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US: Aviation

Mike Sullivan writes: "I hope Hank Levin realizes the USAF is an air force that flies aircraft. In the military to fly an aircraft you must be an officer. The figures are high in the Navy and Army for the same reason. The Army actually has more aircraft (mainly helos with two pilots flying them) than the USAF. The Marines have a much smaller air force than the other services (20% the size of the Navy's) and are primarily geared to ground combat (70%), with aviation as a supporting arm and not the main offensive thrust. As for the Officers Clubs, today most bases have an "All Ranks Club", instead of separate clubs, It consists of a common kitchen and separate areas in the same building for officers, SNCOs and enlisted to socialize. This is happening with new construction as the older clubs, many pre WW II, are being torn down as they are in such sad shape. Here at Cherry Point the Enlisted Club has been closed for at least 10 years and replaced with a Special Services (MCCS) restaurant. The SNCO Club was closed a few months ago except for special function, and the Officers Club is serving as an all ranks club where anyone can come for lunch or dinner. Lunch is served only five days a week, dinner maybe on Friday night if enough sign up, and an all ranks brunch on Sunday. All of this is caused by the fact that in all services the clubs are losing money. They used to receive appropriated funds to help defray expenses, but those funds were taken away, and now the clubs most make a profit on their own merits with dues and pricing. When I was a junior officer, our social life centered around the O' Club with three meals a day, seven days a week and all sorts of social functions. They made money and esprit de corps prevailed. Everyone belonged to the clubs in those days. Today at Cherry Point only 40% of the officers belong, and more retired military and civilian employees belong than active duty military. As the military expanded during WW II there were many millions under arms so the clubs grew and prospered, especially, in remote areas like Cherry Point. Now these areas have all grown and communities have built up around the bases so there are a lot better choices than going to the O'Club, where the prices are high and the quality not as good as it used to be. In the modern era with the cutting of military personnel between 1990 and 2003 of nearly one million persons (2.1 million to 1.3 million today) it's very hard for these clubs to make a profit as the business just isn't there. Military personnel work longer hours today because of the large personnel cuts, and new equipment has not caught up with them yet, are deployed more often than in the past as we have more commitments and less people and, in many cases, they can't find the time to eat during normal meal hours (enlisted get commuted rations, which is cash in lieu of meals). The myth that the officers are hiding and being entertained in the Officers Clubs is right out of the anti-war handbook. What Hank says about a large number of civilian employees in the military is correct, but they don't go to war and are supposed to be doing jobs at the Pentagon and other places that the military doesn't do. Some are political appointees and others are civil service workers doing mainly "bean counting", personnel management and budgets. Some are highly educated, but many do not have a college degree just like the military. They have been taking their personnel cuts right along with the military. The high tech equipment now being used, from computers to weapons systems, is releasing excess manpower and numbers of weapons systems procured. Examples are the new KC-130J Hercules has only a pilot, co-pilot and loadmaster. while before it also carried a navigator, a flight engineer and a radioman. They are now reducing F/A-18 Hornet squadrons to 10 aircraft instead of 12, as 10 aircraft can now do the job it used to take 12 to do. So the military is making strides to become more efficient and cost effective".

Ronald Hilton - 1/25/03