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The power of the patch--America's newest weapons officers.

Remarks to the graduating class of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Las Vegas, Nev., June 14, 2003

Thank you Colonel Carter (Colonel John "JC" Carter, Commandant) for your kind words and gracious introduction. What a fantastic video!

Trial and Accomplishment

Tonight is a momentous occasion and I'd like to welcome our distinguished visitors, guests of the school and irreplaceable guests of tonight's graduates. Most important, it is my honor and privilege to welcome here tonight some of America's greatest combat assets--the new weapons officers and their instructors. Diane and I, and many others, are here to celebrate your achievements. For the students, your accomplishments over the past six months have been no less than spectacular. For many of you this has been, the hardest thing you have ever done or will do. For the instructors, well, getting Class 03A to tonight's graduation may have been the hardest thing you've ever done.

Seriously, I felt strongly about coming here tonight to speak at this Weapons School graduation because you are the future of our combat air forces. You have proven throughout the course that you are worthy of the term "weapons officer," and worthy of the "patch." Thursday night (June 12) you received that symbol that is so revered by your subordinates and squadron mates; so feared by enemy troops, commanders and airmen; and so necessary if we are going to continue our great airpower successes of last 15 years. Thursday night, when you put on that patch, you joined the weapons officers who have preceded you.

Tonight, you find yourselves in the company of many distinguished names in our Air Force's history. When you go back to the field, you too will make a difference. As a patch-wearer, you will be asked to build more, in less time, with less resources, to a higher degree of accuracy than you might have thought possible. As a weapons officer, you will be expected to lead America's finest through situations that you have yet to even ponder. As a weapons officer, you are expected to take every success, every failure, every challenge and examine it, analyze it, and debrief it and its possible consequences--and fine tune your skills with what you learned from it.

Many think that tonight is about you receiving some type of "masters of science in airpower." As someone who has gone through a fairly rigorous series of graduate programs, including a doctoral course of study ... let me assure you, Weapons is much more. There is no masters recipient that is so universally recognized in the combat air forces as an Air Force weapons officer. No master of arts or sciences recipient fully embodies the expertise, teamwork, sense of excellence and warrior-spirit like an Air Force weapons officer. And there is no masters recipient who carries a target on their arm that says to all: "ask me, send me, task me, or demand of me." Heaven knows that my wonderful partner, (Air Force Chief of Staff General) John Jumper, lives those thoughts time after time in dealing with me!

To Those Who Have Gone Before

In that commitment and call to battle, you follow those who have gone before you. That call can come years from now or it could come tomorrow when you leave here. For your predecessors in the 01 and 02 classes, they found themselves "engaged" within days of graduating. For Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), we will never know all the success stories of our airmen. We do know that the majority of 01 and 02 grads from Weapons School made their presence known at every level of warfighting. For example:

* Every single 02 graduate from the B-52 course deployed--to mission planning cells, the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) and as combat fliers. They worked with their colleagues to integrate the Litening II targeting pod onto the ageless "BUFF." This successful innovation exemplifies a weapons officer's ingenuity and can-do attitude.

* New "Bone" weapons officers flew the first B-1 combat ops over both Afghanistan and then Baghdad.

* New A-10 "patches" deployed to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan within two weeks of their graduation.

* Recent graduates from the Special Operations course were key planners for the capture of Iraq's southern oil refineries.

* Space graduates integrated their specialty into the warplane and ATO as never before.

* Two of the Navy's F-14 airmen were saved due to 02 HH-60 grads.

* And, from the newest Rivet Joint, AWACS, JSTARS and EC-130H Compass Call grads coordinated over 30,000 sorties in Iraq and 40,000 sorties over Afghanistan--identifying, tracking, disseminating and targeting enemy forces.

* And the list goes on an on ... the point is that tonight you are weapons officers. Tomorrow you must be ready to execute like you've been weapons officers all along.

Patch-wearers have guided and shaped the combat air forces into a cohesive and highly competent force that brings with it capabilities that can be decisive in the joint fight. The "patches" who preceded you are at every level of warfighting Weapons officers at the wing are the best tactical flyers ... best instructors ... best wing tacticians the Air Force has to offer. Graduates served as the handpicked strategists for both OEF and OIF, led our Air Expeditionary Wings, CAOC cells, Checkmate Divisions, and the entire Operations Directorate in the giant five-sided building ... or Puzzle Palace ... or Disneyland East. And finally, there are two weapons officers whose contributions to the Air Force are spectacular ... two gentlemen--my very good friends with whom I have worked closely--General John Jumper and Lieutenant General Buzz Moseley ((Commander, 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces). Both are weapons officers--leaders, teachers and airmen from whom we all can learn. They are worthy of your emulation.

To Those Who Produce Weapons Officers

Now for the sadists who put the graduates through the program for the past six months ... to the instructors, the entire Weapons School staff, the 57th Wing and yes, General Wood, to the Air Warfare Center ... Thank you! I'm told by my staff that you have taken a bunch of "WUGS," "FWUGS," "JABs," "3-4s," and "3-5s" and turned them into this nation's newest gladiators. No other organization comes close to doing for America's combat power what you have done. You have continuously produced the highest caliber of graduates and I thank you.

What you have done over the years has enabled airpower to be at its best when the nation called ... and enabled the U.S. to swiftly defeat any and all comers. Throughout the years, you and all the instructors, past and present, have gone the extra mile to produce--or rather, refine, America's best. In many cases lately, you, the instructors, have taken opportunities that normal instructors may have written off and turned them into extremely valuable training experiences in order to cope with the competing demands of war. You have proven to your students over and over again, that weapons officers lead from the front, ensuring that US airpower never meets the enemy in a fair fight.

It is you instructors who pushed these graduates to their limits--provided them with feedback and instruction that truly makes them more lethal. Even for the cadre of the newest course--the B-2 squadron--when the President said "well done" during your return trip from Baghdad, I hope that your grade sheet reflected at least a solid "satisfactory."

To the Weapons School Instructors and Staff

Again, to the instructors and staff of the Weapons School, I thank you ... not only did you provide us with 273 heroes from the previous four classes, but 86 of you deployed during the recent conflicts. Serving everywhere from Jordan to Italy, Camp Doha Kuwait to Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia, weapons school warriors made a difference. Every weapons school squadron was represented in conflict. From the F-15C and E-models to the Space, Intel, and F-16 squadrons, you deployed and still kept up the pace of producing weapons officers for the nation. All of us--your Air Force leadership and every graduate of this school--owe you--the entire Weapons School family--a debt of gratitude. As you know, I work closely with many of your graduates as John Jumper and I lead this wonderful Air Force. So I know what I'm talking about when I say: Thank you for all that you do.

A Charge to the Graduates

Now it's time to charge you, Class 03A, to continue to meet the challenges of the warrior-leader way of life. As a previous Weapons School Commandant once said:

"Be unabashedly proud in your passion for your profession, your relentless commitment to the mission, and your readiness to lead flawless execution. That commitment and attitude thus far has earned the deep respect of superiors and leaders of the entire U.S. Air Force." (General Michael P.C. Cams, 1996)

Go forth--build, lead, and teach. Go forth and, when appropriate, don't hesitate to tell your boss "when the emperor has no clothes." Go forth and continue to "fight the good fight," knowing that the Air Force has entrusted its best--and America has entrusted its finest sons and daughters into your hands.

Go forth and be what you are from this point on--weapons officers, patch wearers. I'm terribly proud of you. Thank you all very much, congratulations, and may God bless this Air Force and may God bless America.

James G. Roche, secretary of the Air Force
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Title Annotation:Air Force secretary James G. Roche
Publication:Air Force Speeches
Article Type:Transcript
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 14, 2003
Previous Article:AFNEWS--building trust, morale and readiness for 25 years.
Next Article:Honoring the Air Force's Special Operators.

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