Sept 17, 18: Two days of DoD remembrance, celebration

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon
  • Kaiserslautern Military Community commander
Today and Saturday mark important historical commemoration days for all servicemembers in the KMC.

Friday, Sept. 17, POW/MIA Day

Today we observe POW/MIA day, traditionally set on the third Friday in September to commemorate the more than 70,000 servicemembers who remain unaccounted for after serving in combat across the globe since World War II. Our Airman's Creed states that we will "never leave an Airman behind," and today we honor our brothers and sisters who were prisoners of war, or are still missing in action. There are no words to encompass the sacrifice these fine Americans have made for our country, nor the gratitude we owe them for it.

Today is also our chance to honor the men and women of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, who work tirelessly to fully resolve the fates of every possible servicemember who never came home. They continually endeavor to bring peace of mind to the family members of missing servicemembers. They provide expertise on the full range of policy matters related to personnel recovery, including the policy framework to train DoD personnel who are about to go into combat. Properly trained and equipped, a servicemember stands a much better chance of survival if he or she becomes separated from friendly forces. They also ensure that the DoD has the assets necessary to locate and recover those lost warriors.

So please take a moment today, and think of the Airmen past who have been prisoners of war or missing in action

Saturday, Sept 18, 63rd Air Force Birthday

The Air Force was founded on this day in 1947, when President Truman signed the National Security Act, a fundamental change to the U.S. military which established a single Department of Defense and created the U.S. Air Force as an independent and equal branch within it.

History has since shown the wisdom of creating a separate Air Force, which quickly began to create its own heritage. Within a month, on Oct. 14, 1947, test pilot Chuck Yeager flew the Bell XS-1 faster than the speed of sound and launched the new Air Force into the supersonic era.

Over the next four decades the Air Force became a globalized force, countering communist expansion in multiple locations around the world. We maintained a 15-to-one kill ratio in the skies over Korea, and a three-to-one ratio over Vietnam. Our ballistic missiles and B-52s were on constant alert for the remainder of the Cold War, ready at a moment's notice to deter or counter the communist threat. We also extended our capabilities into space with the development of launch vehicles and orbital satellites.

In the 1970s our global reach became even more potent as we expanded our worldwide heavy airlift and refueling capabilities, while the F-16, the world's most advanced fighter aircraft at the time, made its first test flight in 1974.

The 80s saw the arrival of stealth technology in the F-117A stealth fighter, while our information networks and space-based systems helped convince Soviet leadership that their inefficient economy could no longer support competing in the Cold War.

The end of the Cold War in the 90s introduced a new era of warfare. The display of advanced technology put on by the Air Force in 1991's Operation Desert Storm shocked the world. Using precision-guided munitions and sophisticated information and navigation systems, air power helped ground forces quickly eliminate Iraqi opposition with an astoundingly low number of U.S. casualties.

Over the next decade the Air Force was called upon to support humanitarian missions around the world, and into the new millennium we serve as a global reach provider for all our sister services through Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. We also patrol the skies in theater and provide close air support for our warfighters on the ground.

The priorities we live by today within U.S. Air Forces, Europe are based on our rich history. We are continually building partnerships with our sister services, and fellow European nations to win today's fight. We are shaping the future by planning and acting within the European theater with careful consideration and foresight. And we know that our Airmen are our greatest asset, and the only way we can accomplish our mission is by developing and caring for our Airmen and their families.

Today, the Air Force is the most powerful, most technologically advanced air component on the planet, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our Airmen. Thanks for all you do, and happy birthday, Air Force!