This was the #AFBday
email I wrote for my cadets on Friday:
Sunday will be the 69th birthday of the United States Air Force. Inasmuch as we celebrate the 69 years that the Air Force has been an independent service, remember that behind you is the legacy of 109 years of American Airmen protecting America from threats on and above the surface of the Earth. It’s a legacy of courage, of determination, and of innovation.
Our legacy includes air superiority. We own the skies. We blow up enemy aircraft on the ground and shoot down enemy aircraft in the air. Because of air superiority, no American soldiers have been under attack by enemy aircraft since the Korean War. Without air superiority, you lose. Likewise, space superiority and cyber superiority. We’ve maintained our ability to operate freely in both the ultimate high ground and in the electronic realm, both in support of operations in the traditional warfighting domains and sometimes directly producing desired effects. Consider that Billy Mitchell was a Signal Corps officer long before he learned to fly: you might consider him to be an early cyber operator.
Global Precision Attack is our bread & butter. We’ve been performing global strike missions since the Doolittle Raiders flew B-25 bombers launched from the USS Hornet to strike Tokyo. With the advent of aerial refueling, we now perform global strike from our home bases. We don’t always need to demonstrate our long-range capabilities, but we always protect our soldiers and Marines when they’re in contact with the enemy, disrupt the flow of the enemy’s forces and supplies before they come in contact with friendly forces, and devastate the enemy’s ability to wage war. You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again: close air support is critical, air interdiction is essential, and strategic bombardment is how you win wars.
Aerial refueling isn’t important just for global strike; it’s also important for global reach. Because of the Air Force’s rapid global mobility, we can put people, materiel, or even humanitarian relief, anywhere in the world – when and where it’s needed. Because of airpower, the oceans are narrow and the world is flat.
Our heritage includes nuclear deterrence. We’re the first nation to use nuclear weapons in anger. We’re also the last. Despite some close calls in 1962 and 1983, there hasn’t been a single nuclear weapon detonated anywhere in the world except for testing in 71 years.
Our Air Force has been about Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) since the very beginning. What were balloons if not ISR platforms? It’s only improved from there. With global integrated ISR, we not only provide the picture for the current fight but we also keep our national command authority informed about global events even when our adversaries would prefer that no one else knows.
Our forebears mastered personnel recovery. We celebrate the heroism of those who perform combat search & rescue, but personnel recovery is about much more than that. Whether it’s humanitarian rescue or medical evacuation, our rescuemen ensure others may live at times and places that most never hear about.
Even though Air Force Special Operations Command has only been around since 1983, Air Commandos have been part of our history since Gen Arnold ordered Lt Cols Alison and Cochran to find a way to fly over the Himalayas to bring supplies into China.
None of that’s any good without the ability to command and control our forces. Whether it’s traditional ground-based intercept control, air battle management from AWACS or JSTARS, an Air & Space Operations Center directing an air campaign, or a wing-level command post, command and control brings forces together at the right place at the right time with the right mix. Nor is it any good without the ability to sustain our forces. Through agile combat support, we provide a place for our combat forces to base down; we protect those assets; we launch, recover, and regenerate those forces; and we make sure the beans & bullets find their way to the forces that need them.
The US Air Force doesn’t do it alone. Besides working with the other US services, we also build partnerships with other air forces around the world. We do this to better understand their cultures, to improve our interoperability, to help them protect their national interests, and to fight alongside them when necessary.
But at the beginning and throughout it all is education & training. Here in AFROTC, you’re learning to become Airmen and officers. After you leave here, you’ll learn what you need to know to begin in your Air Force specialty. And throughout your career you’ll learn how to be a better Airman, a better officer, and a better specialist.
Those are the Air Force’s functions. They’re what we do. They’re what American Airmen have done for generations. All of it is vital to our national defense. It’s a proud tradition. I’ve been privileged to continue the tradition for nearly 24 years, and now it’s your turn.
Behind you is the legacy of those who came before. In front of you is your contribution to that legacy. Whether you serve for four years or forty, whether you make a solid but anonymous contribution to our nation’s security or do something that’ll make your name part of the future AFROTC curriculum, go do something great. When I look in your eyes, I see the spark for greatness there. Kindle it, and be amazing! I know you’ll make me proud to say “these were my cadets.”
Happy Birthday, Airmen. Aim High!