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“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” -Psalm 139:9-10
The United States Air Force originated as the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on August 1, 1907. The Army expressed no interest in airplanes at the time, preferring to experiment with the steerable dirigible (blimp). At one time, only two enlisted people made up this force. Along with many other Americans, President Theodore Roosevelt was intrigued by the Wright brothers’ aerial flights, and he directed the Army to bid for aircraft in late 1907.
Army aviation got off to a slow start, and Congress authorized the creation of the Army Aviation Section of the Signal Corps in 1914. In 1947 the United States Air Force was formed as a separate service from the Army Corps by President Truman. Today there are approximately 368,000 airmen in the U.S Air Force, including about 4,000 cadets at the United States Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado, and more than 150,000 civilians working for the Department of the Air Force, with another 181,000 Air Reserve and Air National Guard personnel.
The United States Air Force is responsible for conducting military operations in air and space.
The Air Force is composed of the active force, the reserved force, and the Air National Guard.
It deploys aircraft to fight enemy aircraft, bomb enemy targets, provide reconnaissance, and transport soldiers for the other armed forces. The Air Force also maintains most of the country’s nuclear forces, including a fleet of strategic bombers that carry nuclear weapons and land-based nuclear missiles. In addition, the Air Force launches and maintains a wide variety of military satellites.
On September 11, 2001, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Air Force began flying protective combat air controls (CAP) over major American cities. While the frequency of the missions had decreased by 2003, the Air Force continues to fly these protective missions, particularly when there are major events that draw large crowds, such as the Super Bowl.
In October of 2001, the Air Force began bombing targets in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, which were carried out by the al Qaeda terrorist network and supported by the Taliban government that then ruled Afghanistan.
The Air Force currently uses its combat, reconnaissance, and transport aircraft to aid allied operations in Afghanistan. In Iraq it is responsible for providing transport, support, and air cover.
Henry H. (Hap) Arnold (1886-1950) was commander of the Army Air Forces in World War II and the only air commander ever to attain the five-star rank of general of the armies. He was especially interested in the development of sophisticated aerospace technology to give the United States an edge in achieving air superiority. He fostered the development of such innovations as jet aircraft, rocketry, rocket-assisted takeoff, and supersonic flight. Not until World War II, under his command, was air superiority seen as a prerequisite to ground or naval action.
Arnold had a vision to keep the U.S. Air Force on the leading edge of technology and is considered the “father” of the modern Air Force. After a lengthy career as an Army aviator and commander that spanned the two World Wars, he retired from active service in 1945. The Arnold Air Force Base in Manchester, TN is named for him.
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