700 celebrate the Air Force's 62nd birthday in style

Col. Greg Otey, 19th Airlift Wing commander

Col. Greg Otey, 19th Airlift Wing commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Happy birthday, Air Force!

Today, Sept. 18, marks the 62nd anniversary of the Air Force as a separate service. While we might be the nation's youngest service, ours is a history that's rich and colorful. Our Air Force history includes small phrases with big impact. Names and events like: Billy Mitchell, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Berlin Airlift, Desert Storm and Hurricane Katrina. 

Today, we have more than 46 different variants of aircraft in our inventory, some of which are piloted remotely from halfway around the world. When military powered flight began 100 years ago, I don't think anyone could have envisioned a hellfire missile destroying an insurgent stronghold from 10,000 feet up while imagery analysts watched, in real-time, halfway around the world.

That's our Air Force. And it doesn't happen without combat airlift. Those missiles, Airmen, parts, beans and bullets get to the front lines using Hercules air. I don't think we'll ever see FedEx or UPS put a plane down on an unimproved, 3,000 foot landing zone high in the mountains of Afghanistan, kick out some cargo and dodge surface-to-air threats on the way in and out. That is C-130 combat airlift!

It doesn't matter if you're on active duty, in the Air National Guard, in the Air Force Reserve or members of the greatest Air Force family and community - you should be proud of what your Air Force has accomplished. Our history is something to know and cherish, and it's something to celebrate.

On Saturday, I had the honor of joining other leaders from across Team Little Rock as we celebrated our heritage at the 2009 Air Force Birthday Ball. More than 700 Combat Airlifters and their guests gathered for a night that will likely be remembered for many years to come. Out of the over 700 who attended we were honored to have more than 250 airmen (E-1 to E-4) and their guests join us for a night of dancing and fellowship. Thanks to Team Little Rock's "can do" attitude and fund raising we were able to let those Airmen purchase a $60 ticket for $15--thank you for your leadership on this!

I have been serving in our Air Force for more than 21 years and I have never been part of an Air Force Ball that large. To look out across the Peabody ballroom and see that many people come together to pay tribute to our Airmen - past and present - was an honor. I cannot be more proud of this base and to be a part of the world's greatest ... C-130 Combat Airlift!