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Change molds the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Maj. Nathan Murray
  • 90th Security Support Squadron
To quote the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who was active around 500 B.C., "The only thing that is constant is change." He nailed the target over 2,500 years ago, and it still rings true to this day.

Change is inevitable in our society--innovation, creativity, and ingenuity all breed change. Common acronyms for change include "revolution" and "amendment"--sound familiar? We serve to defend the Constitution of the United States, a document drafted and further amended by those who saw a need for "change."

The U.S. Air Force, compared to our sister-services, still somewhat of a fledgling, is no stranger to change. As the premier air force in the world, we did not get where we are now by resting on our laurels and opposing change.

Quite the contrary in fact, our Air Force is the epitome of change. Our Air Force was born of military leaders who embraced and advocated change.

Hap Arnold and Billy Mitchell-- heralded as innovative, hard-charging military leaders-- were staunch supporters of a change in military philosophy, the philosophy that our nation's military needed a stand-alone service dedicated to airpower.

An Air Force adage that was used for a number of years, "Flexibility is the key to Airpower" - a borrowed quote from famous Italian airpower theorist General Giulio Douhet, directly relates to our ability to understand the need to adapt to change.

Today, the U.S. Air Force has six distinctive capabilities: Air and Space Superiority, Global Attack, Rapid Global Mobility, Precision Engagement, Information Superiority and Agile Combat Support.

With the exception of Agile Combat Support, as one could argue that such a capability has always been notionally afforded by airpower, without fully embracing changes brought on by innovation, creativity, and ingenuity, the remaining capabilities would be impossible to achieve.

Though we had "slipped the surly bonds" by the time the U.S. Air Force was born in 1947, space was still that intangible area beyond the horizon. In 1947, global attack was possible, but not without positioning our forces in foreign lands.

While we still conduct operations from our partner nations' soil, we now have the capability, through innovations such as aerial refueling, to launch a bomber from the Midwestern United States, conduct a strike over half-way around the world, and land safely at our point of origin.

Precision engagement in 1947 meant using the Norden bombsight to put ordinance within 75 feet of the target area. Today, we can effectively engage a target using a laser-guided munition launched from an un-manned aircraft flying in the Middle-East being piloted by an Airman in the Southwestern United States.

Information superiority includes the Ability to control cyberspace--a term that you would not have found in any dictionary or doctrine, let alone recognize it as an arena for "battle" in 1947.

All too often we hear our fellow airmen say things like "we can't do that," "it's impossible," "we've never done that before," "we've always done it that way," and, of course, the adage that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Of the aforementioned, I would say I actually agree with latter; if it ain't broke, don't fix it; use innovation, creativity and ingenuity to change it instead--and make it better!

As military members, we must be able to adjust our sight picture and adapt to our ever-changing environment, battle-space, area of responsibility, or whatever today's catch-phrase for our theater of operations is.

Whether that involves accepting technological advances to enhance our current capabilities, developing new strategies to overcome our adversaries, or embracing new ideas that will provide a better climate in the workplace for our Airmen, especially during these times of budget cuts and reductions in force, ultimately, adapting to change is key to being able to successfully complete the Air Force mission "to fly, fight and air, space and cyberspace."