THE WILD BLUE YONDER
By Senator Mike Crapo
September 18 th marked 60 years of an independent United States Air Force. This independence was necessary then, and remains so now in order that, in the recent words of Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., the United States has "one service that focuses on maximizing options for decision-makers by optimizing airpower."
One hundred years ago in 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps established an aeronautical division to oversee "military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects." Forty years later, the United States Air Force was designated as a separate branch of the U.S. Military. Created by Congress to "be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations," the Air Force was to be "responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war."
Today's Air Force consists of close to 700,000 active duty, civilian, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel. It plays an essential role in the ongoing fight against terrorism and other emerging threats on multiple fronts, from flying combat missions and conducting manned and unmanned surveillance to logistical ground support. Daily, dozens of close air support missions--troop support, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities--are conducted by the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether monitoring satellites or the Space Shuttle, delivering precision-guided munitions to air and ground targets or patrolling the far reaches of cyberspace, the USAF maintains strategic and operational dominance in theatre and around the globe. Fighters, bombers, missiles and unmanned aircraft are the tools of today's airmen, tools they use with unmatched skill and lethal precision in defense of freedom.
Sixty years of Air Force excellence has been possible only because of those who have voluntarily dedicated their lives to the success of U.S. air power. Air Force men and women and their families serve our nation with distinction, integrity and patriotism.
Idaho has been home to Mountain Home Air Force Base for over 60 years now. Over the past half-century, Mountain Home AFB has hosted many diverse missions of the Air Force including special and covert operations; combat and reconnaissance operations; ballistic missile defense; electronic combat; and, fighter operations. It's one of largest employers in the State of Idaho.
The Air Force also recognizes its environmental responsibility and has worked diligently over the years to be a good steward of federal land in southern Idaho. I have worked with Base leadership on many land management issues during my service in Congress, most recently the Owyhee Initiative. The Air Force continues to respect Native American cultural sensitivities and practices and works hard to do its part in maintaining a respectful relationship for the betterment of Shoshone-Paiute tribal interests as well as maintaining state of the art training for our airmen.
The Air Force works closely with the other military branches to skillfully execute the Global War on Terror. Always innovative, the Air Force continues to look ahead, establishing itself as the dominant space defense force capable of facing new strategic realities in an ever-changing global threat environment and cementing its ability to respond to threats immediately and wherever they arise.
In the words of another famous former Chief of the Air Force, General Curtis LeMay, "If we maintain our faith in God, love of freedom, and superior global air power, the future looks good."