The United States Air Force gets a lot of (brotherly) hate from its sister branches, many claiming that we Airmen (and women, but big “A” here) have it easy. Though we often try to justify our already awesome branch, the others aren’t always entirely wrong. Here are what some think are the top 10 Air Force luxuries that almost make an airman feel guilty.
1. Barracks? We don’t need no stinking barracks!
Unless we’re stationed in Korea or a single digit number of other near-war zone areas, the airmen who must live on base get to do so in the comfort of single, double or quad-style apartment dormitories as opposed to 20 or more person barracks.
We live the college kid life of having our own bed, sink and closet with more often than not the only thing we share being bathrooms, kitchens and common areas. I don’t know about you, but I can really get behind not having my roommate’s snoring keep me awake.
2. Not Quite Hogwarts, but still…
When it comes to eating – grub, chow, mess, food – everyone looks to the Air Force as the “presidential” treatment. You want two slices of cake? Feel free. What’s that? A Twix or a Snickers bar for the road? They’re right there waiting for you.
I’ve never met anyone from a non-USAF branch that didn’t think we had the best DFACs and the best quality of food in ’em. And if it’s so late that the Chow Hall isn’t open, there’s probably a flight kitchen near the flight line to grab a good ol’ Box Nasty.
However, I don’t know if I could call a chicken sandwich, coke, bottle of water, apple/orange and a Snickers nasty. It’s good to be the fly guys.
3. TDYs: A Thing of Beauty
Whenever my unit was given a TDY (a temporary duty assignment – and know that I was with several units), the NCOICs were almost always able to get us an off-base hotel, usually in a Hilton. Free pool, free gym, queen size bed (minimum), no more than 2 to a room, etc. TDYs were mini-vacations for us and we pocketed that lovely per-diem while eating on-base for meal plan prices.
The TDYs were filled with nights of going out and days of 9-5 work, so it was almost as if we went to a medical convention or a business convention. I am almost certain that no other branch would tolerate that, but the Air Force allows that luxury for the NCOs who know their way around and take care of their people.
4. By Basic Training, We Mean Basic:
Let me put an end to this now and say that Stress Cards are not, have not and will never be a thing. We’ve all heard that each branch gets these mythical things, but it just isn’t true. That being said, the Air Force does have one of the shortest (at 8 weeks) Basic Training requirements.
We do have the BEAST in 6th or 7th week (it may have changed since I graduated basic), but it was surprisingly easy with the base area pre-assembled and most of the time practicing EOD sweeps and questioning people coming in. There were no smoke bombs, flashbangs, no sim grenades, land nav or anything extremely strenuous that some other branches have. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s not exactly limit-pushing either.
5. Look at the Size of my Wallet!
The USAF had an estimated budget of $160 billion in FY2015. While this was slightly less than the Navy’s budget (by less than 10%), the Navy has to pay for both itself and the Marine Corps. Because the Air Force doesn’t suffer from the split personality of our brothers and sisters in the Department of the Navy, we’ve got the largest per person budget in the military.
This means that we have the coolest toys, best planes, largest office supply budget and more. While we claim that we do more with less, we often do more with more.
6. Consistency of the workday
The stereotype holds true, it seems, that the Air Force is the branch with the most consistent workdays. Barring weeks where we had to do an exercise (which for my unit was 2-3 weeks every 4 months) we pretty much always got in after PT at 0900 and left at 1630.
For units that don’t have field exercises as often, it is almost always a consistent workday. “People First, Mission Always” is one of the mottos. I believe it rings true in this area, and for that, many of us airmen are grateful.
7. There’s Strong, and Then There’s Air Force Strong
We may only get 60 seconds compared to Army 120 for calisthenics on PT tests, but our numbers are much easier to manage than any other branches’. To pass by bare minimums, one needs only run a 1.5 mile in 13:14, have a 37.5-inch waistline, and perform 44 push ups plus 46 situps in a minute each.
“He’s doing a push-up, for god’s sake, help him!”
This pales in comparison to the USMC’s 15 pullups, 75 crunches, and 22-minute, 3-mile run. While the Air Force isn’t full of fatties, for sure, we have the greenest grass in the field.
8. “Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Vacation Had to Get Away”
Interestingly, I had a friend fear for his life after receiving his deployment orders. He was genuinely frightened and filled out paperwork to make out his will and to give someone power of attorney over his assets should something happen to him. Being a good friend, I asked him where he was going. I wanted to give him all the support I could. He told me he was going to Qatar. At that moment, I was torn between being a good friend and offering my support and being a great friend and mocking him.
For those not in the know, Qatar deployments include daily alcohol allowances (most Middle Eastern countries don’t allow any) and other amenities that make it more like a vacation with a work component than a deployment into a dangerous war zone. While it’s not a vacation exactly, there are as many pros as cons with many of our deployments.
9. Performance Evals are Broken
While this recently underwent a change, the yearly EPR system used to be a “gimme,” with an overwhelming majority of airmen getting “firewall 5s” or perfect scores on their eval.
Now the brass has finally realized after over a decade that this is ridiculous and are attempting to change the system to make a “5” rating mean something. The jury is still out on this, and also how it will affect the promotion cycle. But up until recently, airmen could be assured that by being average, they would be graded “The best of the best.”
10. Living On High
To be honest, this one does make me feel a little guilty. So, my friend was stationed at an Army base for tech school. On his first LES, he sees an additional allowance. So it’s not actually called substandard living pay, it’s something like that. While not all Air Force bases are cushy, if you are living in quarters that the DoD deems not up to USAF standards, the airmen will get an additional allowance not to exceed 75 percent of BAH for their rank.
There are many considerations that go into this, but suffice it to say that the reasoning is because the Air Force was the first “all volunteer” branch, and to attract high-quality airmen, the USAF needed higher quality housing.