Air Force enlisted men

What does an enlisted man in the USAF do?

I figure, only the ranking officers going through the academy are cleared for piloting jets.

Are Air Force privates and corporals relegated to ground support duties?

Here are some of the jobs USAF enlisted folks can do.

And some more info.

Pilot, copilot, and navigator all are required to be officer positions. As far as I know all other flight crew positions are enlisted men. Examples are flight engineer, radio operator, loadmaster, para jumper. And yes, the enlisted people do all the ground support and maintenance.

In a related question, what percentage of Air Force Officers are aviators? I’d wager it was maybe 20% or lower.

I figure, only the ranking officers going through the academy are cleared for piloting jets.
You can become an officer and a pilot without going to the academy.

You can go through ROTC during college, or go to Officer Training School after college.

Former NCO chiming in here. An Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist to be exact. In other words I loaded munitions(bombs) on aircraft along with maintaining the weapons platform(aircraft). Any other 462s out there?

My Aircraft Maintenance Unit which consisted of roughly 300 people was comprised of 98% enlisted personnel.

Enlisted personnel far outnumber officers in nearly all career fields. We are after all the backbone of the Air Force and every other branch of service.

Loved every minute of it.

Lessee, my aunt and my father were both USAF. She’s still in and is studying for loadmaster. Her former specialty was driving the refueling boom. My father was a corpsman (medic). Ground security is almost all enlisted. Maintainance and repair–almost all enlisted. Officers make up a very small part of the air force.

Of course, the air force is also the only arm where the enlisted routinely send the officers off to fight…

From the site

there are a total of 71,173 officers of all types. If by “aviators” you mean pilots, then there are 12,714 (adding men and women together), or about 18%. So good guess! The number goes up a little if you consider navigators (or even Air Battle Managers, but that’s getting even farther from the definition of “aviator” in my opinion).

The root site at

has all kinds of links to statistics about people in the Air Force.

Just for the record, enlisted airforce personnel are called Airmen and Sargeants.

Just for the record, Sergeants are called Sergeants.

Also, I was under the impression that only a Navy Enlisted Medic (Petty Officer only) was called “Corpsman.” Do the other branches use that term also? IIRC, during my Army days, the Medics got called “Medics.”

I was in the USAF '69-'72.
I was a voice intercept operator, served in Taiwan for 13 months, then when my particular job classification became about 1000% overmanned, I was transferred to NSA as an intelligence analyst.
I never once set foot in an Air Force plane.

I was in the USAF from '84-'88. I fixed cars.

I joined the A.F. as an enlisted person because I realized that, unlike all the other services, for the most part the Officers do the fighting and the Enlisted folk stay behind at the nice Base waving bye-bye.

Seemed better than getting shelled in a foxhole, or storming some hostile beachhead.

It was.

Also, we had the best food. I was told that my tech school base, (Chanute AFB Illinois, since closed.) had a four star chow hall.

Good Times.

I did a few exercises on AF Bases between 1989 and 1992 as a Marine. What we called the Chow Hall was the “Cafeteria”. Barracks were called “Dormitories”. The facilities were miles ahead of anything I had seen on a Marine Corps, Army, or Navy base. We had set up a tactical bivouac in a field just inside the back gate of Fairchild AFB, with an M-60 machinegun, M-16’s, shelter halves, patrols, MRE’s, etc… You should have seen the traffic jam we caused with rubberneckers going to work in the morning!

On the last night most of the detachment went to the All Hands Club, or whatever it was called. They couldn’t BUY a drink, their money was no good. Different world.

I was a software engineer, and later the sys admin for the rest of the shop.

There’s plenty to do in the AF besides fly.

Air Force enlisted folks do the same thing as any other services’ enlisted force: the “legwork”.

Since the AF is all about flying airplanes, a large part of the “legwork” involves jobs that revolve around airplanes - maintenance, weapons, air traffic controller, etc. Other jobs entail supporting the flying of airplanes - cops, finance, medical, supply, etc.

As mentioned previously, there are flying jobs: loadmaster, flight engineer and boom operator (radio operator died as a career field a looooong time ago). There are some Special Ops jobs like gunner on an MH-53, but these are rare.

As for the “corpsman” or “medic”, the closest thing I can think of is a PJ, who does many, many things but one of them is emergency medical care. (If anyone has seen the AF commercial showing the guy jumping over a waterfall to save the girl’s backpack and then transforms into a guy being lowered into the water from a helicopter - that’s a PJ).

The AF also has some jobs that are very similar to Navy SEALS - called CCT or Combat Control Team. Their job is to jump into enemy territory and secure an airfield so that airplanes can land.

Most of the support outfits’ makeup is largely like other branches of the service - ie mostly enlisted headed up by a few officers. Look at an AF maintenance or security forces squadron roster and it will look very similar to an Army unit’s as far as rank is concerned.

When you get to flying squadrons, things change. Since only officers are rated (pilots and navigators), flying squadrons have a huge number of officers and much fewer enlisted members. In an airlift or tanker squadron, where enlisted folks comprise some of the flying positions you may have a 50/50 split. In a fighter or training (ie UPT) squadron you may have 150 officers and five enlisted folks - just enough to handle the admin needs.

As for the flying jobs available to enlisted types, I know that you can go straight from basic training into loadmaster tech school. To be a flight engineer you had to have been in a previous career field (usually maintenance) and I think there was a time requirement also. I was an airlift guy which means I never had a boom operator on my crew, but I THINK that you could go right into being a boom operator after basic, but I’m not sure.

To summarize, the enlisted ranks in the AF did all the work so us pilots could actually go fly. A sharp flight engineer on your crew is worth his weight in gold, especially on the smoky, leaky, noisy, cranky but otherwise great Tube of Pain (aka C-141)!

Uhhh, I’m in the band. (FTR I spent 10 years as a nuclear engineer on submarines, so don’t give me any crap. I paid my dues.)

Yeah, but you’d better play a MANLY instrument, or prepare to be heckled!

I was in for ten years, 87 to 97. I honestly think I had the best gig the Air Force has to offer. Broadcaster, Radio and TV. Traveled the world, played music that wasn’t “Clear Channel Cleared”, got to make fun of the system with very few repercussions, never held a gun, except in Korea working for the Army, (and even then it was never loaded) and had a great time on at least three continents.
Good Times.

I was an x-ray tech in the Air Force.