An auspicious date
The Class of 2020 graduated on a date that already had a place in Air Force history. On April 18, 1942, airmen led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle launched B-25 bombers from an aircraft carrier in a dangerous raid to strike Tokyo.
It was the first American move to avenge Pearl Harbor and required ingenuity and courage. The B-25 was a land plane, which could barely take off from a carrier, but couldn’t land on one. Of the 80 airmen involved, three were killed and eight were captured.
“Seventy-eight years ago the Raiders cemented the vision of joint air power,” Gen. David Goldfein said, in a nod to the fact that it was the first mission that combined the forces of the Army Air Corps and the Navy. “Today, we are cementing the notion of joint air and space services. We are the nation’s aerospace service, we own the high ground.”
Platinum sashes for new service
The Space Force got its first 86 lieutenants Saturday. The satellite service formed in December had just two members before the ceremony.
The new lieutenants will be joined by airmen transferring to the Space Force from the Air Force in coming months.
The new service started a couple of new traditions Saturday. First, the Space Force officers wore platinum sashes on their uniforms, while Air Force offices wore gold. Second, the Space Force crew sate together as a group, forming a distinctive group.
Absent parents lauded
The parents of the Class of 2020 were kept away from the ceremony due to coronavirus, but they weren’t forgotten.
The loudest cheer of the event came after Vice President Mike Pence asked the cadets to applaud their families.
Pence, whose son is a Marine Corps officer, said parents of the Class of 2020 have plenty to be proud of.
“I can testify firsthand,” he said. “I know just what your parents are fleeing right now.”
Flags show Springs' support
While well-wishers from Colorado Springs couldn’t attend the academy’s graduation, flags on display across town sent a strong message, academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said.
“Thank you for your unwavering support,” he said.
To return the gesture, the Air Force Thunderbirds toured much of the Front Range Saturday, flying in formation from Greeley to Pueblo.
By the numbers
The 967 graduates included:
59 former enlisted airmen
485 lieutenants headed to flight school
86 Space Force officers
31 who will learn to fly drones