Looking back on history, USAFE celebrates 63rd birthday

Capt. Krista Carlos
USAFE News Service

As the oldest active major command in the Air Force, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe celebrated its 63rd birthday Jan. 19. 

Throughout the years, USAFE Airmen and assets have played a significant role in securing peace and stability to the region.

“From the days of World War II, to Desert Storm and the Balkan operations to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, USAFE has played a vital role in providing for a free and stable Europe,” said Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAFE commander. “USAFE has a rich history of contributing to the success of every major military operation in theater since its activation.”

During WWII, USAFE forces conducted daylight bombing operations over continental Europe from bases in the United Kingdom, and later incorporated reconnaissance of enemy movements throughout occupied Europe. 

In addition to combat and peacekeeping operations, the command has conducted more than 160 humanitarian relief operations, ranging from the Berlin Airlift and relief in the Balkans to responding to natural disasters. At the same time, it served as the cornerstone of the NATO alliance and saved lives throughout Europe and the Middle East. Most recently, USAFE forces stepped up to provide aid to people from as far away as India with the tsunami relief effort.

In 1991, USAFE committed more than 15 percent of its personnel and 33 percent of its aircraft to support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

In the mid 1990s, USAFE became involved in the Balkans operations. From Operations Deny Flight to Shining Hope, the command helped bring opposing forces to the peace table while providing humanitarian relief to Kosovo Albanians.
While the command has changed over the years, its focus has remained constant.

“USAFE forces have always demonstrated the capability and flexibility to perform a variety of missions,” said Dr. John Sullivan, USAFE command historian. “Currently we’re facing the new threat, global terrorism. Throughout these 63 years, organizational structures and doctrine may have changed, but the command’s mission and courage and resolve of its people have not.”

Today, as our military transforms to face a global threat in non-conventional warfare, USAFE has also adapted to face the challenge.

“Sept.11, 2001 changed the world forever,” General Foglesong said. “USAFE has stepped up to the challenge by providing world-class support to the theater of operations.  Today, our over 32,000 personnel and assets are the forward projection of American power in the European theater.  We will continue to transform to meet mission requirements, and our expeditionary mentality will allow us to be flexible and responsive to the challenges that await us.”

“As we celebrate USAFE’s 63rd birthday, I would like to thank our dedicated professionals who have served, and continue to serve, in support of the mission,” said General Foglesong. “I’m proud of our legacy of success as the most respected and feared air and space force in the world, and I’m looking forward to our future achievements.”