Real Answers from Real Pilots

Becoming an Airline Pilot with funky military history

Hello everyone!

I have a question about airline hiring.

I am 24 years old, currently hold a PPL with about 165 hours. I am interested in an ATP school and plan to enroll once I get my 1st class medical. I have an odd history I’m concerned about though.

I used to be in the Air Force, but I was only in for about 5 months (April 2019 to September 2019). I graduated basic training on time (June 2019), but during my technical training I had a medical concern which led me to being separated.

So when I was a child (around age 9) I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and was on medication but symptoms remitted and I came off the medication around age 12, no symptoms since. Fast forward to age 22 I start my process to join the Air Force. I told my recruiter all about this history, however I forgot to mention it when I went to MEPS. That night when I got back to my recruiter’s office, I told him about how I forgot to tell MEPS about it (I accidently answered '“No” to the question asking if I ever had a history of anxiety or depression), and he pretty much told me to not worry and that he would tell MEPS (turns out that never happened).

Fast forward to July 2019, I started to get really down on myself and was thinking that I made a very selfish decision to enlist after finding out my family back home was starting to struggle without me, as well as other new hardships I wasn’t aware of. Being an enlisted member, I couldn’t resign so I felt as though there was nothing I could do. So I sought out an on-base counselor to vent my frustrations and concerns. I eventually brought up that I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as a child, and then things started going downhill from there.

I was given an Entry Level Separation (not a discharge of any kind) and the narrative reason why I was separated was Fraudulent Entry because of how MEPS didn’t know about that child medical history and if they did they would not have let me enlist. Just simply having that history is disqualifying. Separation code: JDA, Reentry code: 2C

So I want to know is how much will this affect me once it’s time to be picked up by airlines? I read other forums and I know airlines usually will want to see a Member-4 copy of the DD214 because the regular Member-1 copy omits some information. I’ve wanted to become a commercial pilot ever since I was little and I don’t want this hiccup in my life to affect me. I don’t want to attend ATP, spend all the time, money, and effort just to not be able to find work afterwards because of this. I’m very concerned here. I know I can explain it out but I’m afraid I’ll still be discriminated against for this.

Any input will be appreciated, thank you in advance.

Anthony,

First you need to get your First Class Medical. You’ll have to disclose about your anxiety disorder so that might require some hoops to jump through.

When and if you make it to an airline interview expect to have a conversation about your separation. I have to say as someone who’s participated on interview there’s nothing “funky” about your military history. Here’s what I heard, “I wanted to enlist so I lied on my application but then after I changed my mind I conveniently remembered”. Now your story may be just as you told it I’m just telling you how it sounds.

In short you’ll need to take responsibility for what happened because nothing in your narrative sounds like you do.

Adam

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I’ve held a medical in the past with the FAA knowing about that child medical history so I’m not concerned about that.

Also my story is exactly as it sounds. I know in a nutshell it could come off bad, that’s why I explained it all out. If I was purposely lying or hiding anything I wouldn’t have told my recruiter about it. Not telling MEPS really was accidental. I fell into the habit of answering no to all of the tons and tons of medical questions that didn’t apply to me and I slipped up and answered no to the one question that did apply, but I didn’t catch my mistake until after I already left MEPS. Had I caught my mistake while still there, I would’ve had it corrected then. So the next best thing I thought would be to tell my recruiter about that after I got back to his office, and I did. Also you can change your mind about joining anytime until the day to ship out to basic training. Once you swear in on the day you ship out, then it’s too late, but anytime before that you can cancel. I do take responsibility for what happened, I should’ve been paying more attention.

I still have my question though. Having this in my history, do I have a realistic shot at being hired as a commercial pilot or should I not even try? Like I said, I don’t want to spend all the money, time and effort if I can’t get anything out of it because of this. I’ve been flying since I was 13 years old, I really don’t want this to go to waste.

Tony,

Having a “medical” and holding a First Class Medical are 2 very different things and not something you should take for granted.

Do you have a shot? As I said above, I believe you do as long as you take full responsibility for your actions. Blaming the recruiter for not telling MEPS and making statements like “I fell into the habit of answering no to all of the tons and tons of medical questions that didn’t apply to me and I slipped up and answered no to the one question that did apply” don’t reflect that. As an airline pilot attention to detail is critical. Blowing through a checklist and missing an seemingly unimportant item could cause you and your passengers to have a really bad day.

Finally you should be prepared for a response like mine. If you don’t like it and get more defensive and you’re sunk. Your whole narrative would sound a whole lot better if you simply said “I was young and really didn’t think it through. “I” made a foolish decision”.

Adam

Thank you so much for your response Adam, that really lifts my spirits. This was really the only thing I had that concerned me.

I do take full responsibility for what happened. I’m the reason why all this happened in the way that it did, and I plan on saying that in the interviews.

I just wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be something that’s automatically disqualifying before I started on the path to become a commercial pilot.

Thanks again!

Anthony

Anthony,

Your first step is to obtain a first class medical. Make sure that you have properly reported (if required) your anxiety disorder to the FAA. The FAA takes an equally dim view of such things, especially not reporting required items. This is a conversation for you to have with your AME.

I would also reach out to a few recruiting departments of regional airlines and ask them their thoughts on your situation. CommutAir is currently hiring, so I would probably start there.

To second Adam, you don’t need to “explain it out”. You just need to own responsibility for your omission and state what you have learned form this experience.

Chris