The 11 most dangerous jobs in the US military

All jobs in the military carry real risks, but some jobs are much riskier than others. Here are 10 of the most dangerous:

1. Pararescue

050713-N-9500T-250 Fallon, Nev. (July 13, 2005) -- Pararescuemen and survivors prepare to board an HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter during a training scenario as part of Desert Rescue. Desert Rescue is a multi-service, multi-national training exercise held annually to prepare combat search and rescue teams to extract downed personnel in a variety of environments and situations. U.S. Navy Photo By Photographer's Mate Second Class (AW/NAC) Scott Taylor (RELEASED).

Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor

Pararescue jumpers are basically the world’s best ambulance service. They fly, climb, and march to battlefields, catastrophic weather areas, and disaster zones to save wounded and isolated people during firefights or other emergencies.

2. Special operations

Navy Seals boarding an oil or gas platform

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson

While this is lumping a few separate jobs together, troops such as Navy SEALs, Army green berets, Air Force combat controllers, and others conduct particularly risky missions. They train allied forces, hunt enemy leaders, and go on direct action missions against the worst of America’s adversaries. They get additional training and better equipment than other units, but the challenging nature of their mission results in a lot of casualties.

3. Explosive ordnance disposal

Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan Explosive ordnance disposal BIP blown in place

Photo: US Navy Photographers Mate 1st Class Ted Banks

The bomb squad for the military, explosive ordnance disposal technicians used to spend the bulk of their time clearing minefields or dealing with dud munitions that didn’t go off. Those missions were dangerous enough, but the rise of improvised explosive devices changed all that and increased the risk for these service members.

4. Infantry

Paratroopers light up the night

Not exactly shocking that infantry is one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. These troops search out and destroy the enemy and respond to calls for help when other units stumble into danger. They are the primary force called on to take and hold territory from enemy forces.

5. Cavalry

army soldiers running through smoke

Photo: US Army Sgt. William Tanner

The cavalry conducts reconnaissance and security missions and, if there is a shortage of infantry soldiers, is often called to take and hold territory against enemy formations. Their recon mission sometimes results in them fighting while vastly outnumbered.

6. Combat Engineers

Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Bryan Nygaard

Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Bryan Nygaard

Combat engineers do dangerous construction work with the added hazard of combat operations going on all around them. When the infantry is bogged down in enemy obstacles, it’s highly-trained engineers known as Sappers who go forward and clear the way. The engineers also conduct a lot of the route clearance missions to find and destroy enemy IEDs and mines.

7. Artillery

173rd-Artillerymen-airborne-paratroopers-fire-howitzers-at-Grafenwoehr-training-area

Photo: US Army

Artillery soldiers send massive rounds against enemy forces. Because artillery destroys enemy formations and demoralizes the survivors, it’s a target for enemy airstrikes and artillery barrages. Also, the artillery may be called on to assume infantry and cavalry missions that they’ve received little training on.

8. Medical

Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Medics go forward with friendly forces to render aid under fire. While medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, this only helps when the enemy honors the conventions. Even then, artillery barrages and bombing runs can’t tell which troops are noncombatants.

9. Vehicle transportation

OEF-Operation-enduring-freedom-IED-blasts-army-convoy-afghanistan

Photo: US Army

Truck driving is another job that became markedly more dangerous in the most recent wars. While driving vehicles in large supply convoys or moving forward with advancing troops was always risky, the rise of the IED threat multiplied the danger for these soldiers. This was complicated by how long it took the military to get up-armored vehicles to all units in Iraq and Afghanistan.

10. Aviation

Apache attack helicopter reconnaissance flight dangerous

Photo: US Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton

Aircraft provide a lot of capabilites on the battlefield, but that makes them, their crews, and their pilots targets of enemy fire.

11. Artillery observers

Radio operator army jargon lingo Soldier fister

Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle

Like medics, these soldiers go forward with maneuver forces. They find enemy positions and call down artillery strikes to destroy them. The enemy knows to take them out as quickly as possible since they are usually carrying radios.

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