“I think maybe the Air Force has been certainly among the most adaptable parts of our national military instrument of power. Every Service has made some adaptations, but I would suggest [that the Air Force’s] seems to me, in my experience to be most prominent, most visible, most important.”
— Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, USA
Friday, September 18 marks the United States Air Force’s 68th birthday, a day we celebrate the independence of our Nation’s youngest Armed Service. As we reflect on the rich and proud heritage of our Air Force, it is fitting that we recognize the incredibly talented and diverse men and women who serve today, and honor the pioneers, innovators, and warriors of yesteryear.
From the earliest days of warfare, controlling the high ground has been vital to successful military operations. At the turn of the 20th Century, a new invention – the airplane, captured the imagination of the world and revolutionized the way armies fought on the battlefield.
The global security environment keeps evolving, and for nearly seven decades, the Air Force’s relentless pursuit of the art of the possible has enabled us to reach unimaginable heights and remain ahead of our enemies.
From the American volunteer aviators of the Lafayette Escadrille during World War I, to the Doolittle raiders and "Red Tails" of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, our beginning as an independent branch of service enabled airmen to go over, not through the enemy’s defenses.
Since the first flight as an independent service in 1947, our history has been characterized by an unwavering quest to fly faster, farther, and higher using aircraft, spacecraft and the information domain to control the ultimate “high ground.”
This heritage of innovation -- seeing problems from a different perspective -- is part of the mindset of every Airman.
Airmen operate across air, space, and cyber domains to provide the nation with unmatched global vigilance, global reach, and global power.
Today’s Air Force mission is global, networked and interlinked with our Reserve, National Guard, Joint land and sea forces, and coalition partners centered on five core mission areas: air and space superiority; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; rapid global mobility; global strike; and command and control. Whether on the front lines imbedded with a special operations unit to call in close air support for U.S. or coalition ground forces under enemy attack, or providing accurate and reliable navigation timing signals for citizens’ “on the go” smart navigation devices, or flying medical evacuation missions for people ravaged by natural disasters, our Airmen stand ready to fly, fight and win against worldwide threats and contingencies.
The global security environment keeps evolving, and for nearly seven decades, the Air Force’s relentless pursuit of the art of the possible has enabled us to reach unimaginable heights and remain ahead of our enemies. And while our connection to the state-of-the art will always be a hallmark of the Air Force, we must never forget that every success, everything that we do, depends on our incubators of innovation -- our people.
Commitment to the Air Force’s core values of integrity, service, and excellence, amplified by respect for diversity of thought across all aspects of our service will remain the greatest force multiplier.
Our Air Force has a rich legacy of educating, training and inspiring our rising generations to serve as leaders of character. And our mission remains to field an Air Force that is technologically advanced, well educated, and lethal. Now more than ever we aim to develop leaders who encourage innovation, and take prudent risks to achieve mission success.
America’s Air Force remains proud, strong and vital to our national defense team. On behalf of Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody, and the 664,000 active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen, civilians, and their families, Happy 68th Birthday, United States Air Force!
Lieutenant General Michelle D. Johnson is the Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy, a four-year undergraduate institution of nearly 4,000 students that graduates officers ready to lead in the United States Air Force.