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News | Sept. 15, 2015

McNamara Headquarters Complex celebrates Air Force’s 68th birthday

By Air Force Maj. Allison Ecung DLA Public Affairs

From the Wright brothers’ first 120-foot glide in the first powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to Neil Armstrong’s monumental first steps on the moon, a lot can change in 68 years, an Air Force deputy chief information officer said Sept. 10 during the service’s birthday celebration at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

In 1947, Congress separated the Air Force from the Army and made it a distinct service, largely due to the distinguished performance in air interdiction and strategic bombing during World War II, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Wheeler, deputy chief information officer for command, control, communications and computers, and information infrastructure capabilities for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Wheeler discussed the history of the service and strides made by airmen in recent years. As a young lieutenant copiloting B-52 bombers, he often flew missions with nuclear weapons attached to his aircraft. Wheeler said his career was shaped by major changes such as the transition from Cold War nuclear deterrence missions to the air superiority of the Desert Storm strategy, as well as the current environment of counterinsurgency tactics.  

During each transition, Wheeler said he noticed that the airmen around him continually found new ways to tackle the problems they faced in unfamiliar environments. Over and over, they personified the old adage that flexibility is the key to airpower.

“It’s that innovation that you provide… that has driven us to this point in the direction of [our] future,” he said.

Wheeler noted that the future of the Air Force will rely upon airmen innovating key developments such as the next precision guided munition. They will also find new ways to dominate the electromagnetic battleground and cyberspace.  

“This story’s not done; this is just the beginning,” he said. “Our job is deterrence first. If we have to fight, it’s because we’ve failed at the first goal.”

The event also included three videos about the service’s history and a performance by the Air Force Strings, one of six musical ensembles that comprise the U.S. Air Force Band.

In accordance with military tradition, the youngest and oldest Air Force members, Capt. Paul Clement and Lt. Col. David Watson of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, joined Wheeler onstage to cut the first slice of birthday cake with an official saber.