Exceptional Air Force

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Richard Fox
  • 4th Mission Support Group
"Americans aren't exceptional." Some of you may have seen this news headline recently. It leads one to wonder if the writer has been introduced to the United States Air Force; the most dominant, advanced, lethal Air Force the world has ever seen.

As the youngest of the military branches, we've accomplished more in our 66 years than any of our early leaders could have ever imagined.

On Sept. 18, 1947, the Air Force as we know it was born. There have been many iterations leading to the creation of a separate air force, equal to sea and land forces, and our early leaders set in motion a tradition of perseverance, innovation and excellence which have enabled generation after generation to dominate the skies.

The Berlin Airlift was one of our first tests as our own service. After the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' land and water access to Berlin, Germany, which had been divided between the U.S., France, England and the Soviet Union, the Air Force stepped up to the plate. With only two squadrons of C-47 Skytrains available in theater and a capability of delivering 3.5 tons of aid at a time, the Air Force began the colossal task of supplying 5,000 tons of food and fuel daily. In the first week, only 90 tons per day were delivered, but through innovation, planning and American exceptionalism, 1,000 tons per day were delivered soon after.

With only three airways open for travel into Berlin, Airmen once again relied on innovation. After several mishaps due to weather, instrument flight rules were placed in effect at all times, regardless of visibility conditions. Six-hour shifts were implemented, instead of the more common eight-hour standard, with the goal of one sortie per minute in the day (1,440). If a plane missed its landing in Berlin for any reason, it was to return to base in order to not disrupt other sorties. The "ladder," as it was called, of planes taking-off, flying, and landing was reduced to three minute intervals with only 500 feet of separation. The impossible mission of keeping a city alive indefinitely, solely by airlift, had become a reality. The Soviets, after initial ridicule of the operation, were humbled and 15 months later the blockade was lifted.

Today's Airmen are just as exceptional as those of the Berlin Airlift. Consider the scope of the modern Airman.

We still fly planes, but we have expanded our exceptionalism to space and cyberspace. Quite recently, an Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellite launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. aboard an Atlas V rocket. The satellite will join a constellation of secure, jam-resistant satellite communications connecting joint and coalition forces around the world on land, air and sea.

Then there is the B-52 Stratofortress fleet, which is more than 50 years old and expected to be operational until 2040, nearly 80 years after the first B-52 entered the Air Force. To put this in perspective, this is comparable to fighting in WWII with a war-fighting technology created during the Civil War. In turn, Airmen have again used ingenuity to upgrade the B-52 fleet to maintain the bomber's superiority.

More than 30 modifications and upgrades have kept the Stratofortress capable of delivering conventional weapons and cruise missiles. Upcoming modifications include more powerful engines, increased fuel capacity and communications upgrades, enabling real-time, over-the-air mission and targeting updates.

From the Berlin Airlift to the modern-day examples mentioned, Airmen continually find ways to accomplish whatever mission is at hand with the given resources, whether they're meager or abundant.

Those who say Americans are not exceptional don't know the people of the Air Force. No organization represents the United States better and more accurately than the exceptional people, past, present and future, who make up the United States Air Force. Our successes over the past 66 years are simply the starting point for a future beyond anything we can imagine.