By Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 18, 2008 - Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan servicemembers celebrated the 61st anniversary of the U.S. Air Force during a ceremony at Camp Eggers here today. The Air Force was established on Sept. 18, 1947, when President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act. Today, the force has more than 300,000 personnel and more than 5,000 aircraft.
The day's celebration struck a chord with the airmen here who work to mentor and advise members of the Afghan National Army Air Corps, the emerging airpower force of the Afghan National Army.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Jay H. Lindell, Combined Air Power Transition Force commander, was the keynote speaker, conveying his pride in the Air Force's history and heritage.
"President Truman not only created a separate Air Force, he built the foundation for today's Air Force, the most powerful air force in the world," he said. "Although the ceremony was short, the journey to get here was not."
Lindell detailed many Air Force accomplishments, taking servicemembers on a tour through history and comparing past and present.
"Although a lot of things have changed since 1947, one thing has not. Airmen are the heart of our Air Force," he said. "Without the dedication of our trained and motivated airmen, even the best technology is useless. The swiftest planes, the most powerful satellites are nothing without the people who supply, operate and maintain them."
Air Force Lt. Col. Mathies Santos, a reserve airman deployed from Quonset Point, R.I., said celebrating the Air Force's birthday in Afghanistan was a the opportunity of a lifetime.
"You sort of lose track of different dates sometimes over here, but this one really stands out," he said. "We're celebrating our 61st, and we are helping to stand up the Afghan air corps." He expressed great pride in the airmen here and their part in building the Afghan air corps. "To be part of history and to help the Afghans rebuild their proud Air Force, it's really amazing," he said.
Santos, as the eldest airman at Camp Eggers, joined Lindell and the youngest airman, Airman 1st Class Jordan Ramsey, a security forces airman deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to cut the traditional birthday cake.
After the cake cutting, servicemembers recited the Airman's Creed and sang the Air Force song.
"Like the many heroes who have gone before us, we must embody the virtues of honor, valor and devotion that have been the soul of airmen since the earliest day of powered flight," Lindell said in closing. "It is our obligation to continue the finest traditions of Air Force honor, to fly, fight and win."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)