So, one of the things we hear about the War on Terror is that it is an unfair burden on lower-class Americans because they oftentimes joining the military is their only option. Especially since they can't afford or can't get into college. We hear this all the time, that somehow if there was no war these poor, uneducated Americans wouldn't be over in Iraq dying, for no reason. Ok, no problem. Obviously, the United States Military is not the safest job in the world. Surely the people that join know the risks. Right?
Well no, at least not according to the people who tell us this stuff. According to the anti-war crowd, military recruiters frequently lie to prospective recruits. They minimize the actual dangers of the service and downplay the chances they'll go to Iraq. God damned evil military recruiters. Taking these poor Americans out of the jobs they could be doing without a college education and putting them into a deadly job where they risk their lies on a daily basis. Terrible.
But then I heard something about this TV show called Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel. I never saw the show (which is about fishermen catching crabs in Alaska), but supposedly every year they have a near-100% injury rate. Meaning just about EVERYONE on these ships is getting seriously hurt (or KILLED) EVERY YEAR. And this got me thinking, if so many of our soldiers are so underprivledged, untalented and uneducated (which is an absolutely ridiculous notion by the way) that they agree to get shot at on a daily basis, what other jobs are out there that the army is the most appealing choice to them?
I thought about it a little. And the more I thought about it, the more I could not understand why someone would rather be around weapons and explosives (which are pretty god damn dangerous even when they're NOT being fired at you from 30 different angles in some back alley of Falluja) then say be a fisherman. I mean, ok so people get hurt on boats while fishing but it can't POSSIBLY be as bad as being in the middle of a combat zone...right?!?!?! I mean it CAN'T be. These guys have to be morons to think that they were less likely to die in the military than they would being garbagemen or steel workers or lumberjacks or some other job that doesn't require any post-high school education. Or even high school education because I keep hearing that so many of our soldiers are high school dropouts (again, ridiculous...but whatever). And not to go off on a tangent or anything, but when did becoming a high school dropout become something great un-preventable tragedy that they should be pitied or something. Gimme a break.
Anyway, getting back on topic, I figured I would settle this for myself once and for all. What are the odds that you will die if you join the United States Military? And how does that stack up against other "non-skilled" or "non-degree required" jobs that that apparently are the only other options for these people?
According to Wikipedia (which I hate and am only using because I verified the source material by checking with the Department of Defense), the United States Armed Forces claims 2,685,713 total servicemen and women of which 1,426,713 are considered "active troops."
These numbers include the following branches of the military:
United States Army
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
United States Air Force
United States Coast Guard
According to the Department of Defense, as of 10 am on January 20th, 2007, 3,410 United States Military servicemen and women have died as part of operations related to the "War on Terror" - including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Of those 3,410 soldiers 3,057 have died as part of the Iraqi campaign and the rest have died as part of operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Phillipenes and elsewhere. And of those 3,410 deaths, 757 of them were non-hostile deaths.
Example of a non-hostile death: Private Johnson slips in the shower on his military base and cracks his head open. The whole non-hostile deaths thing is something else that drives me crazy, because they include them in their calculations of people who are killed in Iraq (or Vietnam or any war) without bothering to tell you that 500 of those 3,000 Iraqi war deaths occurred while driving home drunk from the local hookah bar in downtown Baghdad (or some other non-combat related reason). But again, I digress...
Take 3,410 total soldier deaths since 9/11 out of the 2,685,713 and you get 0.0012696, or 0.127%.
Source: Department of Defense website
So, just a little more than one tenth of a percent of our armed forces have died in the past 5+ years due to all these horrible wars we've been fighting.
Therefore approximately 99.87% of soldiers have not gotten killed as a result of their job over the course of FIVE years.
Let's compare that to other jobs that people without college educations fall into:
Fishers and related fishing workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 118.4
(0.118% fatality rate)
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 92.9
(0.093% fatality rate)
Structural iron and steel workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 55.6
(0.056% fatality rate)
Refuse and recyclable material collectors
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 43.8
(0.044% fatality rate)
Farmers and ranchers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 41.1
(0.041% fatality rate)
Electrical power-line installers and repairers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 32.7
(0.033% fatality rate)
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 29.1
(0.029% fatality rate)
Miscellaneous agricultural workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 23.2
(0.023% fatality rate)
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 22.7
(0.023% fatality rate)
Source: MSN Careers
Conspicuously absent from this list is "high-rise window washer" - I don't know what the fatality rates are for that job, but I can't imagine they'd be too much better than being a farmer.
And FYI - all those fatality rates for the other jobs are over the course of ONE YEAR (specifically 2005). So assuming they stay constant, you'd probably have to multiply them by five to compare them the US Military fatality rates. Or at least by four because obviously, since March/2003 the US fatality rates are way up.
Which works out to:
Fishers and related fishing workers - 0.47% fatality rate (over four years)
Logging workers - 0.37% fatality rate (over four years)
Structural iron and steel workers - 0.22% fatality rate (over four years)
Refuse and recyclable material collectors - 0.18% fatality rate (over four years)
Farmers and ranchers - 0.16% fatality rate (over four years)
Electrical power-line installers and repairers - 0.13% fatality rate (over four years)
Truck drivers - 0.12% fatality rate (over four years)
Miscellaneous agricultural workers - 0.09% fatality rate (over four years)
Construction laborers - 0.09% fatality rate (over four years)
So what's the conclusion here? Even during this supposedly terrible Vietnam-level disaster of a war in Iraq I'm still more likely to survive as a soldier, then I am as a fisherman, lumberjack, steel/iron worker, garbageman or farmer. And I have the same or slightly worse odds for survival than a truck driver,"miscellaneous agricultural worker" (whatever that is) or construction worker. If I do die, I get a hero's burial. And even if I don't agree with the politics of the war at least I died trying to protect my buddies in combat. Add in the health benefits, free college education and decent pay...
(especially when compared to what the average miscellaneous agricultural worker makes)
Where do I sign up?