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Thank You, Air Force By: Lt Gen John B. Cooper

I remember it like it was yesterday. On Oct 23, 1983, I arrived at my first duty assignment, the 1SOW, to find out we were going to fight—we were going to Grenada to rescue American hostages. I had missed the last few days of “The Evening News” because I was travelling from munitions officer school in Colorado to Hurlburt Field and, other than a newspaper, The Evening News was the only way to get the news back then. As a ”Butter Bar,” I didn’t even put it together that my unit might be participating in this operation. But, it all became clear when I was tasked to issue personal weapons to deployers, and I saw the look in their eyes. They had their game-face on. It became real for me, and I knew right then that I was a part of something special. One thing I learned early on at Hurlburt Field was that change was a regular part of our Air Force culture.

Early in the morning of 25 October 1983, Operation URGENT FURY began with assaults on airstrips at Point Salines and Pearls on the tiny island nation of Grenada. Over the next nine days US troops would rescue American citizens, restore a popular native government, and eliminate a perceived threat to the stability of the Caribbean and American strategic interests there.

At Hurlburt we were trying new employment concepts. Across the Air Force we were breaking in new jets (F-16s and F-15s). We were turning in our “Selectric” typewriters to be introduced to the computer (I can still hear the Chiefs griping), and we traded in our green fatigues for BDUs. And each year after that more and more change occurred……rapid change affecting the very way the Air Force conducts warfare. In many respects the rapid escalation of technology in the “technology-thirsty” Air Force has become our trademark. Ever since America watched GBUs bust enemy bunkers in 1991 our Air Force has been branded as the technology Service, known for our exquisite technologies. But one thing hasn’t changed--people. I have been blessed to know incredible Airmen throughout my career. I could fill this journal from cover to cover with names of Airmen who were great leaders. Airmen who cared about me, pushed me to do better, inspired me to excel, and kicked me in the butt when I needed it. I am grateful for each of them. The first leader I remember meeting was CMSgt Stephen D. Foster, the 1SOW’s AMMO chief. He was an exceptional leader, an incredible mentor to me, and he commanded everyone’s attention. I initially thought I had won the lottery to serve with such a great leader only to find that there were even more great leaders in my unit, too. I also found great leaders at my second unit. And at my third unit. I can say without hesitation while the Air Force is a “technology-thirsty” Service, and we will always look for the next new thing, it is the men and women I’ve served with--people with such a relentless sense of service to their Nation and a commitment to accomplishing their mission--that give me a sense of overwhelming pride, and a knowledge that I am still a part of something special. As I close my career now, after three and a half decades, I chuckle a little as I reflect that some things never change. Today the news is instantaneous, I watch us breaking in new jets (F-35 and soon-to-be KC-46!), we’re putting electronic forms on the flightline (and hearing the Chiefs gripe), and we’re trading in our ABUs for OCPs…….and you still have your game-face on. Take a look around Loggies…….you are a part of something special!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lt. Gen. John B. Cooper is Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. General Cooper is responsible to the Chief of Staff for leadership, management and integration of Air Force logistics readiness; aircraft, munitions, and missile maintenance; civil engineering; and security forces, as well as setting policy and preparing budget estimates that reflect enhancements to productivity, combat readiness and quality of life for Air Force people.

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