Do you know why they call us the Chair Force? Cuz we can destroy the enemy without getting up from our chair, that’s why!
When your fighting force is mainly pilots and aircrew members, a lot of time is spent sitting down. Even remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) have a pilot sitting, you guessed it, on a chair. In the Air Force (AF), a LOT of time is spent in training, which means sitting on chairs. Chairs everywhere!
Let’s be honest; if you could do your job from the comfort of a desk chair, you’d probably do it. My father was a sheet metal worker his whole life and his most vocal advice was to get a job where you use your brain more than your back. Although I worked in construction for years before I joined the military, I knew he was right. Since the Chair Force wasn’t hiring, I decided to enlist in the Air Force.
Origins of the Chair Force
The term Chair Force may be tied to Air Force’s basic military training (BMT). In contrast to 13 weeks in the Marines or nine in the Army, Air Force trainees used to spend a grand total of six-and-a-half weeks in BMT, only 36 hours of which were “in the field.”
In 2008, the Air Force expanded its BMT to eight-and-a-half weeks. Even so, I bet most people would prefer the Air Force’s BMT to any of the other branches’.
Once BMT is over, trainees (we don’t call them recruits, troops, or assholes) move on to technical training, known as tech school. BMT teaches how to be a member of the Air Force; tech school teaches how to work in the AF. Some trainees have short tech schools. Personnelists, for instance, go through six weeks of tech school. We called them “pop tarts” because they showed up at tech school, then were gone before we knew it.
As an avionics technician, my tech school lasted 19-and-a-half weeks, on paper. In reality, I was at Keesler for tech school for a little more than seven months. That’s a long time to sit in a chair.
Ninety-five percent of the time spent in tech school is in the classroom. The other five percent is spent on physical training, details, and mandatory fun. Compare that to Marines, who leave boot camp to go do more boot camp stuff. Or the Soldiers, who leave boot camp to go do more boot camp stuff. Or the Sailors, who leave boot camp and go to A school… which actually sounds a lot like the AF, now that I think about it. Yeah, but they’re called seamen…
Once an Airman leaves tech school, they join what is commonly known as Big Blue. That’s the first duty station, where trainees learn how things REALLY get done in the Chair Force. They sit you down on a chair (get it?) and explain things. No, there’s no such thing as sitting at attention. Nobody here cares if you have a 341 form in your pocket. Nor do you need to carry that flashlight (Lackland Laser, Keesler Candle) everywhere you go. And no, the guy in the next room did NOT sleep with the general’s daughter.
From there, Computer-based Training (CBT) starts. CBT is a big reason the AF is the Chair Force, in many people’s eyes. Everything from hygiene to bomb disposal are available in CBT form. In 2016, the AF reviewed 42 training courses NOT RELATED to one’s primary career field to see if that number could be decreased; they dropped 15. That’s a hell of a lot of time in a computer chair.
Career Development Courses
Every Airman has a job, and those jobs are organized by Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). Every AFSC has a career development course (CDC) associated with it. No one moves forward in the AF without completing CDCs. Those CDCs are, you guessed it again, computer-based.
Some are, anyway. Mine were stapled-together books. Nine of them.
Each CDC requires a test at the end, then tests on “sets” of three, then a final test on all of them. Again, a lot of time on a computer chair.
All branches require training. Squids need to know that jet fuel is not for extinguishing fires. Grunts need to learn what computers are, and Jarheads need to learn what flavors come in a crayon pack.
Airmen learn EVERYTHING through ancillary training. Not only can I stop a sucking chest wound thanks to CBTs, but I also know I can’t plug my coffee maker into an extension cord. Education is key, children.
Doing the Job
My first duty station was Travis AFB, CA, where I was assigned to work the C-5 Galaxy, aka the FRED, the largest plane in the U.S. military. Including the flight deck, there are 95 seats on that thing. Man, those chairs were comfortable! I’ve flown all around the world in those chairs so I should know. Before I worked the FRED I had to learn about it, so I spent a lot of time on a classroom chair. There’s a pattern emerging here…
After many eons on the flightline, I moved into an office, where I had my OWN chair. I stole the best one from the conference room fair and square, thank you very much. From that chair, I could survey my domain, which wasn’t much, and surf online for Chair Force memes to my heart’s content. I even acquired another, less comfortable, chair for visitors to sit on when they came to my office. Actually, it was a cubicle, but that doesn’t sound as important. The colonel was in a cubicle, too, so I don’t feel that bad. My chair was cooler, though.
The Psychological Downsides of the Chair Force
Well, there really aren’t any. Never in my 20-year career did I wish I were in another branch.
I knew quite a few Grunts and Jarheads that “Crossed into the Blue,” but no Airmen that went the other way. If they did, they were dead to us so they didn’t count. Other branches may talk s#!t about the Air Force, but that’s out of love… or jealousy. Yeah, probably jealousy.
Civilians don’t get to talk s#!t, though. Fuhgeddaboutit!