One of the lesser-known secrets of flying for the military is that you can get started with the National Guard or Reserve. Although getting accepted into one of these units can be a much tougher road, it can be a great opportunity to fly as a military aviator while maintaining your civilian life. You also have the benefit of knowing ahead of time which aircraft you’ll be flying.

As an example, one man took this route and began his career flying for a National Guard unit. He went first to an Officer Basic course and then to flight school. The day he graduated, he was both working as a civilian commercial pilot and flying as a National Guard aviator during evenings and weekends.

He was able to get more flight time than his active-duty fellow classmates during the first five years of his flying career. As both a National Guard and Reserve aviator, he flew air assault, medical evacuation, and finally attack missions in various rotary-wing aircraft.

Although the structure of the Guard/Reserve program is different from the regular armed services, you can earn a healthy retirement by being a Reserve or National Guard aviator. Each state has at least one Air Force and one Army National Guard aviation facility with the most-modern aircraft in the inventory.

Your role as a Reserve or National Guard aviator is to be trained and ready to defend the nation when you’re needed. Quite a few pilots serving in the overseas theater are Reserve or National Guard aviators.