Thursday, February 09, 2006

Leadership: Officers or NCOs

February 6, 2006: Noting over half a century of U.S. Army success with warrant officer program, the U.S. Navy has decided to try it. Sort of. The navy has asked interested sailors to apply for 30 flying officer slots in patrol, electronic warfare and helicopter aircraft. These pilots would remain pilots their entire careers. Commissioned officers are expected to move on to leadership positions.[snip]

There’s a sense of déjà vu with this. The navy had NCOs flying aircraft early in World War II. Ever since, there’s been a controversy over whether all pilots (most of whom are highly trained warriors, not leaders, which is what officers are supposed to be) must be officers. At the start of World War II, the army air force (there was no separate air force yet) also enlisted pilots. These men were NCOs (“flying sergeants”) selected for their flying potential and trained to be pilots. Not leaders of pilots, but professional pilots of fighters, bombers and whatnot[snip]

What the navy is trying to do, besides experiment with the old “flying sergeants” arrangement, is address a shortage of pilots for combat support aircraft. Fighters are the most attractive aircraft for military pilots, but far fewer qualified people want to do the more unexciting work of piloting patrol aircraft and helicopters. The navy is also confronted with the coming generation of robotic aircraft. These UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) are usually controlled (when they are “flown” at all) from the ground. This job has been unattractive to pilots, and often NCOs are used (except by the air force, which has made some of its UAVs completely robotic so they could allow NCOs to push the buttons) to do this. Warrant Officers would be better suited to be career UAV operators.


Leadership

8 comments:

MikeLM said...

Don't know if Navy NCO pilots were that rare- I was a destroyer officer in the mid-50's and happened to spend a couple days flying as a right-seat passenger in a Navy-owned A-26 on GCI exercises around GTMO. The pilot was a CPO.

I had the impression that, in that period - obviously well after WW II - a fair number of pilots in the Utility Squadrons were NCO's. The UTRONs carried out training exercises for Ground Controlled Intercept trainees, target towing for gunnery exercises, and the like.

Maybe like using them for bus drivers instead of the race car drivers?

Mike

Kat said...

Well, looking at the full article, it looks like NCOs were phased out as pilots during the early to mid fifties. Certainly, by Vietnam, they indicate that all pilots in the Navy were officers.

I suppose, we shall have to ask a fly guy officer in the Navy to get the answer and I know just who.

Standby for an update.

Anonymous said...

Actually, no NEW enlisted pilots began in the Navy (or Coast Guard)much after WWII. I don't know the date they stopped letting enlisted in to flying programs. However, for those who were already pilots, duty continued until ???

I served with one Master Chief Greathouse at Coast Guard Air Station Mobile, Alabama, from 1972-1976. He'd enlisted at the end of the war and was in a race to 'outlast' the sole remaining Navy enlisted pilot.

I'm not sure who won that race....

Anonymous said...

I was a naval reservist at NAS Los Alimitos from 1958 until 1963 at which point I left for 2 yrs active duty. One day in 1959 or 1960 there was a buzz on the flight line that "the last enlisted pilot in the Navy" was taxiing to the ramp as pilot of an R5D. Sure enough he parked the plane and climbed out - a Chief AP. I don't remember his name or any further details, but he must have retired by the early 1970's or before. I never saw another AP before being discharged in 1965.

Former AT

Anonymous said...

My father was a navy enlisted pilot. AFCM(AP) John "pudge" Culbert. Retired in June of 1970 at NAS Miramar and was flying up to his retirement date. According to him there were 6 or 7 enlisted pilots still serving in the navy at the time of his enlistment.

Anonymous said...

I had the honor of starting my service in the US Navy with John Culbert and 4 or 5 of the remaining enlisted pilots. They were assigned to the base OMD at Miramar and I got to fly with all of them. They flew the R4D, UC-45J,
T-1A, and the UH-1, and "I" got flight pay as a crewman, ADJ-3...

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather, David Dale ("DD") Nichols, was an enlisted pilot in WWII. His name is among those listed at the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. What I would like to know is if anyone knows anything about the "Banshee Bangsters"--a flying troupe that was stationed in Virginia Beach after WWII. My grandfather was a member of that, and there exists a citation honoring him for being part of it. So far all searches for further information have come up empty. Anyone out there know anything about this?

Anonymous said...

I was stationed in NS Rota, Spain back in 1974-76 and had the privilege of making many a "milk-run" to Mildenhall, UK and the Canary Islands with one of those remaining MCPO pilots. His name escapes me at present but he flew the station C131. I can tell anyone that he commanded and got the respects of all flying officers on the base.