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When thinking about what military branch to enlist in, many people tend to overlook the Air Force. There are a few reasons for this, chief among them being the lack of all time great war movies dealing with the Air Force— no, Top Gun isn't considered great by rational people. Hollywood aside, the Air Force has some of our most important service members, as the air is equal to the ground and seas in terms of strategic warfare, and often they work in concert.
Also, the Air Force is the newest of the four branches of the military, not becoming its own separate service branch until 1947. It's ideal for those who wish to explore the friendly skies but don't want to miss out on valuable service to their country — it's got the best of both worlds.
So, if you're thinking of signing up, there are several important questions to ask before joining the Air Force, just to be sure it's the right fit for you. There is much to know before signing on the dotted line, everything from enlistment bonuses to duration of service should be well understood before making a commitment of this degree. Get some insights on some of the most frequently asked questions so you know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
What are the ranks in the Air Force?
The Air Force has a series of ranks for enlisted Airmen and a separate one for its officers. Your rank will say something about your responsibility as well as your pay scale, and the higher the number, the higher your rank. You enter as an Airman basic, and are under the E-1 pay scale to start out.
Everyone starts there unless they have prior experience, and if that was the case, you'd already know all the questions to ask before joining the Air Force. There is also positions available in the Air Force National Guard, just know that you'll have to undergo the same training regiment as active Airmen.
Are there enlistment bonuses?
The Air Force does offer some pretty generous enlistment bonuses, depending on the circumstances. Some positions offer bonuses of up to $10,000, and generally those positions are the more difficult to achieve. Officers can make significantly more than that, depending on the duration of their commitment.
The exact amount will vary and is hard to say, but all people who join up should see some sort of enlistment bonus. Once you actually enlist, your contract will specify the authorized bonus amount, and as long as you meet the demands of the contract you should see it in full.
How long is my contract?
One the most important questions to ask before joining the Air Force is one of the most consequential: how long am I going to be there? There are Air Force enlistment options that run for as little as two years, instead of the more traditional four and six year enlistments. The duration of your contract is really one of the more important things to consider, so if you aren't quite sold, the two year enlistment is designed to get servicemen and women who might otherwise balk at a six year commitment.
The idea for shorter terms is a Congressional initiative called the National Call to Service, and the goal for shorter enlistment cycles has been pretty well received. So, even if you don't want to spend the better part of a decade committed, you can still provide vital service to your nation! There is still reserve duty that comes at the back end of the deal, but that is much more easily navigated.
Is there a cutoff age?
Many people don't get the calling or the urge to serve their country until much later in life, so many of these people may be wondering: is there a cutoff age? In order to apply for entry into the United States Air Force your adjusted age must be less than 39. Adjusted age, what the hell is that? Well, in order to get your adjusted age you take your actual age and subtract actual time in service credit.
So, if you've never served before you'd just take your real chronological age. For example, you could be well into your 40s, but if you've served enough time to drop your age below 39, then you're good to go.
Will I see action?
The mission of the United States Air Force is to defend the United States of America and its global interests — in both air and space. Odds are you will see some type of action, but this will be on a need to know basis and it depends on the current geopolitical landscape, but it's definitely one of the questions to ask before joining the Air Force.
You will be trained for every imaginable contingency and scenario, from terror attacks to full scale global war. In addition, you could be called upon to help during other crises around the world. The ferocity of the potential fighting will also depend greatly on the job you decide to go after once enlisted.
Do I have any say about where I will be assigned?
Lastly, will I have any say on where I go? Sadly, not much, as the needs of the Air Force mission comes first in terms of assignment, which can make it difficult to have a significant other in the Air Force. Mostly you will go as needed, but part of signing up is to see the world, right? While it's one of the questions to ask before joining the Air Force, just know once you're in you will have very little say—this is the military, after all, so get used to complying with orders you may not always like.
However, it isn't as cold as all that, your preferred locations are considered during the assignment process, but they cannot in anyway be guaranteed. Just know you're low down on the priority list as you just enlisted, but during basic training you have the chance to list your top eight choices in your order of preference, so good luck to you. Now, if you have no further questions, you should be ready to enlist—Godspeed!