The Primacy of Flight: Why we Fly, Fight and Win

  • Published
  • By Col. Brian Newberry
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander
Aug. 19 is the National Day of Flight. As Americans, we celebrate flight and recognize how it has propelled us as a nation to new horizons from the windswept beaches of Kitty Hawk to the eerily quiet lunar landscape. As Airmen in an Air Refueling Wing, we trumpet flight daily and use it to dominate the globe. We see the primacy of flight on every tanker generated .We dominate the high ground Fueling Freedom. Without tankers, we have no Global Reach. Likewise, space and cyberspace are two Air Force core competencies that have expanded our horizons exponentially.

The primacy of flight motivates American Airmen. It synergizes with our drive for freedom. We are always looking to push the envelope, to fly further and faster to protect every American in the safety of the high ground. To do that, we innovate, advance our position and hold the primacy of flight as central to our mission. We took the iconic P-51 fighter and made the game changing F-84. We took the workhorse F-4 Phantom and imagined the sleek F-15 Eagle. We now have evolved to fifth generation fighters fielding a wizard-like F-22.

It is our drive to live up to the inspirational words of the poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee Jr: "I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace where never lark, or even eagle flew."

As we look to new horizons, as Airmen, we know that our record of innovation is just getting started. From the first day of manned flight when Orville and Wilbur Wright went from 12 seconds of sustained flight and quadrupled it to 63 seconds, our heritage rapidly drives us to new heights. We are the world's most dominant Air Force driven by excellent Airmen and always powered by a spirit of innovation. Air, space and cyberspace blanket both our land and oceans. It is incumbent as Airmen to hold this high ground without fail or the next battle will be lost. The F-35 and KC-46 are the newest flying warrior steeds that speak to American primacy of flight. It is a commitment that all Airmen are driven to fulfill.

Beyond the hardware, the real heart to our celebration of flight is the spirit of the American Airmen. The venerable KC-135 epitomizes how innovation and vision have kept us strong. Despite being 57 years old, American Airmen have modified and upgraded this aging airframe to be an advanced and nimble combat weapons system. The aircraft can refuel a myriad of coalition aircraft with pinpoint accuracy. New adaptations like the Multiple Pod Refueling System make the Stratotanker a modern tanker, but it is the American Airmen who was not ever content to stand still. As Airmen, we know, when we stand still, we stall.

From the Berlin Airlift to the shock and awe of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, American Airmen have dominated overhead the terrain. It is our calling. We will never cede it. That is why we will always Fly, Fight and Win.

"High Flight" reminds us why flight and freedom are synonymous: Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth , and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth...Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung .

Indeed, we are proud of our freedom. We are American Airmen--we believe in the primacy of flight. Because of that, we will never falter, we will not fail.