April 20th, 2006 08:03 EST
The Cadet of the Year 2005 Award Ceremony
General Lichte, Lt. Palatas, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
We don't expect people to blow their own trumpet, so it’s up to us to blow it for them when they do an outstanding job.
The award we are to present here will go to a winner, but the standard to achieve is set by all those young people who join the Air Force as cadets and strive to reach a high standard. So, as we hold this ceremony to honour the winner, it honours all who have taken part.
In the military, as in other careers and businesses, we work as teams and as part of a wider community. Teamwork, as we approached the end of the last millennium, is what has brought a well-established fantasy to reality. It is no coincidence that Clarke Kent stepped into a phone booth to reappear as Superman. Although as youngsters we may have dreamed of individuals with super powers, we now understand that Superman is many people working together, with good communications. The phone booth has become the Internet, with computers, fibre optics and satellite communications bringing a new level of human collective capability.
When Neil Armstrong put his boot on the moon, it was the finger of the nation that touched it. The team spirit works at many levels. The whole of society is involved. Unless the people collecting the waste in our cities do their job, we cannot do anything on a sustainable basis. Nevertheless, every team depends on the excellence of individual performance to achieve its objectives.
The Air Squadron was founded in England in 1966 as a society of friends who believed that aviation, both military and civil, should be fostered as a discipline and a career to attract and encourage all those who look forward to developing a global society with high hopes and high standards. We presented a Trophy for the best Royal Air Force cadet unit and later a memorial sword for the best individual cadet in memory of Squadron member Air Chief Marshall Sir John Thomson.
In the year 2000 we celebrated the dawn of the new century and almost 100 years of allied Anglo-American aviation
The Millennium Sword, to commemorate the Cadet of the Year Award, comes from America's friends and the home of just some of its many founding fathers and mothers, so it bears witness to an even wider family. I myself have 10 American great great grandparents out of 16, and two others who, though domiciled in the UK, were deeply involved in creating the United States and Canada.
Our global family today is independent of such relationships. It transcends race, religion, and colour and knows one basic principal: handsome is as handsome does. Although we are empowered by the technology I referred to, it is on the integrity of human beings that the future of humanity depends.
An aviator has to be aware of his or her environment. This awareness of the possibilities and probabilities, continually updated, is the secret of survival and success. In military aviation you have additional dimensions. Beyond the challenges of time and distance and foul weather there may be not only a target, but an enemy. There are missions of mercy, search and rescue, disaster relief, research and development and space - the final frontier, but you may also be called upon to mount a devastating and lethal assault and put yourself in harm's way in the delivery of it.
You need to have faith in the chain of command, knowing that those who give the orders are men and women who have been trained in this art of awareness that is at the heart of the business of flying, of being in charge of an aeroplane, of air traffic control, of the weather situation and the forecast.
Our diplomats work for peace so that conflict can be avoided, and we have come to understand that certain weapons held as deterrents cannot be used as weapons of manageable war or interdiction. Globalization has further changed the situation. The days of territorial conquest are truly gone, but a consequence is that all nations must subscribe to a minimum common agenda, which is one of openness and of abiding by the international agreements they sign up to. Only in this way can we prevent the technology of the 21st century from affording devastating power to individuals who are not accountable or subject to checks and balances.
The defence of freedom can appear complicated and paradoxical at times. As members of the world's largest military establishment you will be called upon for help by nations all over the world and, after you have responded at great cost and risk of life and limb, the next thing that happens is you will be asked to leave as soon as possible. You will also probably be told that the original problem was entirely your fault, if not personally then collectively or by proxy, and if not now then 50 or 100 years ago.
That's par for the course. You can cheer yourself and retain sanity by realising they are probably right, but the only way to avoid making mistakes is to do nothing, and it is only by trial and error that we proceed. However it is good to bear in mind the motto of Esther Dyson: "Always make new mistakes".
It is possible, we know from history, for nations in times of perceived threat to be vulnerable to internal tyranny. It is even possible to democratically elect a dictatorship. Nations have done this. The problem is it may be their last real election for a long time. History has also taught us that if an external threat to any nation is perceived as coming from us in the free world, we can be the cause of our own misfortune. So while our armed forces must prepare for the worst, we must reach out as civilians to the citizens of the oppressed nations so they feel able to have confidence in the global community and its political and military leaders.
Now let me turn to the winner of this year's Cadet of the Year Award whose citation we shall presently hear. I was delighted to see that she graduated with a B.S. in Meteorology and Climatology. Met is the only subject in which I ever got 100% in an exam. It is a vital part of aviation knowledge even in these days of all-weather capability and robot aircraft. As for Climatology, it is the science that preoccupies the world now and its mastery is a priority.
Another occupation of mine since the start of the Millennium has been the promotion amongst young people of physical and mental health through nutrition and exercise, so here again I am happy to see the winner has more than a passing interest in keeping in good condition and encouraging others to do the same.
Finally, I am impressed that as in some previous years it is a young lady who has taken the award, giving the men a tough challenge. The Millennium Sword is there to remind us of the previous winners as the years pass, but today belongs to Lt. Janelle Palatas.
Thank you very much.