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Commander remembers AETC, AF Anniversaries

Commander remembers AETC, AF Anniversaries

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Chip Pons)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANOLPH, Texas--There is a statue in front of our headquarters building.  Written on it is a name - Air Training Command - that sounds antiquated to me, and to the men and women who work here at the now-Air Education and Training Command.  The marker is a reminder that our business, the business of recruiting, training and educating the greatest and most lethal Airmen in the world, has roots that run deep - deeper, in fact, than the Air Force itself.

 

This year, we mark two occasions:  the 70th anniversary of the Air Force and the 75th anniversary of Air Education and Training Command.  I think it is worth examining the past that informs us and the future that drives us.

 

Our past is brimming with the stories of heroic Airmen who have fought in air, space and cyberspace to keep our nation safe.  From the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift - one of our first tests as an independent service - that brought supplies and humanitarian relief to millions in West Berlin, to the decisive display of air superiority in the skies over Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, to the ongoing fight against ISIL - we have been breaking barriers for seven decades.

 

But behind those stories is always the familiar torch of knowledge lighting the way, and for every Airman that starts here in AETC.  It is something that our earliest leaders understood.

 

I am reminded of Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, who recognized the value of training and professionalism in developing Airmen.  At the time, Air Training Command was a production line like nothing the world had ever seen.  The command's 440,000 Airmen across 440 bases became so adept at their mission, Arnold boasted they could produce 105,000 pilots a year and train 5,000 mechanics at the same time.

 

To meet these numbers required the Air Force to accession an untapped diversity of talent.  We quickly saw one new contributor to our legacy after another:  the Women's Army Air Forces, the Tuskegee Airmen, sergeant pilots and aviation cadets.  A diverse collection of experiences, ideas and thought helped win the political case for a separate Air Force in 1947.  Modern American airpower started in our command and has succeeded through the countless, dedicated efforts of our instructors and staff.

 

The spirit of their dedication continues, even though the pace of training has changed over time in response to our nation's security needs.  Missions have come and gone, like at Altus Air Force Base where the community once hosted strategic bombers before the current training mission, or at Laughlin Air Force Base, whose U-2 aircraft were a vital part of information gathering during the Cuban missile crisis.  The common thread that weaves through all of AETC's bases throughout time is the unequivocal need for quality training and education that meets commanders' needs.

 

As we approach the official mark of our service's 70th birthday on Sept. 18, my thoughts go to our future.  And I can tell you that the future looks bright for AETC!

 

We will continue the vital work of preparing the next generation of air, space and cyber warriors to meet the challenges of tomorrow by using the lessons of yesterday.

 

That means taking a look at not just what we're learning, but how we learn by reviewing our processes along the entire continuum of learning to best employ our most important resource:  our Airmen.

 

That means solving today's challenges from a historically informed perspective, like revisiting the concept of enlisted pilots, currently training to fly remotely piloted aircraft.

 

By doing these things, we honor our legacy and promise a brighter future to our Air Force and our nation - a future that is symbolized by the statue I can see from my office window, and a future I can assure you will depend on our efforts here in Air Education and Training Command.

 

Happy birthday, Air Force - Airpower...Starts Here!