Photo: via Wikimedia Commons
Servicemembers in the U.S. Air Force do more than just fly planes.
But there are plenty of other things happening in the youngest military branch that you may not have known.
We looked back at some of the coolest photographs from the U.S. Air Force in 2012 that show a little bit of everything.
The Air Force has a variety of combat aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon which has been in service for nearly 40 years.
But they are betting on the 5th-generation fighter programs, like the F-22 Raptors (shown here) and the F-35.
Many aircraft come outfitted with flares to throw off any heat seeking missiles they could encounter. Here's a C-130 showing them off.
Then there's the E-3 Sentry, which provides airborne warning of potential threats to aircraft and personnel. Think of it as a mobile radar system.
Pilots can operate just fine under a starry night, utilising sophisticated navigation equipment and night vision goggles.
Air Force Loadmasters usually have the job of making sure cargo is secured. But they have an added bonus of having an amazing office view.
Aerial door gunners offer critical protection to helicopters in Afghanistan, like this one firing his M240 machine-gun from an Mi-17 helicopter.
And they are part of a team, often transporting gear and personnel for the Army. In this case, it's Airborne soldiers to a drop zone.
But the Air Force has parachutists of their own -- an elite demonstration team called Wings of Blue.
The Air Force also coordinates flyovers for sporting events. Over 68,000 people watched this C-5 Galaxy flyby before a Patriots football game in Foxboro, Mass.
And if fires get out of control in the U.S., they have the resources to assist in battling the blaze.
They do plenty of humanitarian work as well, like Operation Christmas Drop which provides assistance to the remote island of Ulal.
A very small amount of Special Operations troops are Air Force, the elite pararescuemen - PJ's - shown here securing an area in the Afghan mountains after being lowered from the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.
Both PJ's and flight medics receive lengthy training, and help to save American and civilian lives during transport to a hospital.
But EOD, or explosive ordnance disposal, would arguably be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world for an airman. They wear an 80-pound suit while defusing bombs.
All the services have dedicated teams that perform ceremonies all over the world. The Air Force honour Guard Drill Team is certainly among the best.
And on Veterans Day, military cemeteries have thousands of American flags placed at graves thanks to volunteers like these airmen.
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