Air Force marks 71st birthday with themes of trust, commitment

By John R. Bell

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Flying blades, a brass band and remarks from a three-star Air Force deputy chief of staff marked the 71st birthday of the Air Force at the McNamara Headquarters Complex Sept. 12.

 

Kicking off the celebration, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team executed a precision rifle drill, using weapons affixed with steel bayonets.

 

As enthusiastic audience responses punctuated their movements, the six airmen spun and at times threw their rifles — with such precision that Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams, director of the Defense Logistics Agency, led the audience in a standing ovation.

 

Joining Williams in attendance were his wife, Myra Williams, along with senior leaders from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Defense Technical Information Center and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

 

Offering keynote remarks was Lt. Gen. Warren Berry, Air Force deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection.

 

Berry noted that even with modern technology like GPS, stealth aircraft, cyber platforms and supersonic flight, today’s airmen would be familiar to those who served when the Air Force first took off in 1947.

 

“Even though there are now things our first airmen would never have imagined, there are also some very real and evident commonalities,” he said. “Those early leaders would readily recognize the innovative spirit our airmen.

 

“They would laud your tenacity to never bow down before a challenge, and they would swell with pride as you continually embody our core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.”

 

Berry continued: “They would certainly see that the power of our Air Force is not about the stuff — the materiel that we develop and employ — but our amazing airmen, military and civilian, that virtually every partner nation envies and covets.”

 

The three-star general said that because the Air Force has been continuously deployed in war zones since 1990, less than 1 percent of those now serving can remember what Air Force life was like before Desert Shield and the continual deployments and family separations that have followed in the nearly three decades since. In fact, most of today’s airmen have no recollection of Air Force service before Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

 

For those airmen, the deployed environment “is their new reality,” Berry said, adding that in just the preceding week, the Air Force flew nearly 1,000 combat sorties supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. The Air Force has flown nearly 90,000 such combat missions since 2014, he said.

 

Berry was introduced by his fellow airman, Maj. Gen. Mark Johnson, DLA’s director of logistics operations. Johnson noted that just as the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team members relied on mutual trust to avoid injury on stage, trust among airmen has been an asset through the service’s seven-plus decades of existence.

 

“Our job is to here at DLA is to be good wingmen and good partners to build trust with our service teammates, as they fulfill their role to organize, train and equip their service, to support their services' readiness efforts and to execute their missions.”

 

Johnson then showed a video presentation highlighting the various missions and responsibilities of the Air Force.

 

“I saw DLA everywhere,” he told the audience afterward — “every button on an airplane, every uniform that an airman wore, every piece of equipment. We’re embedded in the services, and they have our trust. We need to continue to earn it every single day.”

 

Johnson then led a ceremonial cake-cutting featuring Berry as the longest-serving airman present, along with Staff Sgt. Kyle Tomaszewski of DTRA as the youngest airman at the event.

 

Performing the National Anthem, the Air Force Song and classical selections was the Air Force Brass Quintet, part of the Ceremonial Brass based in Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.