The United States Air Force can trace its origins back to 2 August 1907. This is when the U.S. Army Signal Corp created the Aeronautical Division. The Army had no aircraft, but they did have experience with balloons.

In August of 1916, the US Congress, dismayed by the inadequacy of US military Aviation, appropriated $13.2 million to the Army’s Air Arm. This may be regarded as take off point for the US Air Force some 31 years later.

After WWI, BGen Billy Mitchell, influenced by great European airman such as Col Giulio Douhet of Italy and Maj Gen Hugh Trenchard of Britain’s Royal Air Force, began to push for an Air Force independent of the US Army.

Frustrated with the powers in the US Army and US Navy, Gen Mitchell invited court martial by verbally attacking his superiors in a press conference. Billy Mitchell used his court martial to give publicity to the idea of an independent Air Force.

On 1 March 1935, General Headquarters Air Force was established at Langley Field in Virginia. The creation of GHQ Air Force was an attempt by the Army’s General Staff to curb talk of an independent Air Force. The creation of GHQ Air Force was one of the single most important steps toward the creation of an independent Air Force.

On 20 June 1941, the Army Air Corps became the Army Air Forces. The Army Air Force had many of the elements required for an independent Air Force. However, WW II lurked on the horizon, and the Air Force would not see its independence for another 6 years.

Gen Henry “Hap” Arnold lead the Army Air Forces through WW II. Gen Arnold was succeeded by Gen Carl Spatz who would become the first Air Force Chief of Staff when the Air Force was created by the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.

The new Air Force faced many monumental problems. They needed to establish an organization adapted to air operations. They had to transition from propeller driven to jet aircraft.

The Berlin Airlift was one of the first major tests for the newly formed Air Force. It began officially on 26 June 1948 and lasted almost 1 year.

The Korean War followed in 1950 through 1953 and the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the Air Force has played a role in Grenada 1983, Panama 1989, the Gulf War in 1991, actions in Former Yugoslav Republic, numerous humanitarian efforts, and actions against Afganistan for their sponsorship of terrorist after the bombing of the World Trace Center.

The Taliban leadership was deposed quite quickly and the role of the Air Force switched to eliminating pockets of resiting Al Queda and Taliban forces.
The Air Force is one of the four main units of the Department of Defense, and operates all of the US military's bomber aircraft, all of its ground-based fighter aircraft, and all of its ballistic missiles. Ship-based fighters and helicopters are under the jurisdiction of the Navy, and ground-based helicopters and V/STOL aircraft are under the jurisdiction of the Army and Marines.

Because the Air Force was originally a part of the Army, it uses Army ranks and insignia. Its uniforms are different, and many of its customs (salutes etc.) are also different.

Its combat aircraft today are the F-117, F-15, F-16, F-22, A-10, B-1, B-2, and B-52. It also operates cargo planes, tankers, AWACS, and JSTARS aircraft.

In addition to its many bases in the US, it has bases in Britain, Italy, Germany, Turkey, South Korea, and Japan.

Overall, not someone you'd want to pick a fight with.


The Air Force currently consists of eight operational commands, which are subdivided into numbered air forces, wings, groups, squadrons, and eventually flights. Any of these units can be further subdivided into detachments.

Air Combat Command (ACC), based at Langley AFB, is responsible for the Air Force's bombers and US-based fighters. It is divided into four air forces: 1AF at Tyndall AFB defends the continental United States, 8AF at Barksdale AFB controls bombers and nukes, 9AF at Shaw AFB is the air component of United States Central Command in the Middle East, and 12AF at Davis-Monthan AFB is the combat complement of United States Southern Command.

Air Mobility Command (AMC), based at Scott AFB, is responsible for the Air Force's tanker and airlift aircraft. Its two main divisions are 15AF at Travis AFB, which serves everything west of the Mississippi River and east of Africa, and 21AF at McGuire AFB, which serves the other half of the world.

United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) is based at Rammstein Air Base in Germany. 3AF at RAF Mildenhall is responsible for operations north of the Alps, while 16AF at Aviano Air Base in Italy runs operations around the Mediterranean. Other key bases are RAF Lakenheath, Spangdahlem Air Base, and Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) is based at Hickam AFB. 5AF at Yokota Air Base is responsible for Japan, 7AF at Osan Air Base is responsible for Korea, 11AF at Elmendorf AFB is responsible for Alaska, and 13AF at Andersen AFB is responsible for Micronesia.

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC, not to be confused with the defunct United States Space Command) is based at Peterson AFB. Its two main divisions are 14AF at Vandenberg AFB, which operates Air Force satellites in orbit; and 20AF at Warren AFB, perhaps the deadliest combat unit in the world, operating the United States' ICBM arsenal.

Air Education and Training Command (AETC) at Randolph AFB is where the Air Force's personnel get their skills. 2AF at Keesler AFB trains non-flying servicemen, while 19AF at Randolph trains the pilots. AETC also runs the Air University, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College, as well as the USAF's many ROTC programs.

Air Force Special Operations Command is the black helicopter arm of the Air Force, and if I say too much about them, guys in suits might show up at my dorm. They are the Air Force's main counterterrorism and unconventional warfare brigade.

Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) keeps a sizable fleet of surplus airlift and fighter aircraft on hand in case the US goes to war.

There are also several units in the Air Force that fall independent of these major commands: the most notable one is the United States Air Force Academy.

Even before the invention of planes, flying machines were used in combat. In 1892 The Signal Corps of the U.S. Army assigned balloon sections to its combat force. Balloons were used primarily in spotting artillery and small bombings. It wasn't until 1898 that the Signal Corps contracted Samuel Langley to build them a flying machine. The project ended when their plane sunk in the Potomac River on December 8, 1903 (days before Wilbur and Orville took their first flight).

Still skeptical from Langley's incident, the brothers were turned down by the Department of Defense when they offered their invention to them in 1905. Never giving up, the brothers instead filed and got their own patent in 1906. President Theodore Roosevelt took an interest in the subject and in 1907 the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps was established to further develop flying machines. One year later, the Wright brothers were contracted to make the SC their first plane. The first model had crashed but in 1909 the new plane was delivered.

Through the experiences of two World Wars, the creation of multiple new flying divisions, and advances in flight, the responsibility of air warfare was still the Army's. The Air Service was created 1918-1926, the Air Corps 1926-1947, and in 1941 the Army Air Force subordinated from the Air Corps and became a separate division but still under the Army's command.

In the next years the Department of Defense suggested consolidating the Navy and the Army into one military. The Navy disagreed and forced the National Security Act of 1947. This separated the Air Force and Army as well as kept the Navy secure. The U.S. Air Force came into existence with three major combat commands: Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Air Defense Command.

It is also interesting to add, the Air Force is the only branch of service, now, in which you do not run. Apparently, some obese Airman had a heart attack during PT. Welcome to our wonderful country, people get sued, and Bob's yer uncle, now they post guards to make sure that everyone’s got at least one foot on the ground at all times. Yes, proud Americans. Your fighter pilots power walk.

Editor’s note: While a cadet is enrolled in USAir Force ROTC cadets with scholarships and cadets in the Professional Officer Course, the ROTC course for juniors and seniors, are mandated to pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) each term. The PFT is comprised of the following events in the following order:

  1. Push-ups
  2. Crunches
  3. 1.5-mile run

All events must be accomplished with a minimum score of 75 points.

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