23rd Space Operations Squadron commander
NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION, N.H. — Fifteen years is a long time to be in conflict. Fifteen years ago, I was a new captain early into my second assignment. At home, my wife and I had welcomed our first child, a son. My small, young family struggled to balance the demands of military duty and parenthood. We knew our world would never be the same. What we didn’t know was the world was about to change for everyone. Our nation was attacked in a way few could have predicted, but no one was surprised when the full force of our nation was unleashed on our enemies in response.
In the last 15 years, my family has added two more children, while my wife and I still struggle to balance the demands of military duty and parenthood. My son has progressed from infant, to toddler, to teenager and with each year he has grown taller, stronger and smarter. In him, I see the ingrained human desire to grow, learn and move forward. Similarly, with each year of the fight, the Air Force has developed new methods to both defend our nation and take the fight to the enemy. Our mission has expanded to fight ISIS, in addition to Al Qaeda, to protect the U.S. and our allies around the world from terrorists.
One of the iconic images from the early days of the war in Afghanistan was the special operations team on horseback. The integration of one of the earliest tools of warfare — a horse, with air, space and cyber domains exemplifies the creative and innovative mindset responsible for our success. Other nations have watched our military’s innovative tactics. They have observed, and learned, from our ability to integrate actions across multiple domains to our advantage.
Today, my oldest son is 15-years-old. He doesn’t remember the world before Sept. 11, 2001. Most of you reading this article were not part of the Air Force before 9/11. According to the Air Force Personnel Center the average Airman has 11 years in service. The average drops to eight years when we only include enlisted Airmen. These numbers tell me most of you joined the Air Force knowing you would endure deployments, a high operations tempo and potential danger. For volunteering to serve our country in a time of need, you have my thanks and my respect. I am also confident you have the ability and motivation needed to keep moving us forward.
As we look to the future we must accept that nothing will get easier and nothing will slow down. Soon, my son will be old enough to drive. This will certainly bring new challenges to the family. Likewise, the threats to our nation continue to adapt and grow. We must prepare for thinking enemies who have closely watched our last 15 years of innovations. Our future opponents will try to incorporate our best ideas into their playbook and develop the ability to negate our strengths. As individuals, as the 50th Space Wing, and as an Air Force we must continue to develop an aggressive offensive mindset. There is an expression which states “Generals prepare for the last war.” The more basic truth is history demonstrates the next fight never looks the way we expected. We can best prepare for future conflict by fostering a culture which seeks to better learn our profession. A culture where we learn and exercise to build confidence in our abilities, while accepting uncertainty in tomorrow’s threat. Today’s preparation will serve as the foundation for tomorrow’s success, despite the unknowns.
This year, our nation observes the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11. We should take a moment to honor those who died that day, as well as those who have died in action since Sept. 11. Again, thank you to everyone who made the choice to serve our country, and I encourage you to be proud of your role in protecting the American way of life. Finally, I challenge you to look forward and prepare for the future.