Those are the odds of dying in combat in a given year, according to a RAND Corporation briefing, Compensation for Combat Deaths: Policy Considerations. As might be expected, the odds are highest for ground combat personnel -- infantry, armor and artillery. The researchers calculated the annual combat fatality rate per 100,000 by occupation for Army personnel who enlisted between fiscal year (FY) 2000 and FY 2005.
While 1 in 500 seems like relatively low odds in an absolute sense, the researchers note this rate of risk is five to ten times higher than that in the riskiest civilian occupation, agriculture, according to the 2010 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (Bureau of Labor Statistics). According to the RAND researchers:
Combat fatality risk is substantially lower in some military occupations, such as communications, administration, and supply and logistics, at least compared with ground combat personnel. However, risks in these safer military occupations are still on par with somewhat hazardous civilian occupations, such as construction.
According to the briefing, "combat fatalities have been concentrated among personnel aged 25 and younger," and approximately 1/3 of those killed in combat are survived by dependents.