Our Air Force: 68 years of guts, innovation and air superiority

  • Published
  • By Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski
  • Air Force Materiel Command commander
In 1911, a young Henry Arnold learned to fly at the Wright Brothers aviation school on a dusty field in Ohio. A strong advocate of aviation research and development, "Hap" Arnold went on to become a five-star general.

He made history.

In 1918, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker shot down 26 enemy aircraft over France during World War I. His skill and bravery earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, and he went on to become an innovative aviation industry pioneer.

He made history.

In 1942, then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25 bombers, the Doolittle Raiders, on a secret mission to bomb the Japanese mainland just five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They modified their "land-based" Army Air Corps planes and learned to fly them from a Navy aircraft carrier.

They made history.

These pioneer Airmen, like countless others, demonstrated the world-changing effects of aviation technology. They set high standards and relied on innovation and discipline to push the limits of their capabilities. Their guts, determination and skill were recognized on Sept. 18, 1947, when the Air Force became a separate service following President Harry Truman's signing of the National Security Act earlier that year.

This week, we celebrate the 68th birthday of our Air Force -- 68 years of amazing technological advances, courageous human endeavors and an ever-evolving capability that protects our freedoms. From breaking the sound barrier to fielding stealth aircraft that are invisible to our adversaries, the Air Force has always been at the forefront of our national defense. 

Our Air Force has evolved since 1947. Today, we patrol the domains of not just the air, but space and cyberspace, too. We are fielding the world's most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-35, while at the same time researching and developing ways to increase agility, flexibility, precision, lethality and persistence for our missions of the future.

This is what we do in Air Force Materiel Command: deliver and support war-winning  capabilities. When America calls on the Air Force, the Air Force turns to AFMC.

But we must become better at what we do, for our world today is a complex mix of rogue states and radical groups bent on destroying basic freedoms we and other nations hold dear.  The best technologies don't develop and operate on their own. It is our people, military and civilian, who have made our Air Force the greatest air power in the world.  Today, we rely on 660,000 people who come from diverse experiences, cultures and communities throughout the United States. They truly represent a cross-section of America and it is their diversity that helps fuel our innovation and commitment.

Our Air Force heritage is a proud one, and airpower remains an inherent part of our nation's history. The legacy of our airpower pioneers -- imaginative and innovative Airmen harnessing new technologies and strategies -- set the course for future air, space and cyberspace capabilities.

As we celebrate the Air Force's 68th birthday, we realize our future is truly limitless. We must, and will, remain a force that provides global vigilance, global reach and global power.

And we will continue to make history.