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Celebrating the Air Force's 55th Birthday

SAF/PA 2002 Air Force Public Affairs

Celebrating the Air Force's 55th Birthday, 2002

It may seem impossible to you today - the Air Force's 55th birthday -but there was a time when the Air Force had to prove itself. Arguments for and against an independent air force date back to the formation of the Aeronautical Division of the Army Signal Corps -before World War I. 

The idea of a separate air arm had many detractors. However, some were convinced that air power had potential, among them Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell. He was one of the founding fathers for an independent air arm and perhaps its loudest advocate -- during a time of profound skepticism. He prophesized: 

"It is probable that future war will be conducted by a special class, the Air Force, as it was by the armored knights of the Middle Ages." 

But it took thirty years and the aerial achievements of two world wars to convince the leadership of the need for an independent air force. The turning point was World War II. Air power was decisive, effective and preeminent. Airpower proved itself. 

On Sept. 18, 1947, the Air Force became a separate service, an equal to the Army and Navy. 

Shortly after taking office, the first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, stated: 

"In this day when a powerful counterattack is America's only real answer to aggression, there can be no question that we need the world's first Air Force. It is only through the global, flashing mobility of the Air Force that we can hold our counterattack poised ... we feel, with deep conviction, that the destiny of the United States rests on the continued development of our Air Force." 

When he talked about the global mobility of the Air Force, I'm sure he had no idea how global the world would become and how air power would actually shrink the world. 

After the war, the military was in a huge demobilizing plan, and the air leaders had to "build" an air force. At the same time, the communist nations that allied with us in war were becoming our enemies in peace. The result was an uneasy peace in which the Air Force became the first line of defense. 

The journey from those early days of the Air Force's history has not always been easy, and the challenges continue. Challenges we continue to meet with pride, dedication and the knowledge that what we do makes a difference. 

From the Berlin Airlift - to Korea - to Vietnam -- to Desert Storm -- to the global war on terrorism -- when our nation has needed us, we have been there. 

We sat in the missile silos on alert. We froze during the Korean winters, and sweltered in the jungles of Vietnam and in the heat Saudi's desert sun. 

In mid-1992 an ethnic war erupted in Bosnia. By July, the United States and 20 other nations began Operation Provide Promise to airlift food and medical supplies to the people of Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia. During some months, 85 percent of the aid reaching the city came via airlift. Provide Promise became one of the longest humanitarian airlifts in history, lasting three-and-a-half years. It surpassed the Berlin Airlift by 785 days! 

The humanitarian airlift and the enforcement of the no-fly zone helped reduce the death rate among Bosnians and stopped the conflict from spreading. 

In the fall of 1994, Saddam Hussein's attempt at aggression was stopped by a united show of force with the Navy, Army, Marines and coalition partners - with the Air Force at the tip of the spear. 

Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry noted: 

"The Air Force has really deterred a war. When we deployed F-15s, F-16s and A-10s in large numbers, they (the Iraquis) got the message very quickly." 

Then, a year ago, following the September 11th terrorist attacks on America, our nation - and the civilized world -- declared war on terrorism. 

The Air Force has stepped up to a prominent and sustained role in Operation Enduring Freedom - just the kind of new asymmetric adversary and campaign the Air Force has been preparing and training for. 

At home, the Total Force team protects American skies in Operation Noble Eagle. 

The Air Force continues its legacy of excellence. The air and space expeditionary force continues to fulfill challenging deployment requirements around the globe while providing airmen and their families with more stability. 

But, the future holds new challenges. 

Our forces increasingly will be called upon to respond quickly and decisively to asymmetric threats at home and around the globe. Day-to-day tasks will remain. Total Force members will be challenged to find ways to work more effectively and efficiently. Despite indications of a cooling economy, the Air Force must compete head-to-head with industry to recruit and retain a balanced work force of active duty, Reserve, Guard and civilian employees. 

The Air Force must continue to seek public awareness and support for the resources necessary to take care of Air Force people, increase readiness, modernize systems and recapitalize infrastructure. 

Those of us in the Air Force are a proud group of people. We take pride in our heritage, as we begin to celebrate our 55th year as an independent service. 

We take pride in our achievements. 

The air belongs to us. We take pride in that. 

We take pride in what we do, and how we do it. 

We take pride in the uniform we wear, and the aircraft we fly. 

But for those of us in the Air Force there is another kind of PRIDE. 

We can use the word PRIDE to represent five major themes -people, resources and readiness, integrity, dominance and execution. 

The P in PRIDE is for the nearly 700 thousand people who make our Air Force the world's premier air and space force. Our "total force" includes 366 thousand people on active duty, 189 thousand in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, and 143 thousand civilian employees. 

To ensure we keep quality people, our senior Air Force leaders are committed to providing our members with the best quality of life. We work hard to ensure our people have the opportunity to realize their full potential. In turn, our people ensure we maintain Air Force readiness at the highest possible level. 

The R in PRIDE is for the resources - the weapons systems for today and tomorrow - and readiness. 

Readiness is the heart and soul of our ability to perform our mission on a day-to-day basis. It is the keystone of our combat capability. 

Years of constant high operations tempo, aging equipment and reduced defense funding have taken a toll on our people and the weapon systems they maintain and operate. As we continue to meet the high demands on our people and systems, we are committed to maintaining the high state of readiness needed to provide security for our nation. 

The mission capability of the Guard and Reserve is essential to Air Force operations around the globe. They play a significant role in all major contingencies, exercises and competitions, greatly reducing the tempo for active duty forces. 

Our current inventory of weapons systems makes us the most respected air and space power in the world. 

To ensure we have the right resources for our future, the Air Force has developed a responsible, time-phased approach to modernization. It synchronizes the size and timing of multiple programs, such as upgrading bombers and the F-22. 

This approach allows the Air Force to modernize without sacrificing our current readiness. Because shifts in technology and the security environment are inevitable in the years ahead, the Air Force continues to strengthen and streamline the way it plans and programs for the future. 

We're working to replace weapon systems that are beyond their useful lives and revitalize those that are still viable to ensure we maintain a ready force, dominant in air and space against any adversary that threatens our security. 

The I in PRIDE is for integrity -- our stewardship through accountability. 

From the top officers and civilian leaders to our newest recruits, integrity is the hallmark for all actions within the Air Force. As men and women of integrity, we are fully accountable to the citizens of the United States. Accountability is a prerequisite of effective military operations. It is essential in our ability to gain and sustain the trust of the American people. It is also paramount for the good order and discipline of our force. Our people are committed to the service's core values, the standards we use to guide our efforts. Integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do are stressed at all levels. 

The D in PRIDE is for the dominance of our decisive air and space power. 

The Air Force is capable of protecting American resources anywhere in the world. 

We are an agile force, always ready to respond when our nation calls. We can project the full weight of America's military might to any corner of the globe at any time, and our technological edge ensures efficiency in all our operations. 

We all know that today's world is much different than that of our forefathers. 

Today's world has changed the way the Air Force conducts business. 

Our natural state when we are "doing business" is not home station operations but deployed operations. 

Today's air and space expeditionary force provides national leaders the unmatched ability to take early, rapid and decisive action in combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian operations. 

Today, your nation's Air Force is a rapid and flexible global force -able to deploy anywhere, anytime with the proper mix of forces specifically tailored to the needs of the theater commander. 

And that brings me to the E in PRIDE -- execution; our ability to fight and win America's wars. 
Our mission is to defend the United States through the control and exploitation of air and space. 

PRIDE in the Air Force is a combination of outstanding people, superb resources and the highest standard of integrity. 

As the Air Force enters its 55th year, we have a history of preserving the peace from our first major undertaking -- the Berlin Airlift -- to Operation Southern Watch over Iraq to our fight with terrorism. 

Our nation has a long history of working to preserve peace. 

As our first president, George Washington, so notably stated, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." 

We in the Air Force take pride in what we do. We're your nation's Air Force. We're prepared, we're ready and we're proud to serve America in the pursuit of peace.