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WSO vs WSOp Questions

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WSO vs WSOp Questions

Old 26th Nov 2018, 14:17
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WSO vs WSOp Questions

Morning chaps,

I have been offered the roles of WSOp and WSO (both with high aptitude scores) following OASC and I’m hoping for some gen on each.


Whilst I believe that a WSOp role would offer broader flying experience and would give me the chance to pursue a rotary crewman position, I am torn between this and gaining a commission. Money isn’t really an issue as the earning potential whilst flying between the two roles seem to broadly mirror each other.


So if I may, I have a few (non role related) questions;

Is there much an officer can do that a SNCO cannot?

Are the opportunities afforded to officers much greater than those for SNCO’s? With regards to lifestyle, benefits etc?

Officers mess/accommodation vs SNCO’s accommodation and SGTs mess?

Prestige of being an SNCO vs an officer?

Recruitment outlook for Crewman at Odiham/Benson?


Thank you so much,

CH
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 14:59
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Choose WSO, WSO, and then WSO.

And that's coming from a 36 year served AEOp / WSOp (who was always happy with his lot, I hasten to add)

1. The money is very important. When flying pay kicks in the difference is huge.

2. The promotion prospects as a WSOp are poor - the competition is enormous. The prospects as a WSO (given that its a near dead branch about to have a new influx of people) are surely much better.

3 Look ahead 8 to 10 years: one will probably still be a Sergeant, the other possibly a Squadron Leader. (then see how the money pans out - at a rough guess £40k versus £70k)

4.The chance of better and more varied postings, especially overseas, is generally going to be for WSO.

The Military is run by Officers, for Officers. If you have the chance that is the way you should enter the Service. Everything from pay, promotion prospects, responsibility, varied career development etc. points that way. Enlisted personnel do not have the same life at all.

By the way living in either Mess is awful. On base accommodation upgrades have correctly prioritised the Junior ranks, so many Messes date from the 1930's to the 1960's and are horrid.

Last edited by camelspyyder; 26th Nov 2018 at 15:12.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 15:18
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Originally Posted by camelspyyder View Post
Choose WSO, WSO, and then WSO.

And that's coming from a 36 year served AEOp / WSOp (who was always happy with his lot, I hasten to add)

1. The money is very important. When flying pay kicks in the difference is huge.

2. The promotion prospects as a WSOp are poor - the competition is enormous. The prospects as a WSO (given that its a near dead branch about to have a new influx of people) are surely much better.

3 Look ahead 8 to 10 years: one will probably still be a Sergeant, the other possibly a Squadron Leader. (then see how the money pans out - at a rough guess £40k versus £70k)

4.The chance of better and more varied postings, especially overseas, is generally going to be for WSO.

The Military is run by Officers, for Officers. If you have the chance that is the way you should enter the Service. Everything from pay, promotion prospects, responsibility, varied career development etc. points that way. Enlisted personnel do not have the same life at all.

By the way living in either Mess is awful. On base accommodation upgrades have correctly prioritised the Junior ranks, so many Messes date from the 1930's to the 1960's and are horrid.
Thank you,

I didn’t realise the promotion prospects in the WSOp branch were so poor. Do you mind if I PM you with a couple of questions?

Really appreciate the advice.
Charlie

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Old 26th Nov 2018, 15:54
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Echo what is said above. Go WSO.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 16:02
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The Competition for promotion is intense as a WSOp. Time was when each Aircrew trade had its own promotions so EW specialists were not competing with Loadmasters or Rotary crewmen. Now everyone is in one pot and numbers promoted are small. Worse, promotion actually depends not only what you do, but how talented a writer your Reporting Officer is. You could be the best flyer on the base, and also a noted sportsman who spends all his spare time doing charitable works. It won't matter a fig if your one up can't write a perfect report. It's a fact that a lot of Flight Sergeants struggle with report writing, so it's pot luck. As a Junior Officer, your reports will probably be written by a Squadron Leader, who should have had a lot more military leadership and management education to prepare him for that important task.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 16:17
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Thank you CamelSpyyder, I can’t send PM’s yet so I have sent you an email.

Cheers!
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 16:25
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Fundamentally, which branch of a career tree would you like to perch on?

It’s not about now, or even (say) 2030, but beyond. A WSOp career is potentially relatively brief and certainly constrained (as noted above) in comparison to a WSO with prospects to age 55 and a decent pension thereafter. The latter also, IMO, offers wider career opportunities rather than just pure ‘specialism’, leading to a better CV if you decide to leave at some intermediate career point.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 16:58
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I just sent the following email to Camelspyyder but I would be really interested to hear your views too MPN and Downsizer.

I am trying to learn a bit more about the role of WSO and their day to day life. All outlines online seem to be relatively vague. So a WSO controls the aircraft systems and manages a team of WSOp’s, each specialising in an individual system (Linguistics, ELINT, SIGINT etc).

What I want to know is more of the reality of daily life as a WSO on an ISTAR platform.

Are you regularly deployed/able to spend time abroad? This is one of the reasons I’m joining the forces and trying to avoid roles such as RPAS (P).

Is the work interesting? Did you find it exciting/captivating/fulfilling?

Even though you’re flying, does it actually add anything to the enjoyment of the role? I read a throwaway comment about ‘just having an office job in a tin tube’. What is working in the air like?

Any sketchy moments during your time?

And finally, do you have any general advice for somebody in my position?

Thank you so much for your help, it’s really appreciated,
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 17:31
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So you've been offered both specialisations and don't really know what either of them do?
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 17:43
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Originally Posted by PapaDolmio View Post
So you've been offered both specialisations and don't really know what either of them do?
I will try not to bite.

Firstly, the MFTS backlog has meant that older pilot candidates in the sift are being offered other roles. So no, I don’t know as much about these two roles as I do my original first choice, Pilot.

Secondly, I clearly state that I know about their individual functions, the ‘official’ job description. If you read the post again, what I was asking for was gen on the REALITY of the role, the opinions that you won’t find in official correspondence.

Thank you you nonetheless for your contribution.

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Old 26th Nov 2018, 18:02
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CH47, as a long retired old nav all I will add is that where I thought I was going when I started bore no relation to the career I eventually completed nearly 50 years later.

The journey was varied, challenging and always interesting. I had more good bosses than bad. Go for it.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 18:36
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CH47, I’m a long retired ATCO who actually went through OCTU on the Course after young TTN! BUT, as an officer, my career branched out beyond the narrow confines of my Specialisation ... and these opportunities are infinitely greater than in my time (65-94). I never expected to find myself involved in Civil NATS Procurement, MoD Int Staff, or running a section in War Plans and Policy on the Air Staff at MoD.

After 4 tours as a ‘simple’ ATCO, doing the basic stuff in both Terminal and Area ATC, I asked for (and got) a Staff job. Chasing little dots around a radar tube is quite interesting and challenging, but after 10 years of that the ‘broader horizons’ began to appeal. Some colleagues were perfectly happy to keep doing the same thing, year in and year out (albeit at different Units) ... can you predict your boredom/routine threshold 10 years from now?

Last edited by MPN11; 30th Nov 2018 at 07:54.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 20:25
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Originally Posted by Charliehotel47 View Post


I will try not to bite.

Firstly, the MFTS backlog has meant that older pilot candidates in the sift are being offered other roles. So no, I don’t know as much about these two roles as I do my original first choice, Pilot.

Secondly, I clearly state that I know about their individual functions, the ‘official’ job description. If you read the post again, what I was asking for was gen on the REALITY of the role, the opinions that you won’t find in official correspondence.

Thank you you nonetheless for your contribution.

That makes more sense, apologies.

if you've been offered Officer, go Officer.

Arguably there's a greater variety of flying by going WSO but it's an Officers Air Force at the end of the day.
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 22:08
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Here is a reply I PM'ed someone in a very similar position to yourself a couple of months ago.

"Sorry for taking so long to reply, thats the joy of Operational flying :-) My replies in bold below....

Thank you for messaging me. I have just been pinged out of the pilot sift due to hitting the age limit and have been offered WSOp, WSo and RPAS (P) for Jan. I just wanted to learn a bit more about WSOp and WSo

- In your opinion, is going WSo over WSOp for the commission worth it?

Yes and no - It depends on several factors.

-Your plans for civvie street - Officers tend be viewed as more favourable

-The importance of status - You want to tell people you are an officer

-Earning potential - Slightly more as an officer but not by much. I out-earned most pilots on my sqn at a similar length of service

-Pension is no longer a factor - Everyone gets the same terms and it's a career average pension i.e. The more promotions you get, the greater the pension

-Both jobs fly - I was a WSOp and now WSO and other than the extra pay it makes no difference to the job I am doing. The Sgts' Mess is definitely a better atmosphere!


- what is your day to day like?

Again, difficult to quantify as every aircraft type, sqn and deployment is different

- I work a 10-12 hour day every day


- Some days I am flying, some days I am not.

- I work shifts. That is 24/7/365 including Xmas day, weddings, funerals etc.


- Some Sqns have 'face-time'

- There are a ton of different 'isms' with each unit as well. For example, those stationed at Creech have a shorter day as they have to drive nearly 100 miles a day to work and back. Those on the current Tornado Sqn are doing 3 months deployed and 3 months at home, rinse, repeat. E3 Sqn personnel are drinking LOTS of tea and eating biscuits as they are really hurting with unserviceability of aircraft. Most rotary Sqns are on permanent 72 hours notice to move anywhere i.e. Humanitarian Relief


- You WILL end up with secondary duties such as Air Cadet Liaison, Mess secretary, Station Charities Committee etc. Without these you wont even be looked at for promotion.

- On Ops it is work, work, work! You may get days off on a 3 month deployment but don't count on it. Again it depends on your aircraft type. I did 3 months of constant nightshift with absolutely no time off.

- in terms of rank I’m only really familiar with the officer side of things, once you are operational what rank are you as a WSOp?

- Start as a Sergeant and then after about 8 yrs (at the absolute earliest) you may be eligible for promotion. WSOp promotion is probably the toughest in the entire RAF! Expect on average to wait around 12+ yrs for promotion, if at all. The board that recently published promoted 8 WSOps to Flt Sgt. That's across all specialisations and aircraft types. There have been yrs of 2 or even no people promoted.

- do you have a preference for what platform you are streamed to? (I wanted to be a rotary pilot and would prefer rotary WSOp).

You fill out a 'dream sheet' with what you prefer, it is exactly that though. It always comes down to Service need.

- That being said, Rotary Stream are always looking for newbies so it's a fairly safe bet you would go that way if you wanted it, especially if you are younger. Rotary is tougher on your body over the years so be prepared for that.

- if you’re a WSo and therefore istar, what are your missions like?

- If I have understood you correctly, then you are confused as WSOp make up the majority of ISTAR crews, its not a WSO only role.

-ISTAR is a varied and interesting job. I did Rotary and ISTAR; they are just different.

Rotary - Very cool job, very tactical, hard physical work, smaller crews, lots of time on Salisbury Plain or in the field, lots of time getting cold and wet, you are more likely to get shot at, take a greater toll on your body, can be very demanding flying if doing certain roles i.e. Special Forces flying. greater potential for short notice deployments around the world, lots of exercises, spending a lot of time with the Army

ISTAR - Cool job, more strategic/operational (in general), not a physical job, large crews, lots of time operating from airbases, air conditioned aircraft, very unlikely to be shot at, unlikely to damage your body (perhaps get fat), flying is not generally demanding in the same way as rotary, but can be more cerebral.

- do you get to travel much?

-Yes! But rarely to tourist destinations..... I have been to Iraq, Afghanistan, USA, Kenya, Germany, Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, France, Morocco, Cyprus, Belize, Guatemala, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Egypt and a few places not for public consumption.

-In short you will travel but it is not always fun when you arrive. The opportunity for the nice places is a lot less due to budget cuts and the Daily Mail. That being said there is still an opportunity, albeit it takes a lot more organising.

Don't join to get stamps in your passport as you will be disappointed.


- do you find it ‘exciting’?

- Like any job, there are good days and bad days.

- Exciting things - Everything in your first few yrs, being shot at, survival courses, adventure training, some exercises, night flying on rotary, formation flying, Combined Air Operations, 140mph at 50ft, shooting and numerous other military type things!

- Not Exciting - Getting up at 0300 to brief, constantly having your life in limbo on the whim of a politician, secondary duties, tick chasing (diversity briefs, don't post to Facebook briefs don't sleep with Russian spies brief etc.), boring courses, deploying to the same place for the 5th or 6th time, family being messed around with deployments, exercises, courses, having a [email protected] boss who you can tell to stick his job up his hoop


I suppose the best way to answer you is, would I join up again knowing what I know?

The answer for me, is no.

But my reasons are due to -

- Family being messed around - my son is 5 and on his 5th nursery/school, I am on my 6th house in 8 yrs.

- Wanting to move into a 2nd career

- Spend time with my family

- Put down roots and have stability for my family

- Pension has changed too much (but this won't affect you)

- Meddling in my life in silly little ways by the RAF.

- Manning is at a critical level and I am fed up doing 2 or 3 jobs.

I hope that helps and gives you some insight into the pros/cons. If you have any further questions then let me know.

HG"
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 22:17
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Charlie,

May I suggest that you have a good think about what role you wish to do? I don't disagree with any of the previous posts at all, but I imagine you to be in your early 20's? If so, you do have time to go and fly the role that your heart says is right (that might be as an ISTAR WSO, equally, it might be as a Voyager crewman (probably unlikely....)) and then look at other opportunities later. There are plenty of avenues available for commissioning from the NCA cadre, be they in role (there are a good few wing commander and squadron leader crewmen knocking about, for example), by transfer to another aircrew role (again, a fair number of ex-NCA have ended up as pilots on helos, the AT fleet and indeed FJ) or alternatively, in a ground branch - again, there are lashings of ex-NCA in ATC, Int, Admin, Logs, etc.

That said, you might find that remaining NCA is right for you and that you might aspire to achieving your Warrant - probably more demanding that gaining a commission!

It IS an officer's Air Force; there ARE generally more opportunities (in and out of role, and by way of geography) for WSOs than WSOps, and money WILL become a factor at some point. But the options are there for the taking.

In short, every career path has its positive and negative points. The bottom line though, and this may be just my opinion, is that in the first instance you must do right by you and aim for the flying role that you truly want. It can't be pleasant finding yourself doing something you don't enjoy, in a location in the arse end of nowhere, when your mates from OASC are doing something they (and deep down, you) wanted to do. Judging by your handle, I would hazard a guess that the Chinook Force might be up there in terms of choice. And you'd be right.......
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Old 26th Nov 2018, 22:41
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Originally Posted by camelspyyder View Post
Choose WSO, WSO, and then WSO.

And that's coming from a 36 year served AEOp / WSOp (who was always happy with his lot, I hasten to add)

1. The money is very important. When flying pay kicks in the difference is huge.

2. The promotion prospects as a WSOp are poor - the competition is enormous. The prospects as a WSO (given that its a near dead branch about to have a new influx of people) are surely much better.

3 Look ahead 8 to 10 years: one will probably still be a Sergeant, the other possibly a Squadron Leader. (then see how the money pans out - at a rough guess £40k versus £70k)

4.The chance of better and more varied postings, especially overseas, is generally going to be for WSO.

The Military is run by Officers, for Officers. If you have the chance that is the way you should enter the Service. Everything from pay, promotion prospects, responsibility, varied career development etc. points that way. Enlisted personnel do not have the same life at all.

By the way living in either Mess is awful. On base accommodation upgrades have correctly prioritised the Junior ranks, so many Messes date from the 1930's to the 1960's and are horrid.
1. The flying pay has been meddled with quite a lot recently and it means you wont actually receive it until 7 yrs post OCU. That could be around your 10 yr point for both WSO and WSOp, so may not be enough of a carrot to keep you in.

2. Yes and no. WSOp is a tough promotion board but WSO is not easy by any stretch. Have a long think about whether promotion is something you actually want to entertain as you have to jump through a lot of hoops consistently for many yrs to be considered. I never played that game as it was just too much, for too little.

3. Those figures are WAY out! the difference in flying pay rate is about £4 per day on the lowest rates.

A WSO will take around 17/18 yrs to be put onto Tier 2 flying pay, a WSO would be on Middle gusting high rate by that point which means a difference of £20 /£15 per day in favour of WSO.

That would mean it would take a Sqn Ldr around 16/17 yrs to get to the £70k, WSOp would be earning around £48k if still a Sgt or £52k if FS (with 4 yrs seniority) at the same point.

AFPRB 2018

4. Blessing and a curse - Staff tours might just kill your will to live or a random posting to Nairobi might not float your boat in any way. It depends on what you want from life and your career.

Agreed about Messes, they are all pretty dire and in need of much improvement and upgrading. My last 2 messes were plagued by heating breakdowns and constantly cold or running out of hot water. My last mess had to be closed for 2 weeks due to sewerage leaking from the main pipe. It was HORRENDOUS!

Overall I would say WSO is the way ahead but it wont be for everyone. I do miss the Sgts' Mess functions.....

Last edited by heights good; 26th Nov 2018 at 23:41. Reason: Fat fingers
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Old 27th Nov 2018, 02:38
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I am a few years the right side of the exit sign, so things may have changed, but can you be directly commissioned into an AEO or Crewman position these days? When I left, the direct WSO route was only for Nav's....

Just a general observation, but either role is what you make it, and you will get out what you put in. I didn't find WSOp promotion slow at all, in fact on the CH47 fleet, it was not unusual to be promoted as you rolled over the 5 year line - however, with one fleet in pieces after SDSR 2010 and one balls out in Afg, I can appreciate your perspective. If career, pensions and money motivate you - go WSO. If fun, job satisfaction and a relatively carefree existence appeal - WSOp is the way ahead.

I don't regret a day as Airman Aircrew (not a bleeding WSOp...) and wouldn't have swapped for a commission (other than Pilot). However, I was on the fleet I really wanted at a very interesting time.

Best of luck!
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Old 27th Nov 2018, 14:41
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Thank you everybody for your replies and time. You have all been extremely insightful and raised some interesting points.

How does commissioning from an NCA work? Are you recommended or do you just request to go to OASC? Is there a certain number of years you must wait? Is it the full 24 week course or a condensed version? And finally, are you then a ‘commissioned WSOp’ or a WSO?

As my handle may imply, I am torn between wanting to be on the rotary fleet (preferably Chinook), with the flying this entails and being an officer. If I could theoretically commission a few years down the line within this same role, that would be of great appeal.


And purely out of interest - Would you do it all over again, knowing what you do now?


Thank you

CH
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Old 27th Nov 2018, 16:30
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CH, you may apply at any time. You may have a boss who pushed you. If, as an NCO you decide you want a commission then discuss this with your flt and sqn cdrs. They will advise and mentor, see that you get duties that will help your development and allow you to demonstrate suitability. Then you will probably face a station board. Recommendations will all help but ultimately it is up to you when you get to OASC.

There you will be in competition with direct entry candidates. The board then has the job of comparing the unknown with someone who is a known quantity. That can be a positive benefit or a disadvantage. Direct entry is much the quicker route with commissioning from NCA a n alternative that has allowed you to prove ability.
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Old 27th Nov 2018, 16:34
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NCA gaining commissions from WSOp to WSO is, just like promotion, very competitive. You don't just decide,"I'd like to be an Officer now". You need a few years of "above average"" or "excellent" appraisals and the support of your command chain.
If you are offered a commission now, I would advise you take it, rather than some years down the line attending OASC year in, year out, in the hope of being picked up. I knew some excellent and highly promotable SNCO's who tried for years but just couldn't get their foot in the door of the Officers Mess.
You have the opportunity to do that from the start - I know what I would do.
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