Celebrating the Air Force’s 58th Birthday, Sept. 18, 2005
On Sept. 18 we mark the creation of the world’s most powerful Air Force. With the stroke of President Harry Truman’s pen, our quest to become an independent service became a reality 58 years ago.
In the nearly six decades since it became a separate service, the Air Force has seen the world change in almost unimaginable ways. We fought wars in Southeast Asia –
We are now living in a time of momentous change around the globe. We are seeing the seeds of democracy beginning to take root in
Katrina Relief Operations: However, before we get to those issues, let us focus on the situation that has commanded most of the nation’s attention in the past three weeks. We have been transfixed by the images from our
The military response to this disaster has been nothing short of amazing. Every service – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard – has performed magnificently, and thousands of men and women in uniform are still on the job as we speak. Here is what the Air Force, the Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserve have been doing in the days since Katrina hit.
Day after day, we watched helicopter rescuers pluck men, women and children from rooftops, where they scrambled to escape rising flood waters. This has been the largest search and rescue operation since
Rescue helicopters operated around the clock, using night vision goggles to pull people trapped in their houses at night. One of those rescuers was Senior Airman Jack Earnshaw, a pararescueman from Nellis Air Force Base in
They make it look easy, but the fact is these rescues are dangerous. They demand every bit of skill these rescue teams can muster, as they dodge power lines, trees, and confined spaces to reach flood victims. But, Earnshaw said, “There’s nothing more rewarding than giving back to our country. You really feel like you’re giving back and serving Americans.”
There is another team we don’t see, behind the scenes, making sure these helicopters are ready to fly every mission. Our helicopter maintenance troops have done a superb job. Sergeant Robert Marchewka is a production superintendent from the 347th Maintenance Squadron at Moody AFB,
We also saw an amazing effort at the
Air Force aeromedical teams from all around the country deployed to
Our aircrews have been delivering an amazing amount of food and critical supplies to
Air Force assets are being called on in many other ways, as well. For example, a reconnaissance aircraft from Offutt AFB is being used to capture aerial imagery of the Gulf Region. These images are used by FEMA to quickly assess the status of roads and evacuation routes and evaluate the extent of damage to critical facilities such as oil rigs, hospitals, and military installations.
Guardsmen and Reservists are working side-by-side with their active-duty counterparts, helping with security, law enforcement, medical, aircraft maintenance, communications, civil engineering, and dozens of other specialties. They are conducting search-and-rescue operations, evacuating residents, distributing food and water, and providing communications support to this hard-hit region.
At Maxwell AFB,
The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, put it this way: “The first citizen-soldiers responded to the shot heard ‘round the world. Now we’re responding to the storm heard ‘round the world.”
President Ronald Reagan once asked, “Where do we find such people?” And then he answered his own question: “We find them … where we always find them in our hours of need – on [the] main streets and farms of
The Katrina relief operation is a monumental task, but it is only the latest in a series of challenging missions that the Air Force has taken on since its inception. As we mark the creation of the U.S. Air Force, let’s pause for a moment to consider the events that led to our becoming a separate service.
Remembering World War II: This month, and for much of the past year, the world has marked the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in September 1945. It’s no coincidence that the Air Force became a separate service just two years after the end of that global conflict. World War II was the ultimate proving ground for air power. This global war demonstrated as nothing else could that air power deserved its own service – trained, equipped and led by aviators.
One of the Air Force’s most important “founding fathers” was General Henry “Hap” Arnold. As the only five-star general in Air Force history, Gen. Arnold organized and led the world’s greatest aerial armada to victory against the Nazis in
But it’s also instructive to remember that when “Hap”
You might say that airpower provided the “bookends” for the Second World War. Our nation was drawn into the war by an unprovoked aerial attack on
By the time Gen. Arnold retired in 1946, he had built the Army Air Force into a global aviation powerhouse, with more than 78,500 aircraft and nearly 2.4 million men. Their performance during World War II convinced
But even visionaries like “Hap”
Air Force “blue suiters” have shaped history in many ways in the past six decades. There were the monumental supply efforts of the Berlin Airlift, and the dogfights in “MiG Alley” in the skies over
Global War on Terror: We now find ourselves waging another global war – a global war on terrorism. And like the Second World War, this global war began with a terrible surprise attack on our country.
Just one week ago [Sept. 11], we marked the fourth anniversary of the horrific attacks on
The attacks taught us a painful lesson – that a good defense is no longer good enough. We cannot afford to be hit again, perhaps by even more powerful weapons. We are engaged in a life-and-death struggle with an enemy whose brutality knows no bounds.
In June , President George Bush told the nation, “Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of
And that is exactly what the Air Force is doing, along with our sister services. Since Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001, followed by Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command has flown more than 52,000 missions. Those missions have moved 1.4 million tons of supplies to
Just to put these numbers in perspective, these airlift operations are second only to the Berlin Airlift in scope. This is a tremendous undertaking, and our people have done a fantastic job bringing all the people, supplies, and equipment halfway around the world. This is truly “Global Reach” in action.
We have more than 23,000 people deployed to the
But these numbers really don’t begin to tell the whole story. Our people are taking on new challenges and new roles, using their ingenuity to help our sister services. You’ve heard the expression “boots on the ground”? Well, today, those boots might just be worn by an Airman. In addition to traditional flying operations, our Airmen are taking on many non-traditional roles, as well.
For example, Air Force people are heavily involved in convoy operations, which is some of the most dangerous duty in
We’re making great use of what we call “UAVs,” or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. UAVs like the Predator are being equipped with laser-guided missiles. In the Air Force, we like to talk about shortening the “sensor-to-shooter timeline,” meaning the time it takes for us to spot the bad guys and call in an air strike on them. But in the case of the Predator, the sensor is the shooter. Not only can operators on the ground see the bad guys with real-time video images, but now they can take them out with lethal precision, and that’s a good thing.
Our medical teams are operating closer to the front lines than ever before. Because of that, patients are getting advanced medical care within hours, not days or weeks, as they had in the past. The result is that we’re seeing the lowest death rate of wounded Soldiers in any war in history.
Nevertheless, the loss of any of our men and women is deeply felt. As President Bush said, “We mourn every loss of life,” but he promised, “We’ll honor their memories by completing the mission.”
The road to democracy in
What Lies Ahead: The Air Force has truly earned its wings in its first 58 years of existence. We cannot know what challenges lie ahead for those who wear the Air Force uniform. After all, who could have predicted the attacks of September 11th, 2001, or the devastation along the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina? But the Air Force has a rich tradition of rising to meet those challenges. We can be confident that America’s Air Force will be up to the task.