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"I am an Airman" Gen. Hester speaks at AF Birthday Ball

Gen Hester AFWH speech

Gen Hester AFWH speech

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- I Am An Airman

General Hester: In the early 1990s Lynda and I were assigned to Kadena Air Force Base in Japan. You will remember, those who have lived in the Pacific before, we were watching television one day and of course it was the middle of a football game and instead of being able to see the Bud Light commercial, being able to see the Chevrolet commercial or the Ford 150 pickup truck commercial, I watched military advertising. Anybody remember those?

[Applause].

One of them that came on that day actually was for the Marine Corps and it touted, as it showed full force and face into the screen on the TV, was a pair of chevrons and they proudly said "These chevrons have been with the Corps since the beginning." The Marines of the 1700s wore these chevrons and the Marines of today wear these chevrons. That stuck with me. Heritage to horizon. Leaning and establishing and living on your past -- the good, the bad, building on that, standing on the shoulders of heroes like the heroes we introduced tonight with our commanders and our command chiefs who have been a part of the Pacific. We stand on their legacy and enjoy the richness of that.

We inherit that as Airmen. Airmen -- a beautiful word. A word that describes who we are. Who you are every day of your life. You are an Airman. So I remembered that as we continued to come through the Pacific and continued to strive, and I think you see tonight in some of the symbols we've seen all week that we've tried to draw on our heritage that's taking us to the horizon.

Stand on those people's shoulders, embrace it, and as you have your time as a part of the military and a part of our Air Force and then you hand it off with the riches of what you gave to your nation as a volunteer to go forward to those generations for the future -- Airmen, one and all.

We are, of course, the junior service. We're the youngest service. And quite honestly, we'll never grow out of that. We're going to be the junior service forever. That's okay. Look around you at the tables. I kind of like the youth of America who joins our United States Air Force and is a part of the community or the Ohana which we call the Air Force. Air Force Airmen.

[Applause].

There are some things we haven't gotten quite right.

Do you remember some of those slogans that we tried to figure out to tell the outside world, if you will, who the Air Force is? Remember "Aim high"? "Air Force, a great way of life." Do you remember, "Cross over into the blue"? My favorite is the current one, "DoSomethingAmazing.com". [Laughter].

But that, none of those monikers mean a thing to you. Those monikers, those slogans that we're trying to develop, that are built to try to entice, we're trying to entice young people. In the teenage years as well as young adults to look to the future and try to find some discipline in their life and ask themselves the penetrating questions -- Who am I? What do I want to do?

You don't have that problem. You already know what you want to do, and that's to serve. You already know who you are, and that's an Airman. There are nothing but Airmen in here and with us tonight, including Admiral Hayes who is right over here at this table. [Laughter]. He is an Airman to the core. [Applause].

Since 1947 when we became an independent service there have been in excess of six million of you. Six million people have joined the United States Air Force and worn Air Force blue. It's a remarkable number. I'm proud to be, like you are, one of those six million. I'm proud to be, like you are, one of the 1500 who are here tonight. I'm proud, like you are, to be one of the 55,000 that serve in PACAF and stand guard for the peace and stability of this region. I'm proud to be an Airman in the United States Air Force. I think you are as well.

[Applause].

I like gospel music. I know our friend Jim Nabors sitting here right at the stage loves gospel music as well, and we're glad to have Jim Nabors with us tonight.

[Applause].

I was teasing Jim that I was going to call him up for an impromptu song, but he's asked me not to do that, even though I've got the mike on. Jim, it's great to have you with us.

But back to that gospel music. Remember that gospel song, "Blessed be the tie that binds". Heritage to horizon. Airmen. A name for 1947, a name for 2007. Sixty years, Airmen standing together, understanding the core values that General Graves talked about a minute ago. Understanding the love of family -- both blood family as well as Air Force family.

We are an Air Force family tonight in here, and we stand with each other on guard for America. And when you're standing in harm's way there is a distinct commitment as you look left and right at the Airmen that are standing beside you.

Airmen, doing business together, protecting America.

I want to do a little bit of math in public tonight. My wife doesn't like this game, but I want to do a little bit of math in public tonight and I'm going to start right here, Ross, with your table. All you've got to do is remember a number. 3, 17, 19, 1, 16 and 4. Got that?

All right, let's start back where we think we were starting. What was your number?

Voice: Three, sir.

General Hester: Three. The core values of the United States Air Force.

Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do. You live it, you breathe it every day.

What was the second number, Marty?

Voice: Seventeen.

General Hester: Seventeen. Heritage to horizon. The number of Medal of Honor recipients that have worn Air Force blue since 1947. Think about them all. In PACAF Headquarters there's a display for every one of them.

I want to highlight one, the two enlisted members that enlisted there from the Vietnam conflict; but I want to highlight one, Major Bernie Fisher. 1966. Landed his A-1 in Asha Valley to pick up, yet again, another Airman. Never leave an Airman behind on the battlefield.

He landed his A-1, he pulled that other Airman into the single seat cockpit of that A-1. With another Airman sitting on his lap he took off under enemy fire and flew back to safety. Your first Air Force recipient of the Air Force designed Medal of Honor.

Seventeen.

Dave, what was the number at this table?

Voice: Nineteen, sir.

General Hester: Nineteen.

Remember that young girl who was just up here? That young lady? I call her a girl because when I say this you're going to recognize this. That young lady who was up here? Her next birthday she'll be 19 years old. [Laughter]. Nineteen years old.

Now here's another thing you ought to think about. In 30 years when we celebrate our 90th birthday, she can be right back up here on this stage, in 30 years, cutting the cake as the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. Let's wish her well.

[Applause].

Hugh, what was your number?

Voice: One.

General Hester: Number one.

The uniqueness of the individual, each and every one of you. The uniqueness of that leads to the power of a single-minded and focused team. A single-minded and focused Air Force that's all on the same lineup card performing the mission together and doing the work for America. The power of one focused team. I am an Airman, and I am a part of the Air Force.

What was your number?

Voice: Sixteen.

General Hester: Sixteen. Sixteen.

If I were to take 2007 and subtract 16 from it -- you all do your own math in public -- you'll come up with the year that your United States Air Force went to war and has been at war continuously over the skies of Iraq since 1991. That comprises, in a continuous string of our 60 years, that comprises over 26 percent of the time we've been a service. And if you were to focus even further on the time that this nation has been in conflict since the Air Force has been formed in 1947, over half of the time that we have been a service we have been at war. You have been at war. You as volunteers have been standing in harm's way to protect everything that's good about America and give America the opportunity to both enrich our lives and reach out to others around the world and bring what we believe is the opportunity for democracy to spread across this world.

Are there any numbers left? What was that one?

Voice: Four.

General Hester: Four.

The new Airman's Creed. Four times in the new Airman's Creed you state, "I am an American Airman." "I am an American Airman." Four times. The message is always the same -- "I am an American Airman."

Now someone in here has already done their own public math. I know General Utterback hasn't. He's an A&M graduate. [Laughter]. But somebody here has tapped their toes under the table and added all those numbers up. Somebody tell me what they add to.

Voices: Sixty.

General Hester: Sixty. I wonder what 60 is. Happy Birthday, Airmen. I'm proud to serve with you every single day that we're here in the Air Force as well.

Tomorrow -- We're going to continue this celebration through tonight, and tomorrow we're going to watch the world's greatest demonstration team, our own United States Air Force Thunderbirds. And where are they? There they are, back here. Stand up.

[Applause].

They were terrific yesterday as they came down and practiced. Tomorrow they're going to be unbelievable. Thank you for joining us out here for Air Force Week in Hawaii. Thanks so much.

[Applause].

Sometime tomorrow somebody, when you're out there on the beach in your Speedo looking for the Thunderbirds, somebody's going to walk up to you and they're going to see you because you're going to have that Air Force logo somewhere on your body and they're going to say who are you? Your answer, and I need some help here, your answer is going to be very loud and it's going to be very very proud. What's been the message tonight?

I Am An Airman!

Happy Birthday, Airmen.

[Applause].