We are, have always been at war

LAUGHLIN AFB, TEXAS -- Almost five years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001. Most of us in uniform today remember the day well. We can remember exactly where we were, what we were doing, and how we and those around us reacted. The events of that day have shaped our country, our military and our Air Force.

Our leadership reminds us we are engaged in a long war; our enemies are definitely aware of this, and have been, far longer than us. We have changed and adapted our way of thinking and our lives since that day. Truth be told, change has been part of the Air Force since its inception.
Next year will mark 60 years of existence for our Air Force. While that sounds like a long time relative to the existence of our country and our sister services, it is certainly much shorter.

From its beginning, the Air Force has been a service constantly at war. We have not known a period of true peace for our existence. The threats of Korea and Vietnam shaped our attitudes in and toward the Cold War, and our forward-thinking predecessors shaped the force that was so potent in the Gulf War and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

We are now facing the difficult task of shaping our force for future threats. This has never been an easy task for planners, but today's complications exceed any experienced before.

One significant complication is facing far-less-defined adversaries and non-state, loosely aligned, terrorist organizations.

Another is the ever-increasing rate of processing capability, creating more outdated or surpassable capability at an ever increasing rate. Finally, the sheer cost of advanced air and space weaponry limits the ability to overwhelm adversaries with numbers requiring greater reliance on fewer, more sophisticated options.

In this dynamic environment, change is inevitable and must be dramatic. We cannot fight the way we have in the past, nor can we count on fighting the last war.
Our Air Force leadership could have easily ignored the demands for change, putting it off for the next generation to handle, but they didn't, as it would have left us unprepared in the near term and incredibly far behind in the out years.

They have sought ways through innovation to maximize Air Force lethality, and we are part of that lethal team. It will be challenging, but we have just begun. We can expect to continue to look for ways to optimize our Air Force.

Five short years from now, most of our recruits will barely remember Sept. 11. Far fewer of our fellow Airmen will have been in uniform then.

We will have fewer and fewer of our Air Force early generation around to share their experiences. But the one thing we are sure to pass on is our legacy of change. It is what has kept us, and still keeps us, at the forefront of airpower. It is also what makes us the most lethal combat force the world has ever known.