KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
It isn’t often after 14 years, Airmen find themselves starting a new career. However, on Feb. 27, a master sergeant from Keesler learned that he would be doing just that.
Originally an air traffic controller, Master Sgt. Brian Cloutier, 81st Training Wing protocol NCO in charge, has been selected to become an enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilot.
Cloutier first heard about the opportunity of becoming an enlisted RPA pilot by reading an article on the Air Force Personnel Center website. He was interested in the job and started the process to apply, but he never went through with it.
“After talking to some family members and thinking it over, I thought ‘maybe not, maybe not now’,’” said Cloutier.
The next time the opportunity arose he decided it was time to pursue the expanding career field.
“There were multiple tests I had to take,” said Cloutier. “The enlisted pilot qualifying test is basically the pilot portion of the Air Force officer qualification test which had math, chart reading, basic aviation knowledge and all these different things. There was also another test called the test of basic aviation skills, which is basically an aptitude test.”
Although Cloutier said the tests were rigorous, he had an advantage through his past experience.
“When I was 19 I got my private pilot’s license,” said Cloutier. “I learned how to fly in Colorado at the Aero Club at the Air Force academy so that helped me retain some aviation knowledge. Being an air traffic controller, knowing the other side of that picture definitely helped with chart reading that was in some of the aptitude tests.”
While he was waiting to see if he was selected to become an RPA pilot, Cloutier kept other career options available.
“I was pursuing a few different things because my time here was coming to an end,” said Cloutier. “I had an air traffic control assignment to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona so I was excited about that. I didn’t tell my kids and I didn’t tell many of my family because these results have not come out yet, so I wasn’t fully invested in either one.”
Cloutier had a mix of emotions upon hearing about his selection for the RPA program.
“When the results came out I was relieved at first and then I was excited and a little bit nervous,” said Cloutier. “I’ve spent 14 years in the Air Force and all of a sudden I’m going to start a new career. It’s not easy. I know a couple of people who have attempted this career field and have not made it.”
While he does have flying experience, which will help him throughout the course, he has not flown since 2002. He is nervous about the different types of flying necessary for RPA.
Cloutier said he is accustomed to visual flight rules, which utilizes eyesight. However, the course will require him to become accustomed to instrumental flight rules, which is where you can’t see.
“It’s a different type of flying,” said Cloutier. “There are a lot of different procedures for it and that’s not something that I’ve done. Combining a strict military training regimen with a type of flying I haven’t done before is what’s making me the most nervous.”
Although he has many challenges ahead, Cloutier is determined to excel on his journey ahead.
“I’m excited to learn a new job and technology that is ever advancing at this point,” said Cloutier. “From what little I know it’ll be really fun to learn about and eventually operate.”