Stephen Coonts' Journal

Advice to Future Fighter Pilots

with 7 comments


I often get letters from young people asking what they should do in school to qualify for a career in military aviation. The military is a great place for any young person to start. It offers a decent salary, responsibility, travel and a chance to do some adventuring before shouldering the responsibilities that marriage and parenthood bring. The military is public service, literally: those who wear the uniform and obey the orders of our elected officials are servants of our republic. Yet the military, like college, is not a lifetime commitment. It is a commitment of a few years, which I assure you will pass all too quickly.

Is military aviation right for you? It is not an easy goal to achieve. To earn a seat in a military cockpit you must be dedicated to that objective and work like a slave to get there. Those who succeed are bright, well-educated, willing to work, willing to obey orders, and have a level of maturity that allows them to function in an adult world. This is no place for a person who hasn’t grown up, for the casual drug user, for the irresponsible or emotionally adrift. The system ruthlessly weeds out these people. Those who remain can do the job and want to do it. Consequently the fraternity of military aviators is one of the most exclusive in the world. Who your parents are and how much money they make counts for nothing. The only thing that matters is what you can do, if you can be trusted, if you are competent and capable.

Only you can decide if you want it badly enough. If you think you might want to go into the service someday, get a good education. Take the hard courses in school. Math, science and engineering courses are excellent preparation for the technical aspects of military aviation. Political science, history, and English literature are a solid foundation for the profession of military officer. A good education teaches you how to think, an accomplishment that will pay off in any walk of life.

In addition to getting a good education, you should stay physically active. Play varsity or intramural sports, stay fit, do not allow yourself to get fat. Develop your body as well as your mind. Stay away from drugs: there is no place whatsoever in the military for drug-users. People who casually disobey the law for a few hours of feeling good are not persons who can be relied upon when lives are at stake. They are dishonorable people, people whose emotions rule their lives. They cannot be trusted.

Do not get in trouble with the law. A criminal record has never been a recommendation for any career. The shrinking military can afford to reject applicants with criminal records. Selection for a program that leads to a commission has always been competitive and will become more so as the officer corps becomes smaller.

In summary, work hard in school and stay physically active. Do your best at everything you attempt. If you ever decide to apply to the military, your achievements in the classroom and on the athletic field will stand you in good stead. If you decide on a civilian career, they will be equally good currency there too.


Written by stephencoonts

November 5, 2009 at 2:58 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Enjoy your books. Of course you should recommend the A4- but I guess those days are gone. All the best Dave A4’s Forever USMC(Ret)– NC

    Dave Tierney

    November 20, 2009 at 9:31 am

  2. Mr. Coonts/Sir:

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Had spoken with Adm. Fetterman sometime ago regarding a worthy advanced project (fund raiser – art)and the acquistion of a Model B for the Museum. Plans for USMC/NAVY Centennial approaching.

    Can we talk?


    Joe Corvi

    The art can be found at

    We would like (plan) to include an A6.


    November 26, 2009 at 6:49 pm

  3. Your website looks really good. Being a blog writer myself, I really appreciate the time you took in writing this article.

    Tom Records

    January 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm

  4. Sir,

    I have just discovered your work and have finished reading “Flight of the Intruder” and “War in the Air” and I look forward to reading more very soon!

    I have noticed that in the two works I’ve read you are consistently treating trust, honor, and integrity as essential virtues of a naval aviator.

    The reason I make that observation is that I am a rising 1st class midshipmen at Annapolis and I’m involved in our honor program. I was wondering if you had any personal experiences from your service that you would be willing to share with me so that I might share it with the Brigade.

    Very Respectfully,

    R. Lee Watkins

    R. Lee Watkins

    May 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  5. Dear Mr. Coonts,

    I enjoy your books and thank you for the wise words above. In this age of PC few people speak with clarity about right and wrong.

    PS Write a third “Saucer” they’re great fun!

    Greg Pangburn

    January 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  6. I’d like to commend you for your concise and powerful comments regarding drug use. As a recent veteran of the US Army, I can attest to the negative qualities that tend to accompany those who choose such a path. I’ve never understood it, never will and see no reason to try.

    Oh, and love your books too 😉

    Jason in Florida

    February 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm

  7. Retired aviator myself and find your books are of the best. Still going through them as I find them. I notice our ages are very similar. Everything of the best for the future. J.W. (Pat) Pattersons South Africa


    October 12, 2011 at 1:17 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: