Passing the Torch…Our Most Important Mission

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Now that most of the boxes are put away, I have made it a point to get acquainted with our great community, and I have been all around interacting with the Arnold Community Council, Chambers of Commerce, school officials, business leaders, and Rotary Clubs.

Here on the base, I've greeted a legion of students in our "Minds in Motion" effort, and toured our test facilities with local teachers under our "Evening at Arnold" program.

All of these events allow us to highlight our valuable contribution to the community that so proudly serves us as we execute the test mission, and reinforces my belief that our investment in this community is "money in the bank."

As I mentioned to our guests during the Evening at Arnold, we owe everything we are capable of doing here to the efforts, determination, and sacrifices of those pioneers that put our base on the map. While we are certainly building new capabilities, so much of what we have here is literally decades old, and was born of a passion for discovery, innovation, and doing what has never been done before.

That passion was forged in the minds of these pioneers long before they attended high school. The facilities and the test capabilities team AEDC offers to the nation are not the product of this week's endeavors.

You just can't wake up one morning and decide "today I'm taking that motor to Mach 6."

Rather, those who made it happen started their journey a very long time ago, and the only way we are going to maintain the edge we have all benefited from is to inspire the next generation to carry on this noble mission and take everything we do to the next level. Our nation's security is in the next generation's hands, and they don't even know it!

Much of our community outreach is aimed at the local schools ... volunteering in the classrooms, hosting events, and helping our teachers leverage the immense talent pool right outside our doors. It's these efforts that will pay big dividends in the years to come.
Today's youth are literally bombarded with competing demands for their time and attention, and we cannot hope to capture their interest without active participation in the fight.

If you believe role models matter, and shape the choices our children make, then you have to understand that the most visible people in our society (sports figures, Hollywood "megastars," and the next winner of Dancing with the Stars!) are not going to inspire the next scientist in the fight against cancer, or the next engineer dreaming of building a shield against incoming missiles.

Certainly our current test efforts are bearing fruit, but we can't stop there. We have to plant the seeds for the next crop. I challenged Team AEDC to re-think how we can best spark the dreams of the next generation, and commit to making those dreams a reality.

We all have a role to play in this critical endeavor, and I also encourage you to seek opportunities to make today's students tomorrow's "Legends of AEDC." Together, we can make this happen.