I have interviewed an Air Force Crew Chief: "What are the criteria for becoming a aerial gunner/navigator? Is it better than being a crew chief? First, you need to join a unit that flies helos if you want to be a gunner (aka Aerial observer A/O). You can't be a Crew chief unless you lat move and go to the schoolhouse for the MOS - there is an exception to that in the case of 'homegrown', but that's not in your cards unless you've been flying as an A/O previously."
"Second - there has to be a need to have you as an AO - squadrons only have so many people they can have on flight orders at one time (it's all about the money) and number of aircraft vs. T/O - it's all spelled out in the Training and Readiness (T&R) manuals. Third - you need to be recommended by the squadron in the form of a Standardization Board (Stan Board) - which consists of the XO, Ops O, Natops O - and a few of the more senior SNCOs who have been flying for a long time)."
"Fourth - you need to be fit for the duty - swim quall, physiology and a flight physical. Fifth - If you make it this far - you should be able to start flying an initial A/O flight syllabus which includes different types of flight regimes."
"It depends on aircraft maintenance, aircraft availability and scheduling - and if you don't show your mentors, the'gods', the crew chiefs, a desire to learn or willingness to help out with maintenance effort - you will gain no credibility or respect and your aspiring dreams to be a fly-boy will be squashed to the amount of a mis-formed cat turn that missed the litter box."
"There is a gunner/observer that is part (part time that is) of a helo crew. No it is not better than being a Crew Chief. Although if you are in another shop and not a Crew Chief, then yes, it is a cool extra gig to do."
"Remember, Crew Chiefs are god like. And if you don't show your mentors, the gods, the crew chiefs, a desire to learn or willingness to help out with maintenance effort - you will gain no credibility or respect and your aspiring dreams to be a fly-boy will be squashed to the amount of a mis-formed cat turn that missed the litter box."
"Delta probably included the most info. First you need to be in a squadron that 'need' aircrew. You can imagine, like working at a tanning booth rubbing massage oil on hot ladies, Flying jobs are easy to fill. 'Make yourself marketable'! You have to be able to swim and you WILL need to be a Plane Captain. If you don't know what a Plane Captain is then you should probably give up now."
"It depends on the squadron. I was a Huey Crew Chief. We had the following chain of Learning. Get on Flight Orders. Observer (Go to NVG Classes) Responsible to keep your side of the aircraft from hitting stuff at night. You really got to fly at night unless needed for another mission. Gunners (Take the Gun Syllabus) are responsible for shooting all targets on your side. 'Also', responsible to 'not' shoot remember , you get whatever gun the Crew Chief does 'not' want to shoot that day."
"We had 3 gun quails M60, .50 cal, and Mini Gun. Crew Chief are responsible for 'every' thing. You are the senior guy in the back and make 'all' decisions from the back of the pilots head to the rear of the bird. You are the go to guy for the pilots for mechanical issues and make sure nothing falls out. "
"You are equally responsible to keep the plane in the air as the pilot". Each mission is different. As a Crew Chief you can fly as an observer -- but, as an observer you 'cannot' fly as a Crew Chief. My squadron did not wing you until you finished the Crew Chief syllabus. We had guys in fight suits with EGA's instead of wings because they were gunners 'not' Crew Chiefs. I 'think' the C-130 may use an enlisted navigator."