WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Some 924 enlisted aviators will find themselves with a new Air Force specialty code Oct. 31.
The new career field, 1A9X1 Special Missions Aviation, will merge aerial gunners with flight engineers on vertical lift aircraft, such as the HH-60 Blackhawks and CV-22 Osprey, with loadmasters on AC-130 Gunships and other non-standard aircraft used by special operations forces.
"The new career field was created to balance and sustain the career enlisted aviator force and to create a larger pool of qualified personnel to perform the duties required to meet the needs of current and future Air Force's missions," said Chief Master Sgt. Douglas Massingill, the career field manager for career enlisted aviators.
Master Sgt. Matthew Ardis, career enlisted aviator in-service recruiter, expanded on that point.
He said merging the career field of aerial gunners, which typically overflows with new applicants, and the career field of certain loadmasters and flight engineers, which often suffers from manning shortages, results in the sustainable balance of which Massingill referred.
The merger won't be too drastic for most of the affected Airmen, Ardis said, since many gunner duties already overlap with those of engineers and loadmasters.
"Flight engineers have been working guns since the guns have been on the aircraft," Ardis said.
The learning curve might be slightly steeper for loadmasters, but Ardis said he expects them to catch on quickly because, while they may not typically fire aircraft guns, they still have familiarity with their basic function and operation.
The requirements for Airmen or new recruits interested in joining the special missions aviation career field include the ability to pass a class III flight physical; score at least 60 on the mechanical portion or 57 on the general portion of the armed services vocational aptitude battery test; lift 70 pounds and obtain a secret security clearance.
Airmen looking to retrain into this career field can contact Master Sgt. Matthew Ardis at cea.recruitingpentagon.af.mil or (703) 697-1717.