1) Take a look at Freakonomics, perhaps the economics of drug dealers/crack cocaine... (and no, there is not a 1-1 comparison between drug dealers and fighter pilots). When you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, a few typical answers include - fire fighter, cop, fighter pilot... the first 2 typically or traditionally don't pay well. Why? Read Freakonomics.
2) Now thankfully you'll never be able to demonstrate this, but if you could - go down to the local fire house and find the first non-fire fighter (NFF) there and tell them (and the rest of the fire fighters) that the NFFs are just as important as the Fire Fighters... that their high school diploma and 2 weeks of OJT is as important as the years of training, studying, testing, learning, working out, and fighting to be luck enough to get an interview and to do well on the exam and to make it through probation, etc... that the fire fighter went through... then give the NFF a patch, even call them a "fighter", give them awards/medals/promote them for doing stuff that seems important in the station while the real work/sacrifice is being done on location, put them in charge of the fire house because you have to be "Fair" to everyone. Tell them that they can take 2 hours for lunch, 8 hours every other Tuesday to get better at their job because they don't have time to get better at it while they're doing it, tell them 9-3 is pretty decent work hours... then tell the fire fighters that, sorry we don't have enough of you so it will be 36 on/12 off, sorry if we put you away wet and put you back in before you can go home and see the family (you know they love their job, that they live for it, so why make life better for them?). Make up tremendous amounts of accolades for crap that means nothing and give it to the NFFs with great pomp and circumstance because we're all equal. Oh and their jobs? those jobs that NFFs do that are meant to support the fire fighters? Yeah, let them write instructions/rules that pretty much puts the responsibility on the fire fighters.
When the fire fighters come back after a 36 hour blaze, delirious from the excitement and exhaustion, wanting to celebrate with their fellow fire fighters - force them to let the NFFs be a part of it. When they push it up too much - criticize them and kick them out for frivolous reason. Don't allow them back into the station until their uniform meets regulations,. When they save 3 kids but step on a cat - make sure you publicly flog them for it... when the NFF fails to show up on time for weeks on end and never gets the job done, be sure to do nothing about it.
Obviously a bit black and white/extreme example... there are plenty of non-fighter pilots (myself included) in the AF that do amazing and incredible things for the fight and deserve the accolades and spoils (not myself) and this is not a bashing of support roles... this is an attempt to show you were the rot started. You/they/we can try to fix the symptoms (is it $, is it additional duties, etc.) but until you address the rot - the dis-mantling of (for lack of a better term) the glory, prestige, and respect that goes with a professional doing a professional job, that takes probably a decade to get good at (including a degree or 2, USAFA, ROTC, UPT, IFF, etc...) WE WILL NEVER FIX IT. Do they want medals and be on the front page news? No - they want the respect/honor for doing what they do, something the AF stopped doing a long time ago.
There are important roles everywhere, I have no doubt that we need 99% of the people in the AF to do the job... but I can not think of another organization in the world that would try so hard to put everyone in the same lime light, all the time. What if Taylor Swift had all the roadies, ushers, back up singers come up and be on stage for every performance and give them a microphone? Do we diminish their jobs if we don't?
To some extent everyone is replaceable, but I'm guessing there are not too many fire fighters serving excessively long commitments to be fire fighters. I have a few in my family, some of the most humble/honest/best people I know... I have never once heard them complain about being a fire fighter... why is that?
3) Fighter pilots are just the first and most prolific demographic... the rest of the pilots, the rest of the pointy-end-of-the-spear isn't far behind, add to them the maintainers, engineers, doctors, nurses, and any other professional that would be treated as a professional outside of the AF... appreciated for their knowledge, years of education, years of sacrifice to get where they are, etc... they'll be gone too, unless/until there is another recession.