Military Life

5 real ways the Air Force is different from other branches

The Air Force gets a lot of flak (see what I did there?) from all the other branches for its somewhat lax persona. Yes, sometimes, the USAF seems more like a corporation than a branch of the Armed Forces. But despite decent food and living quarters, Air Force, Inc. is still very much a military branch.


Grilled is the only way to eat a salad, Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Taylor)

There's more to the U.S. Air Force than the classic stereotypes of high ASVAB scores, delicious food, nice living quarters, and beautiful women. The Air Force deploys. The Air Force sees combat. The Air Force just has its own unique ways about it.

1. We salute our officers before sending them into a fight.

Our pilots — all officers — are the ones putting their asses in the line of fire supporting troops on the ground (troops from other branches, most likely), but the airmen who maintain and marshal those planes are enlisted.

(Kyle Gott | YouTube)

 

The video above demonstrates something known as "Freestyle Friday" marshaling and, while it may be funny, those crazy marshaling dances still always end with a sharp salute — no matter what. Those pilots may very well not come back from a combat sortie, so respect is always due.

2. We don't know if we should salute a warrant officer.

The reason for that is the Air Force doesn't have warrant officers and hasn't had them since 1992 when the last warrant officer, CWO4 Bob Barrow, retired. The last airman to become a warrant officer did it in 1959.

I'm pretty good with ranks, but I have no idea what that is.

Does your branch salute warrant officers? How will the Air Force know if no one ever tells us? Do we care? Does it matter? I know airmen who went ten years without ever encountering a warrant.

3. Enlisting in the Air Force gets you halfway to a 2-year degree.

The Air Force has its own accredited community college, one that accepts basic training as physical education credits and puts your Tech School training towards an Associate's Degree. Once at your permanent duty station, you can either take general courses at the base education office or take free, unlimited CLEP tests to finish it off.

The Air Force's two-year degree. (U.S. Air Force photo by Donna L. Burnett)

Getting a degree from the Community College of the Air Force is so easy that it's now one of those unwritten rules: Airmen need to have one to get promoted.

4. We don't have ground combat troops.

The Air Force has its Security Forces, its special operations troops, combat arms instructors, and it even lends airmen of all careers to other branches. Airmen see combat all the time. But the USAF's regular combat force is aircraft. We don't have an infantry or anything like it.

All I'm saying is if your Air Force Base is being overrun and you're not around anyone with a beret on, you're in deep shit.

5. The Air Force trains hard... just not always to kill.

When you flip a light switch, the lights go on. It seems simple, but a lot of preparation, training, and work went into what happened behind your wall. A JDAM works the same way. Aircraft maintainers, ammo troops, and pilots train relentlessly for years to make sure that kind of support is there when a Marine calls for it.

(Dreamest | YouTube)

 

Just because an airman's deployed location is a little plush doesn't mean they didn't spend eight years of their life training. Watch how fast an Air Force flightline can get a squadron of F-22s in the air and tell me airmen didn't train hard for that.