What branch of military best prepares you for FAA ATC?

MikeATC

Retired FAA, NATCA Member
Apr 3, 2009
1,230
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Nashville TN
Tom,
I agree that the Air Force is probably the best choice as to which branch will prepare you the best to become an FAA controller, followed by the Navy and Marine Corps. Regretfully in my over 24 years as an FAA controller I never had anyone that come out of the army make it to full certification. The reason that I thing that army controllers do poorly is because most of the bases only work helicopters, now the few army bases that have fixed wing and maybe flying clubs probably would do alright, but those are rare bases that work anything other than rotary wing.

The key is the more experience that you gain in the military, (tower and approach control) the better your chance of being successful in the FAA. So what this means is that you have to work hard to get assigned to towers that work a variety of traffic (just not cleared for take off or cleared to land stuff), with lots of pattern traffic, and try to get approach control certified somewhere, GCA experience is helpful but doesn't provide all the experience that you need.
 

planetalkerkp

Senior Member
Jun 15, 2008
190
1
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Alabama
Actually, The tower at Cairns is run exclusively by active duty controllers. The young troops do a great job too. Now to get back to topic, even though I got my start over three decades ago in the Army, if my son or daughter asked me which service would give an advantage in preparing for a career in the FAA, I would say to join the Air Force. Simply for the fact that you are more likely to work traffic with similar characteristics to the civilian world. As others have mentioned, the other services can be a bit of a crap shoot when it come to assignment after training. The thing to remember no matter where you are assigned, is to study hard, be prepared to train, and after you check out don't rest on your rating. Always look ahead to your goal of working for the FAA. Good luck.
I stand corrected!
 

P_to_the_R

Ruler of the Movement Area
Nov 19, 2008
521
1
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funkytown
I'll go with the AF for best preparation for the FAA as a service, based my experience on training controllers in the AF and FAA. However, it really matters what kind of operation you worked in regardless of military branch. Each branch has places where the operation will really prepare you for the FAA and some that are quite simple. I dont think that the AF gets its due for not being "pussies" as one guy put it earlier. To be a pussy or not depends on your job not your branch of service if we are going to decide to diminish each others service to our country. For example, a logistics officer/enlisted troop in the Army would probably seem like a pussy to the AF Combat Controller and Pararescueman, but then again, guys like that probably have more class and wouldnt say it.
 

zabnut

Senior Member
Jun 17, 2008
275
9
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Albuquerque
I will be totally honest with you guys. While I understand wanting to be best prepared for a long term career in the FAA, from what I have seen:

Any prior controlling experience is great for ATC outside of the military. Period.

Secondly, ANY prior military sets you up for a better chance at being successful in the FAA. I could list a ton of reasons but a few really stand out.

Proven to be able to take a harsh initial training environment (Boot camp)
Generally way above average discipline and dedication to the job.

I do think if you plan on being a controller later in life in the FAA, you should serve as one in the military if at all possible.

My point is don't bust someone for being a Marine, Army or Air Force. I personally don't see any branch stick out as the best.

I hear former military or better yet former military controller and they do like most of the rest. They are overwhelmingly successful. THAT is all I care about. Go into the branch that you want to go into, it prepares you for life, that's half the battle with the FAA.
 

Matty13

Senior Member
Jun 16, 2008
229
1
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P-R, don't get me wrong. I know there are AF folks who bust their ass in harm's way and go back for more. A buddy of mine was a PJ, nothing but respect for him.

It's the "all the benefits, none of the risks" types that chap asses.

The word was that when the AF would build a base, they'd put up dorms (not barracks, still cracks me up), recreation facilities, family housing, more recreation facilities, and run out of money to build an airport. They'd ask for more money and get it, because hey, the infrastructure's all in place. Need an airport. Don't know if it's true or not, but it's kinda amusing.
 

EricEmpire

Junior Member
Jun 23, 2009
89
0
6
Chicago, IL
Tom,
Regretfully in my over 24 years as an FAA controller I never had anyone that come out of the army make it to full certification.
I hear that a lot, but I have 4 friends who were stationed with me in Germany currently working in the FAA, 2 of which are CPCs. So I find it hard to believe that in my narrow experience of 5 years, I met 4 controllers who signed on with the FAA and are doing fine, while in 24 years you never saw a single one make it to certification. This may be true, but either the army training has increased recently to levels that more readily prepare controllers for FAA work, or you've seen a smaller spectrum of army controllers than I have and are making a quick judgement..
 

EricEmpire

Junior Member
Jun 23, 2009
89
0
6
Chicago, IL
There is a battallion of controllers at the ARAC?
The ARAC is civilians.

Cairns Tower is Active Duty Army controllers with a few civilians. Lowe tower is army with 2 civilians. The only basefield tower that is all civilian is Shell. All the stagefields and the two regional airports are all military.
 

Radium

Epic Member
Jan 14, 2009
1,988
8
38
Speaking of my subject of none of the risks:

Is the navy in more of harms way than the AF? I dont know much about the navy... but isnt the majority of your people on a ship/sub in a war zone? Seems like it would be much tougher to mortar/rocket a ship.
 

stasi2002

Junior Member
Feb 2, 2009
90
0
6
ZFW
AF could be dangerous 2...if you end up stationed in Baghdad, Balad, or somewhere crazy anything can happen! If you end up in a tower you are also the biggest target on the base!!!

AF has the best controllers. Not only are they better but they are less annoying than those navy people! Every navy person i met so far just wont stop talking about how great they are!!!!
!!!!
 

Max Power

Senior Member
Jun 16, 2008
201
1
18
It's the "all the benefits, none of the risks" types that chap asses.

The word was that when the AF would build a base, they'd put up dorms (not barracks, still cracks me up), recreation facilities, family housing, more recreation facilities, and run out of money to build an airport. They'd ask for more money and get it, because hey, the infrastructure's all in place. Need an airport. Don't know if it's true or not, but it's kinda amusing.
what risk is there in not having nice facilities? is living stateside in some barracks risky?

non AF people I've met love hearing how you dont bus your own trays in the AF chow halls, no shit, you actually just leave your trays on the table and go. Maybe its to reduce the risk of slipping and your fork sticking you?
 

Matty13

Senior Member
Jun 16, 2008
229
1
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Speaking of my subject of none of the risks:

Is the navy in more of harms way than the AF? I dont know much about the navy... but isnt the majority of your people on a ship/sub in a war zone? Seems like it would be much tougher to mortar/rocket a ship.
Not counting SeaBees, TACRON, LCAC crews, SEALs, and corpsmen, anyone on a Navy vessel is in harms way 24/7. Not only is projected power a huge target, but the operations themselves are pretty dangerous. The flight deck of a carrier is pretty risky place to be. No you can't mortar them, but you can mine the waters and fill a Boston Whaler with fertilizer while they're in port. The Navy is in harm's way with or without a war.

But hey, all of us on this board are controllers. I bet none of us here are Forward Combat Controllers, PJs, SEALs, Recon Rangers or Airborne.

I love how the AF guys get all defensive. It's the coddling conditions and the aforementioned "all the benefits, none of the risks" ATTITUDE that convince the rest of the military that everyone who joined the Air Farce was trying to avoid work. And when you don't bus your own trays, that contributes pretty heavily.

Do you guys clean anything on boot camp? Do your own ironing?

I will not say that every person in the AF is a pussy, but there are enough individuals that make the AF look pussified. Just as there are enough drunk sailors to make the whole Navy look like alcoholics.
 

DASAUTO

Banned
Mar 13, 2009
139
0
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Not counting SeaBees, TACRON, LCAC crews, SEALs, and corpsmen, anyone on a Navy vessel is in harms way 24/7. Not only is projected power a huge target, but the operations themselves are pretty dangerous. The flight deck of a carrier is pretty risky place to be. No you can't mortar them, but you can mine the waters and fill a Boston Whaler with fertilizer while they're in port. The Navy is in harm's way with or without a war.

But hey, all of us on this board are controllers. I bet none of us here are Forward Combat Controllers, PJs, SEALs, Recon Rangers or Airborne.

I love how the AF guys get all defensive. It's the coddling conditions and the aforementioned "all the benefits, none of the risks" ATTITUDE that convince the rest of the military that everyone who joined the Air Farce was trying to avoid work. And when you don't bus your own trays, that contributes pretty heavily.

Do you guys clean anything on boot camp? Do your own ironing?

I will not say that every person in the AF is a pussy, but there are enough individuals that make the AF look pussified. Just as there are enough drunk sailors to make the whole Navy look like alcoholics.
See...they brainwash you in the Navy!

Join the AF, we can think for ourselves...and I love not bussing my tray!

:)
 

atcguruaf

Rico Suave
Jan 4, 2009
1,377
0
36
Right here
Not counting SeaBees, TACRON, LCAC crews, SEALs, and corpsmen, anyone on a Navy vessel is in harms way 24/7. Not only is projected power a huge target, but the operations themselves are pretty dangerous. The flight deck of a carrier is pretty risky place to be. No you can't mortar them, but you can mine the waters and fill a Boston Whaler with fertilizer while they're in port. The Navy is in harm's way with or without a war.

But hey, all of us on this board are controllers. I bet none of us here are Forward Combat Controllers, PJs, SEALs, Recon Rangers or Airborne.

I love how the AF guys get all defensive. It's the coddling conditions and the aforementioned "all the benefits, none of the risks" ATTITUDE that convince the rest of the military that everyone who joined the Air Farce was trying to avoid work. And when you don't bus your own trays, that contributes pretty heavily.

Do you guys clean anything on boot camp? Do your own ironing?

I will not say that every person in the AF is a pussy, but there are enough individuals that make the AF look pussified. Just as there are enough drunk sailors to make the whole Navy look like alcoholics.
I think what you meant to say was there are enough sailors to make the whole Navy look like a bunch of homos.... friggin nametags on your ass... wtf is that? Guess it gives the guy behind you something to look at.

No matter what branch you choose, each will have its own nuances. Each branch has its "staples" for controlling, but I'm willing to bet that, overall, there are busier bases in the AF and Navy. One thing about the Navy though is that you may learn a whole different type of phraseology, especially if stationed on a carrier. Not that it would be difficult to relearn phraseology, but it's just one of the Navy's nuances.

If you want your best chance at controlling relatively busy traffic, join the AF or the Navy. Before all you Army and Marine folk get your panties in a bunch, yes, you guys have a few busy/complex bases. HOWEVER, again, because there are MORE busy bases in the USAF and USN, you have a greater chance of actually controlling planes. There is no guarantee that you will get assigned to a busy Army or Marine base, given that there are so few.

Yes, I'm partial to the AF because I was in it. But in my 10 years, I've encountered controllers from all branches... via my military and civilian career. Here's the ranking system I choose: AF, Navy, Marines, Army, specifically for controlling only, not about chest thumping and egos.

If you're specifically looking for controlling, then I say AF. Reason being is quality of life. Living on base, having your own room, stove, etc. was nice, not to mention it was a really relaxed environment, not at all what I thought I was getting into. If you want to travel but still control, I recommend Navy. If you want to be a badass and control, then Marines. If you just want to join the military and want to maybe travel but really aren't concerned with the air traffic aspect, join the Army.

I let everyone talk their trash. In the end, we each served our purpose. At Nellis (base 2) for example, we'd bring in aircraft from all over the world, including every US military branch. We provided essential training to foreign branches, not to mention the aircraft that deployed.

In the Navy, ya, you may end up at a more "forward" location, aka the ocean.

I'm rambling..... regardless, any branch is still serving. So what I had to have 12 hours between shifts and I could only work 6 days in a row, MAX... so what our bases shut down and we got 2 weeks off (free leave) for Xmas/New Year's... So what Army and Marine folk looked forward to eating in our chow halls...

Ya, I deployed to Kuwait, but it was still a good quality of life. We stayed in tents, but the locals were finishing building modulars for the AF to stay in while other branches stayed in tents.

I still served honorably and the mission was still accomplished in the end. I'm a VERY proud ex-Chair Force member.
 

P_to_the_R

Ruler of the Movement Area
Nov 19, 2008
521
1
18
funkytown
It is not good to diminish each others service to this country. Each branch has its mission and each branch has career fields that are not necessarily in harms way. The base/camp/fort/NAS is the most important when trying to transition successfully into the FAA. The operation's complexity and traffic count is what counts. Remember, there are 300 million plus people in this country and only approximately 20 million veterans total, which includes all prior service members and those still serving. We should be making fun of each other because it is fun. We can all tell the difference between someone busting balls and someone that is a giant d-bag. Merry Christmas!
 

Max Power

Senior Member
Jun 16, 2008
201
1
18
so is there a anti military attitude at any of your facilities? I'm at a lower level up/down and there is, I'm curious how it is throughout the FAA. Its not necessarily anti military but essentially your military time ment nothing as far as ATC goes and you had to go through the 80's screen to be a good controller.
 

Matty13

Senior Member
Jun 16, 2008
229
1
18
ATCgoogooAF- The nametags were added so the AF girls would remember who just delivered hours of quality pipe-laying they couldn't get on their own base.

The best thing about the AF- girls.:hugs:


I keed, I keed. We love having the AF guys around, makes the rest of us look Chuck Norris tough by comparison. :puff:

Shipboard phraseology shouldn't have much to do with phraseology at an NAS, unless there's mission-specific carrier qual practice going on, or carrier suitability. Otherwise, I agree with your post, with the exception that the Navy's busier facilities tend to be located near the FAA's busier areas, which exposes the potential controller to the way business is done in the FAA.
 

atcguruaf

Rico Suave
Jan 4, 2009
1,377
0
36
Right here
If 100 seamen go down beneath the carrier deck, what do you get when they come back up? 50 couples. haha...

For those of you non-military folk (before we get carried away), bear in mind we're all just pulling each other's chain. The thought goes (at least the way I've come to understand it), is that military branches can bash on other branches, that's just the way it goes and we all have an understanding (probably except for in the bar when we all get drunk).

If you're not military, then you shouldn't be saying anything. Yes, I know nothing's been said, but I think we can go on and on about how the Navy's gay, the Marines are stupid, the Air Force is lazy, and the Army were not dumb enough for the marines, but not smart enough for the Air Force.

Just thought I'd clear that up for any future posts ;)

Oh and Matty, yes, AF girls are hot.... especially when you've just come off a ass-pounding ship where all you had to look at was joe schmoe's face and ass all day. I know I had my option between AF girls, college, local, strippers, etc. Oh, and who do you think took care of all your women while you were out to sea? We had to my friend. Given that we just worked 8 hours a day and went home, we had plenty of time and did you the favor of taking care of the girlfriend/spouse! So you're welcome. haha...

I know the AF has class B, C, and D surface areas. As well as the only facility where you can obtain a center qualification. We also bunched right up to FAA facilities, busy ones too. So yes, we too are very familiar with FAA rules and procedures.

And yes, we make you look like Chuck Norris.... a very man-loving Chuck Norris.... haha