Murphy's Law: January 23, 2004

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Over the last half century, air forces have proved to be the model for what the armies and navies will eventually look like in terms of personnel and education. The U.S. Air Force is the smallest of the three services (the Marine Corps is smaller, but is actually part of the navy), with 372,000 personnel. Yet the air force also gets the most defense money, per capita and (in most years) absolute terms. Some 20 percent of all air force personnel are officers, and 25 percent of the officers are pilots or navigators. Pilots alone comprise four percent of all air force manpower (although about 500 air force pilots are women). All officers are college grads, and half of them have advanced degrees (most of these are masters degrees, but there are a lot of professional degrees and PhDs). Five percent of the enlisted force have a college degree, and another 13 percent have a two year degree. Some 73 percent of all enlisted personnel have some college credits. The air force has always been unique in that a small number of personnel (the crews of warplanes) do most of the fighting. In reality, a larger number of air force people are exposed to danger. There are commandoes and security personnel armed and ready to go into harms way. They have been doing just that in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus about ten percent of air force personnel can be classified as "warriors." The percentage of warriors has been shrinking in the army for a century (it's down to about 15 percent), and the navy is starting to shrink the crew size of it's combat ships. But the future is pretty clear; fewer fighters, fewer people overall and the ones that are in uniform will be much better educated and lavishly equipped with high tech weapons and equipment.

 


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