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The U.S. Air Force protects the interests of the U.S. in the air, space and cyberspace. The U.S. Air Force can mobilize forces quickly within the U.S. or in global locations. Its enlisted personnel forms the largest part of the staff, and earns salaries based on rank. The three ranks of master sergeant are the highest levels of enlisted staff.
The Air Force uses the same pay tables as all branches of the Armed Forces do. It awards salaries based on rank and number of years of service experience. Master sergeants start at rank E-7. As of 2011, this rank earns $31,656 annually for two years or less of experience, $38,988 for six to eight years, $45,012 for 12 to 14 years and maxes out at $56,880 for over 26 years. Senior master sergeants at E-8 start at $45,528 per year for 8 to 10 years, $48,792 for 12 to 14 years and max out at $64,932 for over 30 years. The highest enlisted rank of chief master sergeant or E-9 starts at $55,620 after 10 years, $56,880 for 12 to 14 years and tops out at $86,352 for over 38 years.
Air Force personnel receive free room and board if they live on base. They can choose to live off-base and receive a housing allowance instead, which varies according to rank, dependents and area. For example, the 2011 monthly allowance in Anchorage, Alaska, which has a high cost of living, runs $1,542 for E-7, $1,659 for E-8 and $1,806 for E-9, assuming no dependents. Staff with dependents receives $2,052 at E-7, $2,130 at E-8 and $2,205 at E-9 for the same location. In Bangor, Maine, with its lower cost of living, rates run $1,032, $1,158 and $1,188 for the same ranks without dependents, and $1,269, $1,305 and $1,368 with dependents.
The Air Force provides benefits as part of its salary package. All airmen get 30 days of vacation with pay and free space-available travel on Air Force aircraft. Free educational programs are available on-base, and tuition assistance is available for studying at colleges off-base. Insurance covers medical, dental, vision and life for the airmen. Dependents can also receive medical care with little to no cost at military and civilian facilities. Bases include numerous social events for enlisted personnel, their families and guests. Many have golf courses, bowling alleys, sport courts, swimming pools, and arts and crafts facilities.
Air force master sergeants can retire at any age after 20 years of service. They receive pensions from three sources: a military pension, which requires no payroll deductions; Social Security, which requires the same contributions as civilian workers; and a contributory Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is similar to a 401(k) investment plan. The TSP can be rolled over into other retirement accounts if the airman leaves the service before retirement. However, withdrawals before age 59.5 may incur penalties.
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