How Do I Become a Combat Systems Officer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Images By: Veneratio, Commander, U.s. 7Th Fleet
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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To become a combat systems officer (CSO) it is necessary to have a bachelor's degree and training as an air force officer. There are several possible career tracks available for people with an interest in this position. Combat systems officers work as coordinators to handle the tactical elements of planning for battle. They need to be familiar with navigation, weapons systems, electronic warfare, and air force doctrine. Numerous air forces around the world use combat systems officers or have similar positions in their ranks.

One option is to go to college to pursue a degree in a field with potential relevance to military service, like political science, and then to apply to the air force. College graduates need to pass a screening test to determine if they are eligible for military service. This includes a physical, interviews, and character assessment. If they are accepted, they attend an officer training school and receive specific additional training in combat systems. As they serve in the air force, they can be promoted through a series of positions to reach senior officer status.


Another option is to become a combat systems officer through a reserve officer training corps program. Such programs pay for students to attend college while they receive military training. Upon graduation, they become commissioned officers, and can begin their air force service. Combat systems officers can also attend military colleges like an air force academy to get their undergraduate degrees. Attendance at a service academy provides an immersion in air force life and culture, along with a free education.

People currently serving in the air force can also apply to become a combat systems officer. The air force can pay for college and provide officer training to exceptional enlisted members of the air force. Supervisors may note subordinates who appear to show promise, and can approach them to discuss applying for candidacy as officers. Active experience in the air force can be beneficial in training to become a combat systems officer, although people with prior service may also be older by the time they are fully qualified.

This job comes with considerable possibilities for promotion and advancement. Members of the air force are subject to periodic review and testing to determine if they are eligible for promotion. At higher ratings, pay increases and people may have access to more benefits. A high rating can have an especially large impact on retirement benefits, which increase with rank.


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