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Airman is a term used to refer to any person enlisted in the United States Air Force or Other Ranks in the Royal Air Force (in which airwoman is also seen). It is also a specific enlisted man's rank in the U.S. Air Force (including females). More informally, it can refer to any member of an air force, or to any pilot, aviator, or aircrewman, military or civilian, male or female. When capitalized, "Airman" can mean any member of the U.S. Air Force, enlisted and/or officer, just as all members of the U.S. Marine Corps are known as "Marines", and almost all members of the U.S. Navy are known as "Sailors". (Some Navy and Marine people are also "Airmen", thus they carry both titles.)

In civilian aviation usage, the term "airman" is analogous to the term "sailor" in nautical usage. (U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard people are almost all sailors, even on naval and Coast Guard shore bases, but the subset of these who actually serve at sea in ships and boats are also "seamen". Further, people in these services who are involved in flying are also "airmen".) In the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) usage, an airman is any holder of an airman's certificate, male or female. This certificate is issued to those who qualify for it by the FAA Airmen Certification Branch.

In the United States Air Force

In the U.S. Air Force, the rank of Airman (Amn) is the second enlisted man's rank from the bottom, just above the rank of Airman Basic, and just below that of Airman First Class. Note that in the U.S. Air Force (established 1947), all of the various ranks of "Airman" have always included females, and in this context, the word "man" means "human being". Former U.S. Air Force ranks included Airman Second Class and Airman Third Class. However, sometime in the 1950s, there was a lot of reorganization of the enlisted men's ranks, and the former rank of Airman First Class became an Air Force Sergeant; the former Airman became the new Airman First Class; the former Airman Second Class became an Airman; and the former Airman Third Class became an Airman Basic. All of the pay and fringe benefit Grades remained as they were, just associated with new an less unwieldy rank names.

A person with the rank of Airman Basic is typically promoted to the rank of Airman after six months of active duty service in the Air Force, if that member had signed up for an enlistment period of at least four years of active duty. On the other hand, an enlistee could be promoted to the rank of Airman immediately after completing Air Force basic training (and thus paid somewhat more) given one of several additional qualifications:

A). Having completed at least two years of a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Junior ROTC) while in high school. These programs are sponsored and taught by four of the services at hundreds of the larger high schools in the United States and its possessions (but only one program per school). These Junior ROTC programs, which are taught just like regular high school courses, and they include the oldest program, Junior ROTC, taught by the Army; and three ones that were established later: Air Force Jr. ROTC; Naval Junior ROTC; and Marine Corps Junior ROTC. There is no fixed rule for their locations, but Air Force Jr. ROTC classes tend to be located in the vicinity of Air Force Bases; Naval Jr. ROTC classes tend to be taught in the vicinity of Naval Bases and Naval Air Stations; and Army Jr. ROTC classes are located anywhere at all.

B. Having achieved the Eagle Scout level from the Boy Scouts of America, or the equivalent level of achievement from the Girl Scouts of America.

C. Having earned 20 college semester credit hours. (30 quarter hours)

Those enlistees who have qualified for these early promotions to the rank of Airman are allowed to wear their single Airman insignia stripe during the Air Force basic training graduation ceremony at Lackland Air Force Basemarker, Texasmarker. They also receive their retroactive pay increment that beings them up to the pay grade for an Airman upon their completion of basic training. (Thus, it is as if they has enlisted as Airmen on the first day, as far as their pay is concerned. However, if they don't complete Basic Training, but rather they get expelled, they don't get the extra pay.)

While at the rank of Airman an enlisted man's duties (reminder: including females) include adjusting to the Air Force way of military life and becoming proficient in his/her Air Force duty specialty. Note that upon leaving basic training, all Airmen enter a period of many weeks or many months of training at Air Force schools in their duty specialties (their "jobs") that they and the Air Force have selected for them depending on their aptitudes and interests, and the needs of the Air Force for various specialties. For Airmen with high aptitudes, some of these training programs include more than one school and take one year or more to complete. Some Airmen are preparing for duty in highly-skilled Air Force jobs including as technicians for multiple types of airplanes, long-range missiles, helicopters, jet engines and turboprop engines, electronics, radars, explosive ordinance and weapons, air-to-air missiles, nuclear weapons, computers, communication systems, high-technology security systems; technicians and assistants in the medical field, including nurses, physician's assistants, dental assistants, and many more.

After many months or a couple of years of duty as an Airman after schooling, it also becomes the duty of the interested Airman to prepare for the possibility of promotion to the rank of Airman First Class, and with it, more responsibilities.

Because of their single stripe & star insignia, Airmen is often nicknamed "Mosquito Wings", "Speed bumps", "Bullet Sponges", "Wingnuts", or simply "One-Stripers".

Airman in the United States Navy

In the U.S. Navy, Airman is the enlisted man's rank that corresponds to the pay grade of E-3 in the Navy's Aviation Field (note that Airman and enlisted man includes females. Here "man" means "human being".)Airman is just above the naval rank of Airman Apprentice, Seaman Apprentice, Fireman Apprentice, Hospitalman Apprentice, and so forth on the E-2 pay grade, but it is just below the rank of Petty Officer Third Class (E-4).

The following rates (actual job names and functions) fall within the category of Airman and are all at the E-3 pay grade:
  • AD: Aviation Machinist Mate
  • AE: Aviation Electricians Mate
  • AG: Aviation Aerographers Mate
  • AM: Aviation Structural Mechanic
  • AME: Aviation Structural Mechanic (Egress)
  • AO: Aviation Ordnanceman
  • AS: Aviation Support Equipment Technician
  • AT: Aviation Electronics Technican
  • AW: Aviation Warfare Systems Operator
  • AZ: Aviation Maintenance Administrationman


United States Coast Guard Airmen

In the U.S. Coast Guard, the ranks are very similar or identical to the ones in the U.S. Navy (above), and an Coast Guard Airman is identical in rank and pay to an Airman in the Navy. They also have very similar duties, except that Coast Guard Airmen are not usually involved with aircraft carriers. All Coast Guard fixed-wing airplanes (such as the C-130 Hercules) fly from land bases, and Coast Guard helicopters, with rare exceptions, fly from either land bases or from the Coast Guard cutters that are equipped with small helicopter decks.

Coast Guard Airman is the enlisted man's rank that corresponds to the pay grade of E-3 in the Coast Guard's Aviation Field (note that Airman and enlisted man includes females. Here "man" means "human being".) Airman is just above the Coast Guard rank of Airman Apprentice, Seaman Apprentice, Fireman Apprentice, Hospitalman Apprentice, and so forth on the E-2 pay grade, but it is just below the rank of Petty Officer Third Class (E-4).

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