Air Force celebrates 61st birthday

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Greg Touhill
  • 81st Training Wing commander
Sept. 18 marks the 61st anniversary of the official creation of the United States Air Force. In the aftermath of World War II, the Congress of the United States passed legislation reorganizing the armed forces of our country, creating not only the Air Force, but also establishing the National Military Establishment (later amended in 1949 to be called the Department of Defense), the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and numerous other changes to how we defend our country. 

The National Security Act of 1947, which was signed into law by President Truman on July 26, 1947, but took effect on Sept. 18, 1947, was landmark legislation for our country. It fundamentally reorganized our armed forces, intelligence organizations, and foreign policy. It also formally created the world's greatest air force. Airmen from the Army Air Forces and the maritime services joined together under this new construct to form the United States Air Force under Secretary Stuart Symington and Chief of Staff Gen. Carl "Tooey" Spaatz (pronounced "Spots"). Since then, Airmen have carried the stars and stripes around the world in the defense of freedom and liberty. 

Today at Keesler, we celebrate the Air Force birthday with a concert on the parade ground, some fun physical training and remembrance of all those Airmen who have served before us. 

We celebrate those who saved freedom during the Ber-lin Airlift like Gail Halvorsen, the noted "Candy Bomber," who gave the children of Berlin hope in time of dire despair. We celebrate Airmen like Maj. Gen. Bill Tunner, who proved that air power could make a difference in supporting national objectives. 

We celebrate those who served in the Korean War and sacrificed so much. Do you know that the last time an American ground soldier was attacked from the air was during the opening phase of the Korean War? After the initial attack, the Air Force quickly gained and maintained air supremacy along with a 14:1 kill ratio, keeping American and allied ground forces safe from air attack. 

We celebrate the warriors of the Strategic Air Command, who lived their motto, "Peace is our Profession." These brave men and women stood armed ground and air alert for over 30 years, maintaining a strong deterrent posture that kept the peace. Many argue that they were instrumental in winning the Cold War. I agree. 

We celebrate our veterans of the Vietnam War. Who can forget the Linebacker missions that brought the North Viet-namese back to the negotiating table? Who can forget the vivid images of the C-141 "Freedom Birds" flying back our former prisoners of war? Who can forget the airlift of the orphans and refugees in the aftermath of the war? Our Airmen made a difference. 

We celebrate our veterans of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as Southern and Northern Watch. American airpower moved more than 500,000 men and women to the area of operations and combat air and space power quickly routed enemy forces. The United States Air Force proved its mettle. 

Today, we continue to prove our mettle every day. American Airmen continue to stand the watch protecting our country. Whether it is on alert here in the continental United States or deployed forward in an expeditionary operation, American Airmen continue to carry our flag forward, defending freedom and our way of life. Airmen continue to make a difference in Operations Enduring Free-dom and Iraqi Freedom, risking their lives every day so that others may live a life of freedom and without fear. 

Your Air Force has accomplished so much in the last 61 years. As we look over the horizon to the next 61 years, we see an even better Air Force, carrying on the traditions of integrity, service and excellence that make us the world's greatest air, space and cyberspace force. Happy Birthday Airmen!