HomeSpeakersSpeech ArchiveAmerica's Air Force: Strong, Reliable, Ever Vigilant

America's Air Force: Strong, Reliable, Ever Vigilant

2011 Air Force Public Affairs Agency Speech Series

64th Anniversary of the USAF, September 18, 2011

Good (morning, afternoon, evening) ladies and gentlemen, friends, families and veterans. Welcome ... And, happy birthday, United States Air Force.

As the United States Air Force celebrates its sixty-fourth birthday, Airmen everywhere can look back with pride at an unparalleled legacy of airpower excellence in defense of our Nation. From the earliest days of manned flight to the last ten years of combat operations, American Airmen have stood ready to fly, fight and win anytime and anywhere. Whether you ended your service long ago or have just joined our ranks, every member of the Air Force family can be justifiably proud of their service to our great Nation.i 

Sixty-four years ago, President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, establishing the United States Air Force as a separate military service.ii Since 1947, the U.S. Air Force - through its Airmen and technology -- has played a key role in the defense of our Nation during war, and in the maintenance of peace and humanitarian support around the world. Our proud history and dedication to service has established our Air Force as world leaders in air, space and cyberspace.

Our service was tested early, and continues to be tested often. Even in our infancy we demonstrated our ability to adapt and succeed in any mission required of us. For example, at the beginning of the Cold War in 1948, the Soviet's attempted to control access to the city of Berlin through a surface blockade. In response, the U.S. Air Force and Allied forces devised an air bridge to transport life-sustaining supplies to more than 2 million city inhabitants. In nearly 278,000 flights carrying more than 2 million tons of supplies, air power alone broke the Soviet blockade in 15 months.iii Such a prospect would have been impossible five years earlier if not for the C-47 and C-54 aircraft, and their highly trained U.S. Air Force aircrews and support personnel. 

To this day, our Air Force has continuously deployed and engaged in overseas contingency and humanitarian operations, made possible through advancements in satellite connections, unmanned aerial vehicles, global airlift and refueling, state of the art fighter aircraft, and training, among so many other innovations [add local unit specialty]. 

Our ability to be the leaders in air, space and cyberspace would not be possible without our highly trained and skilled Airmen who comprise our Total Force of active duty, Reserves and National Guard personnel representing diversity, which is an American hallmark. Our Airmen are committed to our Nation and our continuing, dynamic excellence. Whenever and wherever our highly-trained, expeditionary Airmen are needed, we lead the way.

Present and Future
Our Nation's need for a strong Air Force has not changed since 1947, but our mission in support of our Nation has. The Air Force has continued to adapt throughout our history and we will continue to develop to meet future challenges.

Since our earliest days as a Service, our employment of the most advanced technology has played a critical role to our becoming the world's finest Air Force. Just in the past decade, our Air Force has substantially reshaped to meet the needs of today's conflicts and position itself for the future. We have added intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, bolstered special operations capacity for counterinsurgency, added F-22s and C-17s to our inventory, funded satellites, and added Airmen for critical nuclear and cyber operations and acquisition support. At the same time, we retired legacy aircraft, cancelled or truncated major acquisition programs, and reduced overall personnel. In the future, we will need to recapitalize our aging mobility, fighter, bomber, and missile forces; continue modernizing critical satellite constellations; meet dynamic requirements in the cyber domain; and replace other aging airframes, like training, vertical lift, and presidential support aircraft.iv 

However, it's the people -- the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have served in the U.S. Air Force and the families who support them -- who have made the biggest difference. Every day, around the globe, proud Airmen continue to accomplish the mission, as we always have, no matter how daunting the challenges or how tough the tasks.v 

But, today, we are a smaller force. In 1980 the Air Force had more than 550,000 active-duty Airmen compared with today's approximately 331, With the smallest active-duty force in our 64-year history, and ongoing fiscal pressures that will likely diminish the Air Force's defense budget, we have a very compelling requirement to maximize the potential and performance of each and every Airman.vii 

With Air Force personnel deployed to more than 135 locations worldwide on an average day, we rely heavily on the Total Force. Currently, more than 37,000 Airmen are deployed and more than 57,000 are forward-stationed. In addition, approximately 134,000 Airmen are directly supporting Combatant Commander requirements from their home stations daily.viii 

We have also partnered with our joint and coalition team to win today's fight. The Air Force has airlifted more than 228,000 short tons of cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as over one million passengers. Each year, mobility Airmen have airdropped more cargo in support of overseas operations, now averaging six million pounds dropped every month.ix Air Force tankers have also offloaded a staggering 780 million pounds of fuel to well over 60,000 aircraft.x In addition, we have flown more than 710,000 combat air force sorties in support of overseas operations and more than 60,000 sorties protecting the U.S. homeland.xi and xii

As we reflect on our past and look ahead to the future, we will continue our strong commitment to developing and caring for our Airmen, and focus on excellence in the Air Force's four unique contributions to national security. These are gaining control of air, space and cyberspace; holding targets at risk anywhere around the world; providing responsive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and rapidly transporting people and equipment across the globe - all enabled by our unmatched global command and control network. In collaboration with our joint partners, we will continue to defend our Nation by providing unmatched Global Vigilance, Reach and Power for today's fights and for generations to come.xiii 

In the words of the Air Force's first Secretary, the Honorable W. Stuart Symington, "the destiny of the United States rests on the continued development of our Air Force." 

And in the words of our 22nd Secretary, the Honorable Michael Donley, "Our underlying strength is in the integrity, excellence, and selfless service that our Airmen bring to the fight daily."xiv 

We have a proud Air Force heritage. We must continue to build on this heritage and maintain our dedication to the American people.

Once again I want to wish the Air Force a very happy birthday. Thank you.

End Notes 
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley Comments in 2011 Air Force Birthday Video 

ii AFPAM 36-2241, Professional Development Guide, 1 July 2009, page 39 (

iii AFPAM 36-2241, pages 40-41 

A Strategy Focused on Balance, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley Remarks at the Air Force's National Security Forum, Maxwell AFB, Ala., May 17, 2011; (

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy Comments in 2011 Air Force Birthday Video 

viAF 101 Briefing (v. 49), 13 June 11, Air Force Portal, Air Force Info tab (

AFNS Story: Air Force leaders laud AFSA, Airmen at gala, July 29, 2011, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz speech at Air Force First Sergeants Association Annual Professional Airmen's Conference July 27, 2011; (

viii United States Air Force Posture Statement 2011, February 17, 2011; (

ix AMC News Story: Airdrop levels in deployed areas reach 25 million pounds for 2011, May 13, 2011; (

Toward More Efficient Military Logistics, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz Remarks at the 27th Annual Logistics Conference and Exhibition, Miami, Fla., March 29, 2011; (

xi ACC Kneeboard facts, extract from 26 Aug 2011 product, slide 3 xiiAF 101 Briefing (v. 49), 13 June 11, Air Force Portal, Air Force Info tab, slide 14 (

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz comments in 2011 Air Force Birthday Video 

xiv State of the Air Force - 2010, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley Remarks at the Air Force Association Conference and Technology Exposition, National Harbor Center at Oxon Hill, Md., Sept. 13, 2010 (

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