Under the Radar

The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in the US Military

Army Sgt. Kevon Campbell, right, applies a tourniquet to a mock wounded comrade on a simulated battlefield in a mock Afghan village at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Fort Polk, La., Jan. 26, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army/Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
Army Sgt. Kevon Campbell, right, applies a tourniquet to a mock wounded comrade on a simulated battlefield in a mock Afghan village at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Fort Polk, La., Jan. 26, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army/Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

All jobs in the military carry real risks, but some jobs are much riskier than others. Here are 10 of the most dangerous:

1. Pararescue

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen and a simulated “survivor” watch as an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor)
U.S. Air Force pararescuemen and a simulated “survivor” watch as an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor)

Pararescue jumpers are basically the world’s best ambulance service. They fly, climb, and march to battlefields, catastrophic weather areas, and disaster zones to save wounded and isolated people during firefights or other emergencies.

2. Special operations

U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson)
U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson)

While this is lumping a few separate jobs together, troops such as Navy SEALs, Army green berets, Air Force combat controllers, and others conduct particularly risky missions. They train allied forces, hunt enemy leaders, and go on direct action missions against the worst of America’s adversaries. They get additional training and better equipment than other units, but the challenging nature of their mission results in a lot of casualties.

3. Explosive ordnance disposal

A U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician places C4 explosives on Chinese 82mm Type 65 Recoilless Rifles, and 82mm High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) Recoilless Rifle Rounds near the Kandahar International Airport in Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Ted Banks)
A U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician places C4 explosives on Chinese 82mm Type 65 Recoilless Rifles, and 82mm High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) Recoilless Rifle Rounds near the Kandahar International Airport in Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Ted Banks)

The bomb squad for the military, explosive ordnance disposal technicians used to spend the bulk of their time clearing minefields or dealing with dud munitions that didn’t go off. Those missions were dangerous enough, but the rise of improvised explosive devices changed all that and increased the risk for these service members.

4. Infantry

Army Pfc. Aaron Hadley assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, qualifies at night with the M240 machine gun on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Justin Connaher)
Army Pfc. Aaron Hadley assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, qualifies at night with the M240 machine gun on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Justin Connaher)

Not exactly shocking that infantry is one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. These troops search out and destroy the enemy and respond to calls for help when other units stumble into danger. They are the primary force called on to take and hold territory from enemy forces.

5. Cavalry

Dragoons, assigned to Bull Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, participate in a live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area located near Rose Barracks, Germany. (Photo: U.S. Army/Sgt. William Tanner)
Dragoons, assigned to Bull Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, participate in a live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area located near Rose Barracks, Germany. (Photo: U.S. Army/Sgt. William Tanner)

The cavalry conducts reconnaissance and security missions and, if there is a shortage of infantry soldiers, is often called to take and hold territory against enemy formations. Their recon mission sometimes results in them fighting while vastly outnumbered.

6. Artillery

Army artillery (Photo: U.S. Army)
Army artillery (Photo: U.S. Army)

Artillery soldiers send massive rounds against enemy forces. Because artillery destroys enemy formations and demoralizes the survivors, it’s a target for enemy airstrikes and artillery barrages. Also, the artillery may be called on to assume infantry and cavalry missions that they’ve received little training on.

7. Medical

Army Sgt. Kevon Campbell, right, applies a tourniquet to a mock wounded comrade on a simulated battlefield in a mock Afghan village at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Fort Polk, La., Jan. 26, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army/Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
Army Sgt. Kevon Campbell, right, applies a tourniquet to a mock wounded comrade on a simulated battlefield in a mock Afghan village at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Fort Polk, La., Jan. 26, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army/Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Medics go forward with friendly forces to render aid under fire. While medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, this only helps when the enemy honors the conventions. Even then, artillery barrages and bombing runs can’t tell which troops are noncombatants.

8. Vehicle transportation

U.S. Army members with 782nd Alpha Company make their way around gigantic improvised explosive device blast holes that were created just a few hours prior to their convoy passing through April 30, 2010, Southern Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)
U.S. Army members with 782nd Alpha Company make their way around gigantic improvised explosive device blast holes that were created just a few hours prior to their convoy passing through April 30, 2010, Southern Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Truck driving is another job that became markedly more dangerous in the most recent wars. While driving vehicles in large supply convoys or moving forward with advancing troops was always risky, the rise of the IED threat multiplied the danger for these soldiers. This was complicated by how long it took the military to get up-armored vehicles to all units in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9. Aviation

An AH-64D Apache from Company B, 1st Attack Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, flies over a residential area in the Multi-National Division-Baghdad area Oct. 12, 2007. (Photo: U.S. Army/Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton)
An AH-64D Apache from Company B, 1st Attack Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, flies over a residential area in the Multi-National Division-Baghdad area Oct. 12, 2007. (Photo: U.S. Army/Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton)

Aircraft provide a lot of capabilites on the battlefield, but that makes them, their crews, and their pilots targets of enemy fire.

10. Artillery observers

"Sentient data," or information that can feel and perceive things, might one day protect Soldiers and their networks, said a leading scientist at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Mad Scientist Conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle )
"Sentient data," or information that can feel and perceive things, might one day protect Soldiers and their networks, said a leading scientist at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Mad Scientist Conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle )

Like medics, these soldiers go forward with maneuver forces. They find enemy positions and call down artillery strikes to destroy them. The enemy knows to take them out as quickly as possible since they are usually carrying radios.

David Nye - Staff Writer at We Are The Mighty

David is a former Fort Bragg paratrooper who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.


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