United States Defense Secretary James Mattis was met with rousing applause on Wednesday as he delivered the keynote address to the 2018 graduating class of the United States Air Force Academy.
Mattis his high expectations known to the new group of military fighters.
“(A)s you step into your new roles, my expectation for you is quite simple. Always be ready to fight and to win,” he said. “There’s no room for complacency as our adversaries do everything in their power to erode our military’s competitive edge.”
The former general reminded the graduates of the vital mission they will now carry, and the legacy that proceeds them.
“Each of you are now responsible for ensuring American air superiority survives in a world of renewed competition, inspiring that same confidence in those you lead, and your comrades below, who are relying on you to unleash your ferocious capabilities in the finest tradition of the Doolittle Raiders.”
“You now stand ready to hold the line to protect America’s experiment in democracy, with all the cunning, ferocity and grit you have inside you,” Mattis continued.
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets tossed their hats in the air as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flew overhead during the cadets' graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs. pic.twitter.com/AxrtUe1gJ3
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As noted by The Gazette, “Most past speakers have used their academy addresses to focus on wider national policies. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush used the academy podium to roll out foreign policy proposals. Past defense secretaries have used the graduation speech to call for bigger budgets and new weapons.”
Mattis, however, took a different approach, choosing to focus on the graduates before him.
“(W)e have to make the Air Force better every day. You cannot just accept it for what it is,” he said. “As you heard earlier, you must make it into your own image. And you have a lot of a legacy to carry on forward.”
The former military general told the graduates that their biggest weapon going forward is their attitude.
“(There is) even less room for a sense of cynicism or victimhood. Your primary weapon system now is your attitude, coupled with the legacy of the Air Force that permitted you to join its ranks. As you train to become pilots, remote pilots, space officers, combat systems officers, missileers, intel officers, engineers no matter the specialty that you pursue.
“It is now your responsibility to ensure our adversaries know they should always prefer to talk to our Department of State, rather than face the U.S. Air Force,” he said.
2nd Lt. Brandy Oliver said she was inspired by the defense secretary’s speech, according to The Gazette.
“He definitely loves America, and he was the perfect speaker,” she said.
The Air Force’s top general, Gen. David Goldfein, also spoke, and told cadets that they will face military action very soon, as the United States has “stepped up air campaigns in Syria and Afghanistan in a bid to bomb Islamic State and Taliban insurgents into remission,” The Gazette reported.
“Many of you will face the ultimate test in war,” Goldfein told the class.
Of the 984 air force graduates, more than 500 are headed to aircrew jobs, with 417 set to pilot planes and 69 headed for drones.
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