If you want boring, you join the infantry. Ennui is for the Navy and their tragic lack of ships. Special forces get fame. But if you want excitement, nothing beats being a ferry pilot.
Without satellites, the radius of communication is pretty damn small. Failing the ability to bounce signals off an orbiting reflector, the next best thing is a really tall radio tower, or sending up an aircraft to retransmit the signal, or physically deliver the message.
There is a problem with that latter approach. You can't do that all the time - it takes a lot of fuel, and that is in very short supply around Vegas. Worse, the aliens are no dummies, and know we would only send up an aircraft if its important. And, of course, we need to presume anything that can travel across the stars can break our cryptography.
Hopefully you can see where this is heading. If you want a message to get out to another part of the US, there are only two options. Send someone to hoof it across the desert, then make their way across god knows what in the zone - or turn, burn, and fly it on out under the alien's giant noses and past their interceptors.
As you can imagine, its a task only for the best pilots. In the air, our equipment is pretty evenly matched - we've got some good electronics and maneuverability, but they tend to be faster, and a bit free-er on the fuel consumption. It ends up in a funny situation where the quickest way to go straight in to make a seirs of right-hand loops. Delta wings lose speed in turns quickly, but have good straight-line acceleration. The aliens use deltas, we don't, so you sucker them into turn, they slow down, you less so. Get a few miles ahead. They catch up. Repeat.
A friend compares it to a rally car and a formula one car racing on a track that is half straightaways and half hairpins. Of course, in this race, the cars have guns.
Drones just won't do. We need a person around to make sure the message is delivered, or destroyed if it isn't. Effective as drones can be in some inclines, AI is still a bit behind the curve in air combat. And of course, we're doing this precisely because we don't have the satellites that would let us operate drones remotely at range.