USAFE celebrates Air Force's 60th Anniversary

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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (USAFENS) - Airmen, family and friends from throughout the Kaiserslautern Military Community celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force here Saturday with band performances, demonstrations and special guest speakers.

"In addition to celebrating our historical anniversary, this year marks the 60th Anniversary of Rheinland Pfalz as well," said General Tom Hobbins, commander USAFE. The support we receive from our Rheinland Pfalz friends has helped USAFE fulfill its responsibility of defending freedom and democracy," he added. "We could not do this without our German partners."

Though relatively young compared to our sister services, the Air Force is rich in heritage and experience. Special guests Lt. Col. (Ret) Leo Thorsness, Medal of Honor recipient, and Col. (Ret) Gail Halvorsen, Berlin Airlift Candy Bomber, helped us remember that heritage during their speeches and autograph signing sessions Saturday.

During the Berlin Airlift, Colonel Halvorsen sparked a message of hope to thousands of children by air dropping more than 250,000 parachutes loaded with candy on the city of Berlin.

"Being back in Germany is like a bookend in my life," said Colonel Halvorsen. "When I was here before we were tasked with feeding two million people. The buildings were scarred and damaged. Germany has come a long way and I'm thrilled to be back here to see the progress they've made."

In addition to Colonel Halvorsen, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness was also on hand to help the Air Force celebrate its 60th Anniversary. Colonel Thorsness was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor in the Vietnam War for an air engagement on April 19, 1967. He was shot down two weeks later and spent six years in captivity as a prisoner of war.

"You don't appreciate freedom as much until you've had it and then it's been taken away from you," he said. Even if you've had it taken away, it's better than never knowing it."

The Air Force has a very proud history that has repeatedly helped shape world events since its inception during World War II, and both Colonel Halvorsen and Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness are part of that history.

"The Air Force's first real test after our formation came during the long ensuing cold war that shaped the world for decades to come," said General Hobbins. "The Berlin Airlift saved the city's beleaguered citizens from a communist chokehold. It was the first major test of the free world's will to resist soviet aggression and was arguably air power's single most decisive contribution to the Cold War. Colonel Halvorsen's efforts became the symbol of the Berlin Airlift for Germans and Americans alike."

"Throughout the 60-year history of the Air Force, Americans have stood in awe as Airmen pushed the limits of technology and courage," General Hobbins added. "Airmen have extended the range, scope and nature of air missions beyond what anyone could have imagined when the Air Force was first created in 1947. Airmen have shown great courage under fire, like Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Leo Thorsness. They have sacrificed and put themselves at risk to protect their wingmen and help ensure freedom's future."

The celebration was a mix of old and new. In addition to the guest speakers, there were people wearing historical Air Force uniforms and a C-47 static display on the same ramp as an F-15 and Blackhawk rescue helicopter. It was a reminder of all the Air Force had accomplished in 60 short years.

"Based on a foundation of successful expeditionary air power dating back to the days of biplanes constructed of wood and fabric, I am excited about what our Airmen have accomplished, and about the new achievements and new frontiers in store for us in the future," said General Hobbins. "So as we pay tribute to the last 60 years of our Air Force we must look to our Air Force men and women today to help us meet the challenges of the next 60 years. Thank you for all you do in service to our country. I am proud to serve with each of you as we continue "Ensuring Freedom's Future."

In addition to the special guest speakers, the event included USAFE aircraft on display, food vendors, performances by USAFE bands, model airplane exhibits, kid and family games, security forces K-9 demonstrations, bomb disposal robot showcases and a medical evacuation exercise.

For more information on this issue, please contact USAFE Public Affairs at DSN: 480-6558 or commercial: (49) 06371-47-6558.