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What Does an Airman Do?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The airman is typically the air force and navy's version of the army's private. The primary responsibility of the airman is to service and maintain the aircraft assigned to him. The plane, munitions and the security of the area are all duties performed by an airman. Other duties involve assisting in the take off and landing of planes, helping in crash situations and with food service duties. The general duties of the position offer the soldier the opportunity to rise through the ranks by becoming educated in many areas of the service, as well as excelling in one primary division.

As part of the flight crew, the airman is responsible for nearly every aspect of keeping the aircraft in top-operating condition. Fueling the aircraft is a duty performed by an airman, along with cleaning the weapons, loading the ammunition and airing the tires. This type of maintenance is typically performed in a hangar or on the grounds of an airport; however, in a naval application, this type of airman activity is usually conducted on an aircraft carrier. When stationed aboard an American aircraft carrier, the airman is commonly assigned to a group commonly known as Skittles®, so-named due to the assortment of brightly-colored uniforms that are worn.

One of the reasons that an airman would wear a brightly-colored uniform is to make himself more noticeable to pilots. It also makes the service member more easily seen in the event that he or she were to fall overboard. The different colors are to allow the pilots and other shipboard personnel to quickly and accurately recognize the proper individual that is performing a specific function for the pilot and plane. Every job carries with it a specific color, so identification of airmen designated as ammunition handlers or fuel handlers can be properly made in the chaos that is often present on the flight deck.

There are different levels of the airman rank, with each having its own set of requirements and responsibilities. The rank is awarded based on time in service, as well as performance while fulfilling the assigned duties of the rank held. Exceptions to these rules can be made, under certain guidelines, by a commanding officer who is typically allowed to promote service members at an accelerated rate. A new soldier typically enters the service at the lowest rank and gains promotion as slots become open, and the soldier's performance has been deemed appropriate for the new rank by his commander.

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