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Airmen and a changing Air Force

LAJES FIELD, Azores -- "Wow, the Air Force sure has changed since I retired!" I hear this comment quite often as I run into the warriors who came before me and have since retired.

Some discuss the ongoing wars while others focus on the force shaping they have seen. Benefits and entitlements are always a hot topic as well. Regardless of the discussion on the changes they have seen or see happening today, all of them are honorable men and women who have weathered change at some point in their service, just as those of us in uniform are doing today.

No matter what the topic of discussion, these warriors are right -- the Air Force has changed. A quarter of a century ago we were double our current size as an Air Force and fighting the Cold War. The words "deployment" and "expeditionary" were terms that a young Airman rarely heard. Today, America's sons and daughters who join our expeditionary Air Force will at some point contribute to the approximately 215,000 Airmen directly connected to the fight against terrorism. "Deployment" and "expeditionary" will be words they hear often, and our Airmen, even with a smaller force than in years past, continue to answer our nation's call.

As our Air Force continues to be "right-sized" for the mission, we find ourselves having to make tough choices within our constrained budget. The budget for the military is and has been tightened over the years, and we all need to be part of the solution and not the problem. The changes we face today are similar to the changes needed in years past, and they are as necessary today as they were then.

Tough choices had to be made and cost cutting decisions were implemented. Many of the changes or decisions we face today will not be popular, yet I have no doubt we will be better with the changes we will make. Our Airmen will adapt and overcome just as we have in years past.

Change is always happening around us. Some change we fight and some we embrace, but either way, change is going to happen. I have been in the Air Force forĀ more thanĀ 25 years, and I have seen a lot of change. I have had several opportunities to move on or even retire when change was implemented in our Air Force, but I still find myself proudly serving today.

Change is happening again in our Air Force, and I have complete trust in our leadership that they will put "mission first and Airmen always!" at the forefront of their decisions. We are the best Air Force in the world, and I am confident in a few years when I'm retired, I will be able to say with pride, "Wow, the Air Force sure has changed since I was in!"