Defense Secretary James Mattis told this year’s graduating class of the Air Force Academy that the secret to their future success on the battlefield is within them.
“Your primary weapons system now is your attitude,” Mattis said Wednesday, according to Stars and Stripes.
Mattis was on a two-day trip to Colorado last week during which he spoke to the 984 graduates of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and also participated in a change of command ceremony at the Northern Command, according to the Washington Examiner.
“The American people and especially our veterans continue to expect great things from you. We need you now and tomorrow at the top of your game, we need you harder than petrified woodpecker lips,” Mattis said, according to a Defense Department transcript of his remarks.
Mattis cited America’s history in his speech.
“Because of the dedication of graduates of this school and your forbearers, America’s air superiority stretches all the way back to World War II — to the war that defined your service’s heroism, the war that proved that you could hold the line for your country,” Mattis said. “When the Doolittle Raid proved following Pearl Harbor that a stunned nation had airmen who would come back swinging, keeping alive the spirit of resistance as our nation mobilized.”
Watch Defense Secretary James Mattis' commencement address yesterday for the graduation and commissioning of the US Air Force Academy's Class of 2018 in Colorado Springs, CO. https://t.co/0fa6ULeog8
— Air Force Association (@AirForceAssoc) May 24, 2018
He also stressed the ability of America’s service members to overcome adversity.
“You’re the same Air Force that flew against Ploiesti, the toughest possible opposition that could’ve been mustered against you. But it also was an Air Force that had the red tails of the Tuskegee Airmen, who gave everything they had to protect the bombers who were striking deep into enemy territory,” he said.
After citing episodes of Air Force bravery from Korea through Afghanistan, Mattis said made note of the past as “a reminder of the legacy that is now entrusted to you, the warrior ethos and the fierce character you now inherit as you own — as your own character will now have to stand. It will have to stand between us and some of the forces that would take our democracy and our liberty away.”
Mattis praised the commitment of graduates who have known from the day they signed up that combat would await them.
“Growing up as witnesses to the longest stretch of combat in our nation’s history, every single one of you could have chosen a different college, a different profession, a different path; paths that would’ve been undoubtedly far less demanding than what this academy asked of you these past four years, or what our Air Force, our nation, and even our allies will ask of you in the years to come, as together, we defend freedom,” he said.
“Pledging your honor, just as those patriots did who signed our Declaration of Independence, an independence you will now defend with your lives. For at your young age, you chose to pursue a life of service and for that, our nation gives you respect.”
Mattis made it clear that he knows what the class of 2018 could face.
“Because you signed the blank check to the American people payable with your lives, 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,” he said.
Mattis then gave the graduates his advice.
“Always be ready to fight and to win. There’s no room for complacency as our adversaries do everything in their power to erode our military’s competitive edge,” he said.
Mattis said peace is preserved through America’s strength
“America has no ordained right to victory on the battlefield. 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. “Anybody out there in the world, anyone who wants to test our country’s resolve must know the full threat and the weight of the words you proudly sing in the Air Force song, ‘give her the gun.'”
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