To be clear – although I love a good tower fly-by as much as the next guy – I am not advocating for the particularly reckless attributes of Maverick’s character or his pursuit of that one admiral’s daughter. Rather, I am highlighting that he is a highly trained expert in a challenging, technical career field. After all, Maverick is “the only man to shoot down three enemy planes in the last 40 years.” DoD should have paths for skilled operators in fields such as aviation who wish to continue to serve but are uninterested in higher rank or career-diversifying positions.
Modern warfighting disciplines often require years of dedicated and expensive training. A recent RAND study estimated that the initial cost to train a USAF fighter pilot ranges from $5.6 to $10.9 million.