By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
As the years of war wind down, it is clear to see the effects on the military and its members. After the major bulking up of their ranks, the military branches of the Department of Defense (DoD) are or will soon be seeing their numbers drastically reduced. Out of fiscal necessity, the U.S. military will be forced to lower the amount of soldiers, sailors, marines and guardsmen to peace-time numbers. Last week, the Army announced that it is getting ready to separate approximately 3,800 officers. More cut-backs and draw-downs are expected within the next few years, as the DOD predicts that it will separate around one million members over the next five years.
However, the Air Force may soon be facing another form of mass separations from their ranks that could be detrimental to the overall readiness of the branch. Over the next 1-2 years, the Air Force could be facing a struggle retaining their pilots, as commercial airlines might be snatching them away.
Due to an expected increase in commercial air travel, combined with the high amount of current commercial pilots who have a short ETA to retirement age, airlines are expected to be hiring as many as 50,000 pilots industry-wide, beginning in 2014. In 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) increased the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 60 to 65. After five years, the pilots affected by the change are now up for retirement. The FAA has also been increasing the amount of experience that pilots must have, making experienced pilots a valuable commodity for commercial airlines.
With the high level of competition to gain access to their pilot program, coupled with the amount of intense training that their pilots must endure, one truly must want to fly be an Air Force pilot. Cutbacks and sequestration has resulted in a lot of grounded fly days for most AF flyers; and many more are expected in the future. Many pilots might take their hundreds of hours of logged airtime experience and their love of flying to fly the friendly skies for more money than their military pay.
It is unknown as to how many Air Force pilots are planning to turn in their commissions. Let’s just hope that the Air Force’s leadership can find a way to maintain optimum readiness for its fighting force. And let’s hope that through all draw-downs and cut-backs, our nation maintains a fighting force that is capable of protecting its boundaries and interests.