Questions about being a Guard pilot with a civilian career?

I am exploring my options in the future and with flying. I am considering applying to Air Guard and Air Force reserve fighter units to become a fighter pilot. I also want to get a degree in mechanical engineering and become an Aerospace engineer. I hear about how common it is for people in military reserve status to have a civilian career on the side. How difficult would this be? What potential problems can I run into?

I know that USERRA protects you from being fired just because you are gone a lot but I read somewhere where attendance can be a loophole. I was thinking that since I am applying to fighter units, I would not have this problem because fighter units fly a lot less than heavy/bomber units. What I would really have to worry about is the time it takes to finish UPT and all training.

Are there any users on this site doing this who can chime in? My ultimate dream, is to become an astronaut and feel like I should be accomplishing challenges like this because trying to be an astronaut is challenging and it would be good thing for NASA to to see. Should I just do one or the other and just follow along with what I want to do more? I'm in a dilemma because they are both cool. Both are very unrealistic but astronaut is even more so. Fighter pilot has too many unpredictable variables that can happen so both ways have their downsides.

Another reason I wanted to become a fighter pilot is because I specifically want to become a NASA astronaut mission pilot which requires at least 1000 hours PIC flight hours. The thing with going down this route is the unpredictability and various things that can happen. The unit I would be in could be BRAC'd, they could switch airframes, which would affect my civilian career, and my civilian employment would be second to the military.
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If you are going to worry at all, make it about getting selected first. No sense in creating stress about a unique situation for you now.

In short, yes you have protection from USERRA, but you also have an employee handbook to adhere too. In the future its essentially strategy working with your employer for Military leave. Knowing your employers policies on Mil Leave is recommended so you play by their rules to the extent you need to protect your job and employer relations.


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USAF might be different than my service, but I've never heard of a reserve component/guard person getting picked up for Test Pilot School (TPS). At least on the USN/USMC side, just graduating incurs a somewhat lengthy additional active duty obligation. I only mention this because I am assuming that TPS grad is another requirement to be a "NASA Mission Pilot". My gut feeling is that if you want to wear astronaut pilot wings at some point, the active duty route is probably what you need to be thinking about.

Paging Hook_dupin......believe he is an active USAF TPS grad/test guy who recently applied to the astronaut program as well, if my memory serves me correctly


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Are you in the Guard or not? Some of your previous posts over the last year indicate that you are an enlisted airman in the Guard now. And trying to figure out how to become an airline pilot, go to college, double major in aviation science and engineering and want to be an astronaut and want to be a fighter pilot but not want to be in the military.

Its definitely understandable that you don't really know what to do at your point in life.

If what you want is to be an astronaut, then I assume you've done the research to be an astronaut and know that the two ways to become an astronaut is through the military and applying directly with NASA as a civilian.

Military Selection Procedure for the astronaut program

Though it does appear that many of the recent class of astronaut candidates did come from the military.

Navy's astronaut selection webpage (from the 2013 selection board.)

The interesting thing about the Navy's astronaut selection webpage is that 162 Navy officers were selected for the 2013 astronaut class. Most were pilots (131x) or naval flight officers (132x), more than a handful of submariners (112x), less than a hand full of ship drivers (111x), some were general unrestricted line (18xx), there's a few SEALs in there (113x), medical officers (210x) a medical service officer (230x) and one Navy Reserve naval aviator (1317).

Of the 162 officers the Navy selected for the astronaut program, NASA selected two - a naval aviator (131x) and an aerospace engineering duty officer (151x) from the 2013 selection board.

The only Naval Academy graduate in the 2013 astronaut class didn't come from the Navy, she came from the Marine Corps as an F-18 fighter pilot.

In any case, even if the military selects you for the astronaut program, NASA has the final say and lumps all of the military applications in with the civilian applications.

Just read the biographies of the latest class, most of the military candidates were graduates of a test pilot school, most of the civilian candidates have PhDs. So do what you need to do to get the credentials to be an astronaut - airline pilot doesn't seem to be one of the credentials. I think several of the candidates don't have the 1000 jet PIC. One of them is only a glider pilot. They have at least 3 years of professional related experience instead of the jet PIC.

One of the Navy officers selected in the 2017 astronaut class is not a pilot, instead she's a submariner who did strategic deterrence patrols hiding in the ocean.

It's more than just being a military test pilot school graduate. Everyone who applies for the astronaut program and survives the initial cuts bring more to the table.

An interview transcript with the Manager of Astronaut Selection about the 2017 candidate class and how they narrowed the field from 18,000 applications, to 120, to 50, and then 12.
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I’ll take a shot at this. I’m an Aerospace Engineer by education who is in the ANG with a fighter slot (albeit have not left for training yet), work in the flight test biz as a back seater, and applied to the last astronaut board.

My advice would be to not drive all your career decisions based solely on improving your perceived skill set for astronaut. Do what you want, do it well, and apply when you are qualified. The military trained test pilot fighter guy is not the traditional path to NASA any more, albeit a viable one. There are many paths to take.

ANG/Reserve are technically eligible for AFTPS. I’ve “heard” of ANG folks getting selected and going but it’s rare. I wouldn’t bank on it.

Your comment about fighter units flying less than heavy/bomber units in the ANG/Reserve is not necessarily true . Heavy/bomber units may fly more hours every month but the required amount of days to actually be at the squadron for currency at a fighter unit probably more.

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Not intending to hijack this thread but I'm curious how the Guard or Reserves is for a pilot who is in a civilian career that is not aviation related. I'm interested in applying for a pilot slot with either (the goal would be to fly heavies), my civilian career is medical related. I'm 25 years old. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.