The 984 graduates at the Air Force Academy on Wednesday got an unedited introduction to the difficult world they now face as new officers.
The graduation’s keynote speaker, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, told the group they will see battle soon. And they will be expected to win every fight.
“Your primary weapons system now is your attitude,” Mattis said.
That’s no surprise to the Class of 2018, all of whom have spent the majority of their lives in a nation at war. But having war as a daily backdrop isn’t enough to condition troops for how tough those fights can be when you’re in the middle of them, Mattis said.
“Always be ready to fight and win,” Mattis said. “There is no room for complacency.”
The Class of 2018 had to fight just to make it through four tough years at the academy.
When they arrived for basic training, the class was more than 1,200 strong. Over the years, 222 of them dropped out.
They’re one of the smartest groups ever seen at the academy, making it through one of America’s toughest colleges with an average GPA of 3.07.
Of the graduates, more than 500 are headed to aircrew jobs, with 417 set to pilot planes and 69 headed for drones.
They’re the 60th academy graduating class and join what graduates call the “long blue line” of 50,689 graduates.
Proud parents packed the stands to cheer for the graduates.
The secretary told the graduates that they must make the Air Force better every day. “You must make it into your own image and you have a legacy to carry forward,” he said.
The retired Marine Corps general told the cadets that they must lead by example as they enter the force. “More than any other piece of your leadership, it will be your example that most inspires and shapes our Air Force for the future,” he said.
While the new lieutenants will be the future of the force, they should look to the past for examples, the secretary said. He pointed to the Doolittle Raiders of World War II who lifted the spirits of a shocked country by launching a bombing attack on Japan from an aircraft carrier. He pointed to the bombing attacks against oil production targets in Ploesti, Romania, during World War II that sought to strangle the Nazi war machine and which took incredible casualties to accomplish the mission.
“Each of you is now responsible that American air superiority survives in a world of renewed competition,” the secretary said.
“It is now your responsibility that our adversaries know they should always prefer to talk to our Department of State rather than face the U.S. Air Force,” he said.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 24th, 2018