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How the U.S. Air Force Works

Life in the Air Force

Captain Audra Goldfuss, weather officer with the 7th Air Force in Osan, South Korea, gave us a glimpse into daily life in the Air Force. There are Air Force Bases scattered throughout the United States, with several in Europe and Asia. Personnel are moved every year or two based on the needs of the Air Force (specific requests for locations are taken into account, but are granted a much lower priority than where the Air Force wants you). Goldfuss has been stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona prior to being transferred to Korea.

Audra Goldfuss.
Photo Courtesy of Captain Audra Goldfuss
Captain Audra Goldfuss, 7th Air Force, stands in front of a U2 reconnaissance plane.

A typical day starts very early, at 0400 hours, or 4:00 a.m. That gives Goldfuss enough time to get into uniform, polish her boots and make sure her hair meets military regulations before arriving to work at 0530. As a weather officer, she is then briefed on the previous 12 hours of weather throughout the theater that Osan Air Force Base is responsible for: the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Hawaii, Guam and parts of China. From there, she goes to a Top Secret briefing room, where she gives a report to the general in charge of the base. Goldfuss explains that the weather itself isn't top secret, but a high security clearance is required "because of how it impacts the aircraft we fly."

Audra Goldfuss performs a reenlistment ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Captain Audra Goldfuss
Captain Audra Goldfuss, pictured left, performs a re-enlistment ceremony for Senior Airman Donna Whitney at Tyndall AFB, in Floria.

Reflecting the Air Force's focus on continuing education, Goldfuss spends a lot of time taking online military education courses and learning German (she knows her next assignment will take her to an Air Force Base in Germany). Base personnel also take part in combat exercises. "We pretend we're at war, so we practice as if bombs are dropping, guns are firing, all hell is breaking loose. My job during these times is to give weather for specific locations, help out with Personnel Recovery missions, and keep people informed of weather all over the theater."

Life on an Air Force Base gives Air Force officers and enlisted troops a variety of ways to spend their free time. Everything they need is on the base itself, so just about anything is within walking distance. This includes basics like a grocery store and other shopping options, as well as exercise centers, movie theaters, golf courses, restaurants, schools and churches.

As members of a U.S. military organization, all Air Force personnel are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Dismissal from the Air Force can take a variety of forms, from an honorable discharge to a court-martial, depending on the circumstances surrounding the dismissal. See How the Army Works for a full explanation.

Air Force Reserve
The Air Force Reserve is an active element of the Air Force, participating in missions, maintenance and support. It is used to supplement active Air Force units, not held in reserve for specific call-ups (although the Air Force can call up certain ready reservists when they're needed). Most Air Force reservists put in far more than one weekend a month and two weekends per year repairing and maintaining the Air Force's aircraft.

Air Force veterans and retirees are eligible for a host of benefits ranging from burial in state cemeteries, health and life insurance, low-interest loans for mortgages or small businesses and veterans' health care. The full suite of benefits available may depend on the nature of the veteran's dismissal -- usually an honorable discharge or retirement is necessary for access to all benefits. A search for answers to specific questions about veterans' benefits begins at the National Archive: Sources for Veterans Information, Aid and Benefits.

For lots more information on the Air Force and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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More Great Links


  • Yenne, Bill. The History of the U.S. Air Force. Longmeadow Pr, (1984). ISBN 978-0681416819.
  • Slattery, Ryan. "US Fighter Pilot Recounts Her Harrowing Flight Over Iraq." Boston Globe.
  • Haulman, Daniel L. One Hundred Years of Flight: USAF Chronology of Significant Air and Space Events, 1903–2002. Air University Press, 2003.
  • The Air Force in Facts and Figures: Structure of the Force. Air Force Magazine, May 2006.
  • Master Sgt. Gettle, Mitch. "Air Force releases new mission statement."
  • Air Force