The flight crewmember designation Aviation Mission Specialist (AMS) first appeared in COMDTINST M3710.1E, the 2002 edition of Coast Guard’s Air Operations Manual, but was not accompanied by a specific list of requirements to be met to earn the designation or even a list of flight crew positions that were eligible for it. This oversight was corrected in the 2008 edition (COMDTINST M3710.1F), where personnel with the AMS designation are defined as “non-aircrew officers and enlisted personnel who perform specialized mission functions about Coast Guard aircraft.” Also provided were several examples of flight crew positions that would qualify for the AMS designation, such as sensor system operators, tactical system operators, aerial gunners, aviation medical technicians, and aerial ice observers.

The 2008 edition also introduced the requirements for the AMS designation. Besides completing two syllabuses (one for AMS, one for their specialty), AMS candidates were required to pass (and maintain) an Aviation Class II Flight Physical, as well as a slew of other tests and training courses (some mandated only for AMS designation on certain types of aircraft). Types of training include Crew Resource Management, Underwater Egress, Aviation Water Survival, Low-Pressure Chamber, Emergency Breathing Device / Shallow Water Egress, Emergency Ground Egress, installed survival gear, Intercommunications System use and terminology, and a swim test.

But changes to the AMS requirements were introduced in the 2013 Air Operations Manual (COMDTINST M3710.1F), removing some of the standards previously in place. Gone from the 2008 requirements were the need to pass the Class II Flight Physical and be eligible for security clearance, both part of a five-step pre-screening process, as well as the need for first aid and CPR training.

The Aviation Mission Specialist designation augments the Basic Aircrew (BA) designation, allowing flight crewmembers who do not hold the BA designation to carry out mission-specific tasks aboard a particular type of aircraft. With its introduction, the Coast Guard was able to streamline its flight crewmember designation system, switching instead to a system of designation-plus-qualification.

In 2008, there was a total of fifteen authorized non-pilot flight crewmember designations, not counting four Aviator designations; in 2013, there were just five. For example, the former Sensor System Operator (SSO) designation was replaced with the AMS designation and an SSO qualification. Other designations that were switched to qualifications under the AMS designation include Tactical System Operator (TSO), Mission System Operator (MSO), and Radio Operator (R). Also, several Aviation Gunner (AG) designations were replaced with a variety of Precision Marksman–Aviation qualifications (Tactical Cover, Counterdrug, Counterterrorism, etc.).

The AMS breast insignia is awarded on a temporary basis once the individual has met the qualification requirements for the AMS designation and has been assigned to a unit to perform one of the mission-specialist duties. It may be worn as long as the qualification criteria outlined in the Air Operations Manual are maintained; permanent wear is authorized after the individual has accumulated either 200 (rotary-wing) or 400 (fixed-wing) flight hours. The flight hours are accumulated while training for or actually performing the mission specialty.

Note that some positions that would seem to qualify for the Aviation Mission Specialist insignia are not eligible because they either have their own breast insignias or fall under the Basic Aircrew designation. These include Flight Surgeons, Naval Flight Officers, Pilots, Rescue Swimmers, and aircrew, (e.g. Flight Mechanic).

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