Murphy's Law: August 30, 2003


The U.S. armed forces have about 1.3 million men and women on active duty (plus reservists called to active duty for emergencies.) But of that 1.3 million, few are in combat jobs. For example, there are only 84,000 infantry (including 13,000 officers and 10,000 Special Forces). There are 60,000 artillerymen and 29,000 tank crewmen. There are also some 20,000 pilots, but most of these do not fly combat aircraft or helicopters. That's some 180,000 combat troops. There are another 200,000 support troops (in combat battalions and brigades and warships) who operate close enough to the fighting to get shot at. Warship crews are a special situation, as for the last half century they have rarely come under fire, much less so than warplane pilots or men in ground combat units. But they still go into harms way quite a lot, and constantly train for combat situations.  But as we all saw in the Iraq campaign, many other support troops have to worry about coming under fire from time to time. But most military jobs have nothing to do with combat. For example, there are 114,000 aircraft and vehicle mechanics. A little over half of these work on aircraft, where are much more complex, and in need of constant attention, than the more numerous trucks and armored vehicles. In effect, the military has two different ad campaigns for new recruits; one that stresses military jobs that train you for civilian careers, and the purely military jobs that you take for the "adventure."


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