The U.S. Air Force we know today was born on September 18, 1947, but the history of aircraft in the military dates back to 1907 — a mere 4 years after the Wright Brothers took that first important flight. Now, it’s one of the largest U.S. military branches with almost half a million airmen across the globe.
History of the U.S. Air Force
Though they are separate entities today, the Air Force began as part of the U.S. Army when planes were a brand-new invention. They were first used in the military during World War I with trained U.S. Army pilots.
In August of 1914, the Army’s 1st Aero Squadron — what would later become the U.S. Air Force — consisted of 12 officers, 54 enlisted men, and 6 aircraft. Within a year, the squadron grew to 44 officers, 224 enlisted soldiers, and 23 planes.
The Air Force had many other names throughout the decades, including the Aviation Section, Division of Military Aeronautics, and the U.S. Army Air Corps. When President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, he established what would become the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force as a separate military branch. The first secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington, was sworn in later that year, officially making it an independent branch.
In fact, the Air Force also shares its birthday with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It is currently the second youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, just behind the U.S. Space Force created in 2019.
Volunteering has always been important in the military, especially the Air Force, both within the organization and throughout its neighboring communities. While Air Force members are stationed briefly at their bases, it is encouraged for airmen and women to volunteer in their new towns.
Today’s Air Force
Despite being one of the youngest, the Air Force is now the second-largest service branch with a $156.3 billion budget and more than 5,300 military aircraft.
Currently, the Air Force has about 329,500 active-duty airmen, 69,000 reserve airmen, and 107,400 Air National Guardsmen.
Not all of those are pilots. Air Force personnel work as military working dog handlers, IT technicians, pararescuers, healthcare professionals, band members, or even flight attendants for Air Force One and other planes for dignitaries and world leaders.
One of the most well-known non-combat roles in the USAF is the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, more commonly known as JAGs. These lawyers provide a host of services for the organization and its staff. They also serve as military judges in courts-martial and courts of inquiry.
The Air Force isn’t strictly focused on combat, either. One of their most beloved traditions is tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Starting in 1955, a newspaper ad accidentally listed the U.S. Air Defense Command phone number to call and ask where Santa was on his journey. Now, the tradition has expanded to calls from more than 200 countries.
FSR is proud to support the U.S. Air Force. We are driven to serve the active duty and veteran communities not only through our work but also through veterans hiring, military spouse employment initiatives, and community involvement.
Happy Birthday U.S. Air Force!