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To fellow Airmen

WASHINGTON -- I know you are all busy providing our Air Force's critical capabilities in service to our great nation. I appreciate the sacrifices in time and effort you make on a daily basis. Please take a moment from your busy day and reflect with me on the recent passing of a great American who did his duty when our nation needed him most.

America lost a remarkable Airman on Nov. 1 when retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., passed away. We all know General Tibbets as the pilot of the Enola Gay when it dropped the first atomic weapon on Imperial Japan, but there's more to the man and his legacy for us to consider.

The consummate Airman, General Tibbets was a warrior and leader, renowned for his flying prowess and for always leading from the front. He piloted the lead bomber on the first Eighth Air Force bombing mission in Europe on Aug. 17, 1942, later led the first heavy bombardment mission in conjunction with the invasion of North Africa, and commanded the 12-man crew of the Enola Gay on its courageous mission over Hiroshima in August 1945.

This single sortie opened a new chapter in air power. It established air power as America's strategic sword and shield by clearly demonstrating air power's ability to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world.

Today, the 509th Bomb Wing - the wing Tibbets himself once commanded - continues to deter and dissuade America's enemies, flying the mighty B-2. While the size of our 21-aircraft B-2 inventory pales in comparison to the 47,500 bombers America had built by the end of World War II, unlike their predecessors, these strategic assets can flexibly launch from our own soil, fly half a world away, penetrate a country's defenses undetected, and precisely deliver lethal payloads.

But such equipment is nothing without you - the Airmen that employ it. You continue to build on the legacy of General Tibbets, not only fighting the current long war, but also opening new chapters in air, space, and cyber power. Your daily efforts provide our nation with Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power now. Your foresight and innovation will also carry the asymmetric strategic advantages of our Air Force across the 21st Century.

Today, let us remember the Tibbets legacy - the United States Air Force is a better combatant organization because of General Tibbets! Let us also never forget the disciplined combat focus required to fly, fight and win for the United States of America.

Thank you for your continued dedicated service to our great country.