Paramilitary: Age And Experience Triumph Again



December 21, 2008: Once more, the U.S. Air Force was reminded that its reserve pilots tend to be more capable than their active duty counterparts. The recently concluded "Buff Smoke" competition, in which active duty and reserve B-52 crews competed to test their skills, saw reservists walk away with the top prizes. Similar results have been encountered in the annual Gunsmoke (fighter pilot) and Hawg Smoke (A-10 ground attack pilots) contests.

The reserve pilots are former active duty pilots, many of them with more than two decades of service. These pilots often left active duty to fly as commercial pilots, but joined the reserves so they could continue to fly the more exciting military aircraft they had spent years working with. While the reservists don't fly as many hours (in military aircraft) as their active duty counterparts, they do have experience, and are more mature in years. Reservist bomber crews also tend to stay together longer, and this improves their teamwork and overall capabilities.

The army has found the same pattern with combat troops. Reservist tank and artillery crews often best their active duty counterparts in competitions. The Israeli military, which is largely a reservist force, emphasizes this aspect, and expects artillery and tank crews, as well as infantry units, to stay together for years and build their team spirit and capabilities.

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