Artillery: September 2, 2004


Military aviation has never lacked for glamour, yet the U.S. Air Force is having a hard time getting enough people to volunteer for hundreds of flying jobs. The catch is that these are flying jobs for enlisted airmen, not officers. None of these jobs involve actually flying aircraft, although some are more exciting than others. The most exciting job is aerial gunner on the AC-130 gunship. This is also the one air force plane that is most likely to get shot at, and hit. Thats because the AC-130 flies pretty low, and slow. Actually, this is the job that rarely lacks for volunteers.

The other jobs have varying degrees of excitement. In-flight refueling specialists operate the refueling boom and the job can be a little too exciting if the weather is bad and you have to refuel a lot of aircraft quickly. Flight engineers are still used in some aircraft, but this work is steadily being replaced by automation. Loadmasters are in charge of getting cargo onto, and off, transports safely and efficiently. This includes airdrops, which can be pretty hairy. Loading some types of large, or heavy, equipment is a stressful chore as well. Airborne communications and electronics specialists, airborne battle management systems specialists, airborne mission systems specialists and airborne cryptologic linguists are all jobs that involves sitting at an airborne computer workstation for hours on end. Flight attendants have many of the same chores as their civilian counterparts, except that you are usually dealing with high ranking air force officers, often in executive type jets. That can be stressful. 

Getting people into these jobs has always been a problem. For that reason, the air force has long based its flight pay for enlisted personnel on years in the air, not rank. This pay ranges from $150 a month for those at it for four years or less, to $400 a month for those doing it for 14 years or more. But the money apparently isnt enough, and the officers continue get most of the glory, and more money. So its up to the recruiters to advertise, cajole and, yes, even beg, to keep the jobs filled.


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