Junior officers (JOs) lament their inability to stay in the cockpit because career milestones take them from the tactical fight. They want to serve their nation and ply their trade, but not in a joint billet or as department head. The Navy should take advantage of this passion to serve. There is a solution to keeping JOs officers where they want to be.
In 2006, the Navy established a Flying Warrant Officer program for enlisted personnel to serve as aviators or naval flight officers (NFOs) in helicopter and maritime patrol units; it was canceled in 2013. This should be replaced with a selection board for fully qualified unrestricted line aviation JOs to compete for chief warrant officer (CWO) slots and stay in the cockpit, as warrant officers, for the remainder of their careers. To do this, the Navy must address two process challenges: accession and career progression.