Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today – September 18 – marks the Air Force’s 66th birthday. For 66 years, our Nation has entrusted the Air Force with preserving peace and freedom, and defending our democracy. Since its beginnings on July 26, 1947, when President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 on board the presidential aircraft, the Sacred Cow, and set the creation of the United States Air Force in motion, to its instrumental role in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force has always served America admirably and I have every confidence that it will continue in this proud tradition.
The Air Force tracks its origins back to 1907, when the Wright Brothers conducted the world’s first airplane flight over the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Just like the Wright Brothers whose innovation spurred aviation, the vast success and numerous achievements of the Air Force would not be possible without the talented Airmen who fuel innovation today, enabling the Air Force to fly faster, further, and utilize technology that the Wright Brothers’ could not have imagined over 100 year ago.
Today, the United States Air Force is the largest, most capable, and most technologically advanced air force in the world, with about 5,300 manned aircraft in service, 246 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles, and 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Air Force prides itself on five core missions; Air and Space Superiority; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Rapid Global Mobility; Global Strike; and Command and Control. The Air Force’s commitment to core missions illustrates its vast capability and has remained steadfast since the Air Force’s establishment as a separate service 66 years ago. Our amazing Airmen today are constantly adapting and improving to meet the challenges of a fast-paced security environment and an ever-evolving battlespace across the globe.
The United States Air Force is, and will continue to be, the United States’ key asymmetric advantage across the spectrum of conflict. Whether responding to a national security threat, a natural disaster, or crisis engagements, the Air Force provides Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power to ensure that the U.S. is capable of responding to events around the world. Without the Air Force’s supremacy in air, space and cyberspace, the U.S. would not be able to move troops and equipment to war zones, send relief to countries devastated by natural disasters, provide air support to troops on the ground, or gather crucial intelligence through electronic warfare and stealth technology.
But let us not forget the true power behind the Air Force is its Airmen. The Air Force comprises over 330,000 personnel on active duty, 185,000 civilian personnel, and 180,000 in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves. These flexible, adaptable, and innovative Airmen employ unmatched air, space, and cyberspace capabilities. Our Airmen today are driven by the ideals of the Warrior Ethos and commit themselves to succeed in any mission our Nation asks of them. Our Airmen believe that our Constitution and the freedom it guarantees are worth fighting for. They sacrifice their personal comfort and safety to answer a higher calling: service in the cause of freedom, both here at home and abroad. I am awed by our servicemen and women’s ability to adapt and succeed in a total force mission that at various stages has called upon them to be scholars, teachers, policemen, farmers, bankers, engineers, social workers, and, of course, warriors – often all at the same time.
Above all, I am perpetually thankful for their willingness to serve, and I have the greatest faith in their ability to face the difficult and dangerous missions that lie ahead. These patriots have always been the strength of our Nation. The unwavering dedication to duty, to our country, and to all Americans is embodied in the Air Force vision, “The World’s Greatest Air Force – Powered by Airmen, fueled by innovation.” For 66 years, our Air Force has been on a mission to protect the skies so that our society may be free. Let us remember our Air Force Airmen for this achievement today, and wish them a happy 66th birthday.
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