Attrition: The Million Strong USAF

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February 5, 2008: While the U.S. Air Force has 325,725 military personnel (and are planning to shed 5-10 percent of those over the next decade), they also have a force of 141,573 civilian employees. The civilians are older (average age 46.7 years), and this is because nearly half of them have already served in the military. Some 19 percent are retired military (having put 20 or more years in). The civilian employees also serve longer in their jobs, with the average tenure being 15.6 years. For active duty air force personnel, it's ten years. The average age of the military personnel is 30.

The military personnel are more educated, with 24 percent having at least a college degree (all officers and five percent of the enlisted troops), while only 20 percent of the civilians do. The civilian force is more female (a third, compared to 20 percent of the troops). The racial composition is different. While 15 percent of the troops are African-American, nine percent Latino and 2.4 percent Asian, the civilian employees are 12 percent, 7 percent and 5 percent respectively.

While some of the civilian employees handle highly technical or scientific tasks, most deal administrative work. Twenty percent of the troops are stationed overseas (outside the continental United States), while less than ten percent of the civilians are.

The air force family also includes half a million dependents, mostly spouses and children. Thus "air force personnel" actually includes about a million people. All of this is to support the 13,000 pilots who fly the aircraft. About four percent of the pilots are women. In past centuries, all those non-combatants connected with the warriors, would be called "camp followers." This term was often applied disparagingly by those unaware of how important such support services are, and always have been.

 


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