HONOLULU, HAWAII —
you General (Lori) Robinson, for that motivating introduction. It’s wonderful to see you tonight. I'd be honored to be your wingman, anytime
to all you Airmen out there, happy birthday!
great to be here with you, honoring the most technologically advanced and
professional Air Force in the history of the world. And while tonight should be a celebration,
thank you for recognizing the profound importance of this date – 9/11 – and the events which fundamentally changed our
country 14 years ago.
Distinguished guest, ladies, and gentlemen.
I’m sure, given the choice, instead of hearing a short speech from an
old Navy Admiral who’s almost as old as the Air Force itself, most of you’d
rather hear no speech at all. So I’m
going to get on with it, so that you can get on with it.
United States Air Force has a proud and spectacular history. From the airspace above Verdun, to the outer
space above us, to cyberspace all around us, Airmen have defended our nation with
great substance and style as well. "Off
we go into the wild blue yonder" is a clarion call to adventure and the
catchphrase of the coolest song of all the services.
Air Force has long cornered the market on capturing the imagination of young
boys and girls across America. As a kid,
I grew up with the exploits of Sky Pilot, Sky King, and Steve Canyon. Some would even say I took 12 O’clock High to
heart by attending the Frank Savage School of Leadership.
Tonight, we celebrate 68 years of tradition, accomplishment, and
daring-do by the youngest branch of the U.S. military. When President Harry Truman – love that first
name – signed the National Security Act of 1947 which established the
Department of the Air Force, it was the formal recognition that air supremacy
was critically important for our national security.
And today, 68 years later, the United States Air Force has the
most technologically advanced systems and platforms and, most importantly, some
of the most capable and professional war fighters in the world.
And warfighting is what this service is about, a fact that was on clear
display just a few years after your creation during the Korean War.
During that conflict, U.S. aviators faced a superior aircraft, the
MiG-15, which was a faster and more maneuverable than our F-84 Thunderjets and
F-86 Sabres. But our Air Force aviators dominated
the skies because of their superior training and tactics. And our Air Force has dominated the skies
And while we celebrate your 68th birthday as an
individual service, your roots are much older and run far deeper. It's been over 100 years since Lieutenant
Benjamin Foulois climbed into a Wright Flyer Type B biplane in what was to be
the U.S. military's first aircraft, named "Signal Corps Airplane Number 1."
Since that fateful first flight, the Signal Corps evolved into the Army Air
Service, which later became the Army Air Corps, which then became the Army Air
Forces, and finally, the United States Air Force.
Your storied history includes the Lafayette Escadrille, the Flying
Tigers, the Doolittle Raid, the Mighty 8th Air Force, the Berlin Airlift, MiG
Alley, Thud Ridge, Desert Storm, Bosnia, and the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and
Space Shuttle programs. Yours is a lineage
stretching back over a century of flying legends – men like Eddie Rickenbacker,
Billy Mitchell, Dick Bong, Thomas McGuire, Chuck Yeager, Iven Kinchloe, General
Winton Marshall, a Korean War ace who lives right here in Hawaii ... Gus Grissom, Lance Sijan, Bud Day ... and, finally, the
only man besides Tom Selleck, Fig Leaf, and Ron Burgundy who could pull off a massively
manly mustache, the legendary Robin Olds.
no one here is going to remember anything I said tonight except that my remarks
had “something to do with Ron Burgundy and Anchorman.”
men hold no monopoly on heroism in your storied history. Women like Jackie Cochran, Nancy Harkness
Love, Eileen Collins, and Martha McSally occupy positions of high honor in our
nation's pantheon of heroes.
is your middle name – brilliant thinkers like Billy Mitchell, John Worden, John
Boyd, and Bernard Shreiver changed the way we as a military think and operate. Air Force test pilots pushed the envelope in
the air and in space – the right stuff. My father-in-law was an Air Force fighter pilot and test
pilot in the 1950s – like most of his colleagues you could always tell he was a
fighter pilot, you just couldn't tell him much.
For the last 68 years, you've been America’s sentinel, in the air,
in space, and cyberspace. President
Roosevelt had it right when he said, “Hitler built a fortress around Europe,
but he forgot to put a roof on it." And we must never forget that during the Cold
War, 13 Air Force reconnaissance aircraft were shot down by the Soviets and
68 years, you’ve been the MVP on America’s offense, taking the fight to the
enemy, with global power and global reach.
9/11, terrorist organizations around the world have seen the darker side of the
United States Air Force, living in constant fear of your fighters, your
gunships, and your appropriately named Reapers.
After 14 years of heavy combat flying in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.
Air Force has much to be proud of. You
took the fight to the enemy – and you're still putting warheads on foreheads in
our fight against ISIS.
in this theater, for the past 68 years, Airmen have worked with our close allies
and partners to maintain peace and stability throughout the region.
example, during Talisman Sabre 15, U.S. and Australian C-17s flew 22 hours
straight from Alaska to Australia and delivered 450 Army paratroopers with
the devastating earthquake hit Nepal back in April, PACAF deployed over 200
Airmen in support of Joint Task Force-505.
During the operation, Airmen flew over 148 sorties delivering equipment
and supplies and Airmen from the 36th Contingency Response Group
worked with our Nepalese partners in Kathmandu to distribute Humanitarian Aid
and validate the airport’s runway structural integrity.
Cope North 15, our Airmen worked alongside 2,300 military members of our allies
and partners to increase our combat readiness, interoperability, and ability to
quickly and effectively respond to a natural disaster. Airmen are making a real impact to the region
and the nation.
month, during Red Flag, U.S., Japanese, Korean, and New Zealand Airmen executed
a large-scale airfield seizure scenario, the first in Red Flag’s history. During the exercise, a U.S. C-130 Hercules assigned
to the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base became the first U.S.
aircraft ever to airdrop Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members onto U.S. soil.
Pacific theater is deeply embedded in the DNA of the U.S. Air Force.
Indo-Asia-Pacific region is center court in the great game of geo-politics in
the 21st Century. I speak often about
the threat from North Korea, the challenge of a rising China, and the critical
importance of America’s Rebalance to the Pacific. Our countrymen and women are again looking to
us to ensure stability and prosperity in this vital region. Airmen and Sailors, Soldiers and Marines, standing
the watch together. And there’s no
question about it – we’re ready to do what’s necessary to protect our national
interests, wherever and whenever they are threatened.
tonight’s events largely focus on exploits of the past, remember, the task in
front of each of us is to be ready for the next fight. Ready to fight tonight if need be.
folks, I see I’ve talked too long. I’m
reminded of the man who shot and killed a long-winded speaker. He went to the sheriff’s office and said,
“Sheriff, I’ve just shot me a keynote speaker.”
The sheriff turned to the man and said, “Son, you’re in the wrong
place. You pick up your reward money at
hoping none of you Fighter Weapons School graduates are thinking about
collecting any reward money. But just in
case, let me close with this thought.
true strength of our Joint Force is the people who devote their lives to a
cause greater than themselves. All of
you here have paid your dues, given in many cases the best years of your lives
to serve our Nation. Now, thousands of
young Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen stand the watch
around the world.
is the country she is because of young men and women who are willing to forego
wearing a business suit, forego strolling down easy street, and forego living
the good life, to wear instead the cloth of the nation. To travel instead along an uncertain road
fraught with peril, to live instead a life on the ragged edge of danger. To live lives that matter on a fundamental
I’m not a preacher-man, but there's a passage in the good book which defines
for me the spirit that lives in each and every citizen who has ever chosen to
wear the cloth of the nation. And it's
appropriate this day of all days.
day God was searching for the right man – a man with the right stuff, if you
will. A man to embark on a dangerous
mission and go into a dangerous land:
shall I send? Who shall go for us?”
the prophet responded, “Here am I Lord, send me.”
am I, send me. Powerful words. When our nation was attacked 14 years ago
today, Lady Liberty called out in her pain and anguish “Whom shall I send? Who shall go for me?”
everywhere, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians
AM I AMERICA. SEND ME.”
AM I AMERICA. SEND ME.”
the Atlantic to the Pacific and beyond, America’s sons and daughters answered
that clarion call, and they continue to answer that call today, serving with
great flair and greater distinction.
United States Air Force is the finest flying fighting force the world has ever
known. You’re expeditionary, you're fast,
tough, hard-charging, courageous, and you're always ready. You’re envied by many, feared by most, and
forever respected by friend and foe alike.
None of that’s aspirational or boastful, it's just fact.
can assure you, you’ve got the respect of this old Navy Sailor as well. I know exactly what you’re capable of, and I'm
honored to be your wingman as we protect our great nation together. I look forward to flying with you into the
future, as the Joint Force continues to protect our national interests abroad.
as Curtis Lemay once said, "If we maintain our faith in God, love of
freedom, and superior global air power, the future looks good."
God bless our men and women who serve on the forward edge of the battle area,
the FEBA of freedom. May God bless and
comfort the families that support us. May
God bless the United States Air Force. And
may God bless this land of liberty we call America.
birthday, Airmen … Aim High!