Updated: April 20, 2015
Having served in Navy Recruiting for many years, the question about which service is the better service to join would often come up. When I worked in Panama City, Fl, the question on most minds concerned the Air Force, which really was no surprise because Tyndall Air Force Base was close, and much larger, hence providing a greater influence than the Coastal Systems Station where the Navy’s Dive School and Experimental Diving Unit is located. Statements I would hear like, “I’m joining the Air Force because they treat their people better,” and “They have it better in the Air Force” made me wonder why the Department of Defense (DOD) would allow such a thing. I had to find out how this vicious rumor has perpetuated into “common knowledge.”
After hearing about it so many times, I just had to see for myself. By the way, the only exposure I had to the Air Force up to this point was the couple of nights I stayed on an Air Force base when I traveled to and from Philmont back when I was in the Boy Scouts. Incidentally, I do remember during one of those stays we got to see a movie at the base theater – the movie was Whiskey Mountain, by far the WORST movie I have ever seen. I also attended some of Electronics Technician “A” school in Great Lakes with a few of them – they only attended the first 10 weeks of the school then they left, I don’t think they attend Navy ET “A” school any longer. I took a few of my applicants with me to both local bases so we could learn together.
First, we went to the Naval Coastal Systems Station and got a tour of the barracks, chow hall, and the small exchange/liquor store (the liquor store just happened to be in the same building as the exchange…). Then we drove straight over to the Air Force Base, as we drove through the gate it was obvious the public relations people in the Air Force had it going on. We drove up to the chow hall, thing was they didn’t call it that – they call it a “dining facility,” would you rather eat in a chow hall or dining facility? Then we got to the barracks, hold on that’s not what they call it – they call it a “dormitory” – would you rather live in the dorm or a barracks? The thing was DOD hadn’t been playing favorites at all, the space, furniture and even the bedding were EXACTLY the same. In the chow hall/dining facility the tables, chairs, glasses and flatware were the SAME. I am a little biased when I say Navy “chow” is the best, but in reality they more than likely work off very similar recipe cards and start with the same ingredients – does the Air Force have midrats? If not, that in itself is a reason to choose the Navy over the Air Force. Nothing better than a late night prepared meal/snack after liberty!
As we drove back to the recruiting station, each of the applicants voiced a certain level of amazement of what they saw it first hand. We started to discuss even deeper the differences. Most Navy bases are located near the water, and a lot of them happen to be in civilian vacation destinations. There is not a Navy base in Minot, ND, but there is one in Earle, NJ – where you may get stationed has much to do with your job and open billets, all services have locations very few would want to be located.
College benefits and the GI Bill are the same across all the armed forces.
Air Force and Navy both have doctors, nurses, clinics and hospitals, but when the President seeks medical care more times than not he goes to Bethesda Naval Hospital.
The Navy and the Air Force both work off the same basic military pay scale (< I updated the link to the 2015 chart) which is based on rank (paygrade) and time in service. Each service has special duty pays and various allowances. Promotion according to the latest figures (2005) have the Navy promoting to E-5 an average of 4 months sooner than their Air Force counterpart.
Both services will deploy members into Iraq and Afghanistan. It is only in the Navy (and Marine Corps) will you have the opportunity to deploy on a ship or submarine. During a six month deployment you may have the chance to experience multiple countries and cultures (remember they are near beaches).
It is because of the chance to serve on a ship or submarine, you should choose the Navy over the Air Force. Let me explain.
Both services are recognized for being “high tech” but there is one major difference most people are unaware of. Because the Navy does in fact deploy on a ship or submarine space is a real issue. An Electronics Tech in the Navy will be expected to understand and have knowledge on more than a single system – you learn not just how to fix things you are taught how they may have broke. You are taught how the trons flow and why. If something breaks, you have to know how to fix it. A large transceiver data system may have many parts, it is not uncommon that a Navy tech would have to be proficient for its entirety as an Air Force tech may only be responsible for the transmit section and another tech responsible for the receive portion.
My father, two oldest sons and myself are all Navy veterans (one is still in and on the GW, dang Nukes) so of course I am biased towards the Navy – I would like to applaud every young man and woman who is considering joining any of the services – bottom line is, no service is better than another. We all have very important jobs to do and in truth we all count of each other. I’ll leave you with this thought and observation – four years in the military may only equate to 5% of your total life but it will influence, in a very positive way, who you will become. As they say, don’t just watch history, be a part of it.