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Rated Preparatory Program paves new paths for Airmen seeking rated career fields

  • Published
  • By Nicholas J. De La Pena
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

More than 60 Airmen seeking pathways into rated career fields gained first-hand flying training experience and helped enable the U.S. Air Force to present a diverse set of mission-ready Airmen during the bi-annual Rated Preparatory Program held March 17–29, in Denton, Texas.

The primary goal of RPP is to educate Airmen in aviation fundamentals and provide hands-on flight experience, thereby enabling applicants to improve their AFOQT, TBAS and Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) scores and be more competitive for the Undergraduate Pilot Flying Training Board selections.  Each RPP cohort includes two, one-week sessions for RPP participants to receive approximately seven-and-a-half hours of flight and a minimum of two-and-a-half hours of simulator instruction with associated ground instruction.

The program provides an opportunity for Airmen from a variety of Air Force specialty codes and historically underrepresented groups to become rated officers as part of the Air Force Rated Diversity Improvement Initiative.

Pilots, combat systems officers, air battle managers and remotely piloted aircraft pilots are among the U.S. Air Force's rated career fields that RPP students can funnel into.

“This amazing program opens more doors for Airmen seeking to fulfill their dream of flying combat aircraft.  Investing in our own Airmen to reach their full potential is key to creating a force capable of deterring and defeating the pacing threat in this increasingly dynamic world,” said Col. Shaun Humphrey, Air Education and Training Command’s Rated Diversity and Talent Management Division deputy director.  “RPP provides foundational readiness and allows the Air force to explore various flying training methods to select and develop a diverse group of rated officers.  This highly successful program has led to over 140 students being selected for rated career fields for the Undergraduate Flying Training Board since 2019.”

Prior to RPP, Senior Airman Margaret Gerow, 8th Intelligence Squadron geospatial intelligence analyst from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, had never stepped inside a cockpit. Gerow says she enlisted with her bachelor's degree, an RPP requirement for enlisted applicants, and now aims to become a pilot, but already has her goals set even higher.

"Becoming an astronaut is part of my long-term career goals, and one of the best ways to do that is to get flight hours in the world's greatest Air Force," said Gerow.

At RPP, members from Civil Air Patrol provide one instructor pilot for every two students, paired as a team for the entirety of the course.

"It's an intense schedule filled with briefings to review weather, flight paths and pre-flight checks, all leading to each student having the opportunity to gain flying training in the cockpit," said Brett Kollar, CAP flight instructor. "We'll end the day on a flight simulator, a low-cost avenue to gain flight experience and accelerate the learning process.”

There’s also time built in for in-person interactions with representatives of Aviation Inspiration Mentorship, a program that is under Air Force Recruiting Service, Detachment 1. AIM mentors provide guidance and resources to help navigate obstacles when applying for undergraduate flying training and commissioning boards.

AIM mentors are comprised of Total Force Rated Officers, serve as role models and USAF representatives in highly engaging environments with the capability to continuously connect, and guide individuals on their desired pathways to rated career fields.

“As an AIM mentor, I’m here to share my story and help inspire RPP students to achieve their goals of becoming aviators in the U.S. Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Steve Kim, Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals Course instructor pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. “RPP students have an amazing opportunity to build their confidence by getting into the cockpit and learning from the experienced CAP flight instructors and also about rated career field operations.”

While completing RPP does not guarantee Airmen a rated position or selection from a commissioning board, students that complete the program and seek to become part of the Air Force’s rated officer corps will gain aviation experience and be more competitive.  Since inception of the program, participants in RPP have on average increased their AFOQT Pilot composite score by 22 and their PCSM score by 34, according to Col Humphrey.

For those interested in the RPP or for more information, email with “Attn: Rated Prep Program” as the subject line.