An Airman reflects on 67 years

The program for the 2014 Air Force Ball is displayed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 13, 2014. Spangdahlem Airmen and their family members attended the ball, complete with food and entertainment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim/Released)

The program for the 2014 Air Force Ball is displayed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 13, 2014. Spangdahlem Airmen and their family members attended the ball, complete with food and entertainment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Today, Sept. 18, marks the 67th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force’s conception. In 1947, the Air Force evolved as its own branch of service from the U.S. Army Air Forces.

This momentous occasion in history is a well-known fact, something with which all Airmen should be familiar. But what does the Air Force’s birthday really mean to those who serve in it?

As a first-term Airman, I am quite familiar with the birthday of the Air Force. But unlike my mentors and peers who have been in longer, I have no way of being able to draw from my experiences to express what the Air Force’s birthday meant.

With today being the day, I took the liberty of going around 52nd Fighter Wing headquarters and asked those who have been in much longer than I have what the 67th birthday means to them.

For me, the Air Force's birthday marks the occasion when the tactical, operational, and strategic control of emerging technology that enabled air power was appropriately placed under the leadership structure of professional Airmen," said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Eric Wachtel, 52nd FW Protocol Office protocol specialist from Olney, Illinois. "I believe that air power could not have reached its full potential in air and space superiority, global attack, rapid global mobility, precision engagement, information superiority and agile combat support if this unique organization were to continue playing a subordinate role to a governing land-based military service. Every time I have deployed, I was thankful that I did not have to worry about being attacked by another nation's air force.

For me, the Air Force’s birthday means change," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joanne Simmons, 52nd FW section chief of the command section from Wilson, North Carolina. "Being 67 years old, we are leading; we’re always leading the way with new and innovative ways to do our business. We are always the trend-setters; we are always the one pushing the envelope further, faster, smarter and brighter with our initiatives. As an individual, looking back 67 years ago, I’m a woman. I’m a minority; I’m African-American, and a little bit of Native American. Sixty-seven years ago, people who were of my same gender, my same race had very limited roles in the Air Force, so knowing that we go back and push the envelope further, opens doors for people that are my gender and my race.

“The Air Force comes from the Army Air Corps," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Breidenbach, 52nd FW Inspector General director of complaint resolutions from Tiffin, Ohio. "The Air Force became a viable unit all of a sudden, so when there was an Army Air Corps still, the Air Force wasn’t seen as its own unit. It wasn’t seen as important. We were separated and showed that we can do stuff by ourselves instead of having to be a joint unit.”

We branched off from their service because we actually have a purpose," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher J. Finch, 52nd FW executive officer from Spokane, Washington. "I am a pilot. We try to have air superiority in every mission that our commander-in-chief sends us to.  It’s impressive to see what we can do when there is total teamwork; there is no way that a pilot could go out there on their own. It is pretty satisfying to go out there and not worry about other threats that could take us down because the whole team has got it.”

“I enjoy the Air Force wholeheartedly," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Lee Stanley, 52nd FW Inspector General superintendent from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "It has changed my life in many aspects, and I am very appreciative for what it has done for my life. I’ve been deployed to many places around the world, been stationed in great places, did things I never thought I would do. Had it not been for the decision that was made back then, there’s no telling where I would have been. Life experiences and mentorship has been provided tenfold and I appreciate the Air Force in that aspect. The birth of the Air Force and the culture of it is what it means to me.”

“It means that we’ve been doing pretty good the last 67 years," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Terri Trujillo, 52nd FW Operational Security program manager from Tampa, Florida. "I look back on what the members of the Air Force had done all those years, it goes to show that you don’t have to be the oldest one to have given some serious involvement to the overall mission of military force as far as America is concerned. I’ve been associated with the Air Force my whole life in some form or fashion; it’s the only thing I’ve really ever known. One of the best changes I’ve seen from the time I was an Airman to now is the emphasis on mentoring younger Airmen. That really was not on the table of discussion when I was a young Airman.  You just fumbled through it and figured things out as you went along. There is this culture now of making sure we’re mentoring young Airmen so that as more birthdays come, we’re making an even stronger force.”

It hadn’t really dawned on me that the U.S. Air Force, though a proficient and effective branch of the military armed services, would have a culture and society of its own. Having been a civilian for 23 years before joining the military, people such as myself tend to think that we have it all figured out from our side of the fence.

However, I couldn’t help but feel a swelling sense of pride at the fact that I am part of not just a great Air Force, but a force that is constantly changing, shifting, evolving and adapting to not just become an effective military force, but to become a great family to those that dedicate their time and service away from their own.

Happy Birthday, Air Force. Aim High: Fly, Fight, Win!