By Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Public Affairs Agency
Although 2013 seemed to go by quickly, it was packed with memorable events and milestones including many from the Air Force. The year began with us welcoming a senior leader to guide us, and it draws to a close with a new secretary of the Air Force and assurance from our leaders that we will face future uncertainty together.
While the effects of sequestration continue to take their toll on our people and resources, our Airmen and civilians made 2013 memorable through their unwavering perseverance to accomplish the mission. There were many key events that deserved recognition, but we narrowed the field down to the events that showcase air power as well as the spirit and resiliency of our Airmen. What are some Air Force moments you remember of 2013?
Air Force welcomes 17th CMSAF
The year had an exciting beginning as Chief Master Sgt. James A. Cody became the Air Force’s 17th chief master sergeant of the Air Force on Jan. 24. Cody has made development of the enlisted force, professional military education and taking care of Airmen and their families his top priorities.
22nd SECAF steps down
Another milestone occurred when Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley stepped down June 21. Donley spent five years as the Air Force’s top civilian and became the longest-serving secretary of the Air Force. Donley’s legacy includes the establishment of a new acquisition process improvement plan and was pivotal in standing-up 24th Air Force, which maintains the service’s cyber mission. After Donley’s retirement, Under Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning assumed the role until Dec. 20, when Deborah Lee James was sworn in to become the 23rd secretary of the Air Force.
Doolittle Raiders honored with final toast
One of the most memorable events of 2013 occurred on Nov. 9 when we honored the Doolittle Raiders’ final toast at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Three of the four living Doolittle Tokyo Raiders attended the ceremony: retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, the copilot of Aircraft No. 1; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, the engineer-gunner of Aircraft No. 7; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, the engineer-gunner of Aircraft No. 7. The fourth living Doolittle Raider, retired Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, the copilot of Aircraft No. 16, could not attend the ceremony due to health issues.
The 80 silver goblets used during the ceremony were presented to the Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Ariz. The Raiders’ names are engraved twice, the second upside-down, so when one passes their names are always raised high. During the ceremony, Air Force Academy cadets donned white-gloves and poured a bottle of 1896 Cognac into the participants’ goblets. Those of the deceased were turned upside-down. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III summed up the ceremony best when he said, “They hate to hear this, but Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders are truly lasting American heroes, but they are also Air Force heroes. They pioneered the concept of global strike … the idea that no target on earth is safe from American air power.”
RPA reach 2 million hours
A key milestone for the Air Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft program occurred on Oct. 22, 2013, when the service’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper accumulated 2 million flight hours. The RPA program began in the mid-1990s, and it took 16 years to reach 1 million hours and only two and a half years to double the flight hours.
A-10 flies last tactical sortie in Europe
Another 2013 moment occurred when the Air Force launched its final A-10 Thunderbolt II tactical sortie in Europe at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 14, 2013. The airframe belonged to the 52nd Fighter Wing’s 81st Fighter Squadron, which inactivated in June. The development of the A-10 as a close-air-support aircraft is in direct relation to anticipated enemy tank defenses along the Fulda Gap, which was a prime route for potential tank movements from Eastern Europe into central Germany during the Cold War. Even though the Warthogs went unused during the Cold War, they were battle tested in contingency operations worldwide.
USAF Band Holiday Flash Mob
Last, but not least, we want to include an entertaining event that went viral in December. Starting with a single cellist in the middle of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Milestones of Flight” gallery and swelling to 120 musicians, the U.S. Air Force Band exhilarated museum visitors Dec. 3 with the first flash mob to be produced by one of the five military branches’ top bands. The four-minute performance featured an original arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Joy to the World,” and the video received global recognition on the band’s YouTube channel, receiving more than 2.1 million views.
As you can see, it was quite an amazing year for the Air Force and our Airmen serving around the world to defend our freedom. While our numbers and missions will change, our Airmen will always stay focused on accomplishing the Air Force’s key missions and priorities.