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America's Military, the Arm of Freedom.

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Chad Daniels
  • 911 Air Refueling Squadron commander
On September 11, 2001 I was enjoying a book on my bunk during a "down day" on my first deployment as a KC-135 crewmember to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia. In the middle of my page, I heard a commotion in the common area. An aircraft had just crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. We assumed a commercial airliner had an emergency rendering the aircraft incapable of flight and collided with the tower. The other aircrew members and I all offered our theories as to what may have caused the accident on such a beautiful, sunny morning. Suddenly, and surreally, while the cameras were still focused on the first tower, the South Tower was hit by another commercial airliner in plain view of the world. Horror ensued in NYC and fear set in throughout America. We realized that we were under attack. From this point forward our collective lives changed, shaped and molded by the events of 11 September, known to most simply as 9/11.

The events of 9/11 transformed the average U.S. citizen's national outlook from one of economic prosperity, security, and invincibility to one of fiscal uncertainty, fear of lost national security and general concern about the future. Just like the attacks on Pearl Harbor, we had been surprised by a strike on our homeland. Just as in 1941, the fear and uncertainty of 9/11 soon gave way to anger, resolve and the galvanizing of our nation. Collectively our Nation was determined to identify the perpetrators of this cowardly assault on our way of life, then, punish them, using her military, whatever the cost.
The events of 9/11 forced America to reflect on who we are, what we're made of and what our role is in the world. Though brought about in tragedy, this caused reflection is nothing new for our great nation.

In the mid-to-late-18th century, the Thirteen Colonies considered very similar questions. They decided together that American's were free to decide our future and "way ahead" as a nation; we then resisted the powerful monarchy of Great Britain and militarily proved our resolve.

Over 80 years later, when the U.S. was again divided by seemingly insurmountable political, social and economic upheaval, Abraham Lincoln moved militarily to prevent a break up of our nation thereby preserving the union and ensuring a unified, strong America, where all could prosper equally.

In the WWI, America heard a call for help from our allies and then willingly fought to combat evil in Europe. Many Americans lost their lives in WWI and the American public seemed to lose their desire for international intervention.

Due to the heavy cost of WWI, America would need a significant "nudge" to become involved in WWII, which came as a "shove" with the attacks on Pearl Harbor. After wading into the conflict in Europe and the Pacific we demonstrated our commitment to freedom's cause, defending these ideas alongside our brave allies, winning the greatest struggle against tyranny our nation has known.

Following WWII, as Russia wished doom on our defeated foe Germany, Americans stepped in to secure, stabilize and reconstruct their nation. The "Marshall Plan" encouraged future investment in Germany. Now, some 70 years later, the society of Germany is a superb example of productivity, freedom, security and international influence.

As our WWII alliance with Russia crumbled and they succumbed to the false promise of communism, the U.S. drove headlong into an arms race for national survival and of protection of freedom worldwide, together with our allies. After struggling against the Soviet Union for nearly four decades, ultimately we prevailed, winning the Cold War and proving democracy and free market commerce superior. This victory left the U.S. standing alone as the world's sole "superpower."

When Saddam Hussein attacked and invaded Kuwait, the U.S. military was sent in, now comfortable with our burgeoning role as a protector of nations and stabilizer of global commerce. After quickly and decisively liberating Kuwait, the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq, but remained engaged in the Middle East as protector and guarantor of security and stability. Regional and global commerce flourished.

Following the events of 9/11, America was forced to wake from her peaceful rest. We pursued, then, brought justice upon those responsible for the NYC terror attack finally culminating with the mission to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden. As in preceding conflicts, the U.S. military bore the lion's share of the work in dangerous and difficult conditions while playing a starring role in the eventual success. Our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines fought bravely against evil men, bent on destroying freedom and enslaving people beneath twisted and narrow views of religion. The U.S. once again, demonstrated its resolve to fight to defend our way of life and to secure liberty for generations to come.

Now, once again, threatening storms are on the horizon. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria threatens global stability. China seeks regional hegemony within the South China Sea and beyond. Russia bullies their neighbors militarily with disastrous potential for the Ukraine and other Eastern European nations. Our role as protector is now again being called upon.

Now and in the future America's military will likely be required to protect the homeland, stabilize regions and to secure and preserve freedom around the globe. The USAF will play a lead role in these efforts. When "tapped on the shoulder" by the National Command Authority, we will confidently project power abroad, enabling the tenets of Airpower, such as Global Attack, Rapid Global Mobility, Agile Combat Support, Precision Engagement, Humanitarian Relief, Nuclear Deterrence, and Special Operations.

As after 9/11, the proud and storied KC-135 family stands alongside our mission partners, ready to provide global air refueling, airlift and AEROMEDEVAC support, "anytime, anywhere." Our USAF's air refueling capabilities are distinctively unique. While other nations may have some air refueling mission capability, none matches our flexibility, volume and wide-range of enabling effects. We multiply the effects of nearly every tenet of USAF airpower, which makes the U.S. a truly "global superpower." We at the 911th Air Refueling Squadron are very proud of the role we play as enablers of so many varied, valiant and critical missions.

As the 13th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, may we all never forget our history, the victims of injustice, nor the sacrifices of the fallen. Let us always remember our nation's greatness, our benevolence towards those in need and our selfless sacrifices on the altar of freedom. Our mission is to secure peace and stability by projecting strength abroad, to defend our homeland and to ensure freedom for America and other nations. If not America, then who will do it? The truth is simple; there is no other nation like ours in history and we are America's Military, the Arm of Freedom.