ARLINGTON, Va.–There were moments, which through their pure magnitude galvanized the nation, inspiring those to act, forever altering the fabric of our lives.
In the weeks following the attack on Pearl Harbor, one group of men would attempt the impossible and forever shift the course of history.
Today, these men, known simply as the Doolittle Raiders, continue to inspire Airmen to defend the nation, hunting down her enemies and delivering justice, anytime, anywhere.
Airmen assigned to the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., received the Air Force Historical Foundation’s 2017, James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle Award, Jan. 30, 2018, at the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., for their contributions to aviation history.
“The 432nd Wing has a heritage of innovation since its initial activation in 1943,” said Lt. Gen. (ret.) Christopher Miller, President and chairman of AFHF. “It has been at the leading edge of operations for our nation providing both global vigilance and global power to the joint team preserving the lives of American service members on the ground and preventing damage to our nation and our citizens.”
The Doolittle award was established to recognize units who have displayed bravery, determination, discipline, esprit de corps, and superior management of joint operations while accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions in multiple conflicts, and thus made a sustained, significant contribution to Air Force history.
“A very direct parallel exists … Jimmy Doolittle flew Army Air Corp planes off of Navy ships, the Hunters provide close air support to our ground forces both coalition and U.S., and they do it 24/7 with great reliability in a way that is still evolving, and that is actually one of the things that the Hunters and the Doolittle Team share,” said Miller.
To increase morale and demonstrate resolve to Japan and the world, the Doolittle Raid paved the way for innovation as 16 B-25s were modified and launched from an aircraft carrier which led to a reinvigorated sense of confidence and duty among U.S. troops.
“Both (Raiders and Hunters) took a starting point and took the technology and operational concepts in a way that no one had ever thought of before, and I’m confident that this wing will continue to do that,” said Miller.
Today, that innovative spirit lives on as the 432nd Wing continues to change the face of aviation with the use of the remotely piloted MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-170 Sentinel.
“The Wing has taken both technology and human determination and raised it to a very high level and so the foundation felt like the 432nd had more than earned this distinction which is particularly appropriate because Jimmy Doolittle was himself an innovator,” said Miller.
Still no form of aviation equipment is more important than the men and women who operate, maintain and support RPA operations despite the challenges of worldwide operations.
Similar to the 80 men who volunteered for the Doolittle Raid, the 432nd WG and the U.S. Air Force is comprised of an all-volunteer force dedicated to the safety and security of our Nation.
“General Doolittle once said ‘There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer,” said Col. Julian Cheater, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “What the Airmen here have accomplished is nothing short of amazing and I’m certain that they would volunteer for challenging missions like Gen. Doolittle led.”
In 2017 alone, Airmen of the 432nd Wing flew more than 12,000 sorties totaling approximately 216,000 flight hours, employed 2,900 weapons and aided in the liberation of multiple cities returning 2.7 million Iraqis and 715,000 Syrians to an ISIS-free home.
“They call the generation from World War II the greatest generation, but the truth is that every single person that puts on this uniform is made of exactly the same stuff,” said Jonna Doolittle Hoppes, executive director of the Doolittle Foundation and granddaughter of Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. “As you look around at the men and women today who are a part of a completely voluntary service, they are the same. I think it is so important to acknowledge that you are the greatest generation.”
Most recently, the 432nd Wing supported the liberation of 99 percent of ISIS-held territory flying the new Block 5 MQ-9 in combat along with the newly upgraded Block 30 cockpit for the first time in combat.
“Each generation that puts on that uniform does it to serve this country,” said Doolittle Hoppes. “I’m so proud to be a part of this program to recognize you all because of how great you really are. I think he (Gen. Doolittle) would be really proud to serve with you.”
The accomplishments of the Wing also included employing the first GBU-38s downrange and developing new communication and cyber systems to improve RPA functionality. Overall the Airmen of the 432nd Wing have pioneered new and innovative techniques in all areas of operations and remain at the leading edge of the future of aviation.
“My grandfather was a person who believed in innovation, he believed in technology and worked at one time for Billy Mitchell. He believed very strongly that the Air Force was to be a powerful tool. So I think if he’s up there looking down today at what you guys are doing here at the 432nd at Creech, he’d be thrilled,” said Doolittle Hoppes.
“We will continue to deliver justice,” said Cheater. “We are honored to pay tribute to the Doolittle legacy through innovation while we help shape the future of warfare.”