A Legacy of Innovation

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Robert Safley
  • 301st Fighter Wing

Happy Birthday to the United States Air Force...or as my mother would call it, the 42nd Anniversary of her 29th Birthday.  As we celebrate 71 years as a separate service, we also celebrate more than 71 years of innovation. This is the year of revitalizing the squadrons by getting back to basics. Innovation is a large part of our history and needs to resonate with our strategic leadership model for the future.


Looking back at our aviation history, last names like Wright, Spaatz, Arnold, Doolittle, Mitchell, Lemay, and Vandenberg conjure up images of innovation and foresight. Maj. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell is considered the father of the United States Air Force. He sacrificed his career to showcase why a separate air service was needed. He utilized his court-martial to demonstrate the need for a strategic and tactical Air Force. The U.S. War Department created the precursor of the Air Force as a part of the Army in 1907. A succession of changes in structure, titles, and missions advanced us towards an independent service 40 years later.  Mitchell's vision was finally realized. Here is the progression that evolved the Air Force to what we know today:


Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps (1907)

Aviation Section, Signal Corps (1914)

Division of Military Aeronautics (1918)

U.S. Army Air Service (1918)

U.S. Army Air Corps (1926)

U.S. Army Air Forces (1941)

United Stated Air Force (1947)


Gen. David L. Goldfein noted, “Our vision demands that squadrons be highly-capable, expeditionary teams who can successfully defend our nation's interests in both today's and tomorrow's complex operating environments." Despite being the youngest service with seemingly shifting missions, uniforms, and personnel paradigms, we are looked upon as a leader and model of change. Other services look to us as the gold standard for operations. Innovations continue to make our institutional competencies and enterprises an archetypal program that is agile and flexible.


As our Air Force celebrates its 71st birthday, we continue to fulfill our predecessors’ vision of having a ready force to safeguard our nation at home and abroad. As guardians, we must ensure that we make the right decisions today to be successful against the uncertain challenges of tomorrow's landscape. Innovation is a key element.


The Secretary of the Air Force kicked-off Air Force Spark Tank in her speech on September 18, 2017 at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air, Space, and Cyber Conference with a goal to “unleash the innovative capacity of our Airmen.” The 2nd annual Spark Tank competition, to be held at AFA Orlando February 28, 2019, is officially kicking off.  We challenge all Airmen to share their best ideas that build upon senior leader priorities to:


•           Restore readiness — to win any fight, any time

•           Cost-effectively modernize — to increase the lethality of the force 

•           Drive innovation — to secure our future


Keep an eye out for additional information and nomination procedures from https://www.af.mil/ and Public Affairs. Let's get after it.


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