one of these fleets and away you’ll go. The C-130 community is very small, but with that comes great support and community.
If you and your spouse are feeling like a platform transition could be the right move for your family then you should try. The worst they can say is “no” and then you can always try again next year. Get out there and take chances to improve your quality of life. But remember, communication is the key to managing those aircraft transition expectations—for both of you.
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Photo Credit: Eastern Sky Photography-NC