Gen. Hester Farewell: An American Airman

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- As we serve this great Nation in the World's Best Air Force, the one constant through our Heritage is the "First Place" importance of PEOPLE. Some dismiss that as a worn cliche, but they don't live the experience...IT IS GROUND TRUTH! PEOPLE...AIRMEN, as we know them, take ownership of their Air Force and make it their own...remember the flight lead who took you under his wing...and the Squadron Commander who cared enough to demand Excellence...but for me, it will always be a specific Crew Chief who stood at the ladder of an F-15 and Proudly said, "Welcome to MY jet!" PRIDE and OWNERSHIP...he looked it and said it loudly. His attitude displays the best in each of you--American Airmen--whose courage, selflessness and compassion drive each of your warrior team mates to reach beyond their comfort level and far beyond your imagination.

We all see opportunities to belong to something bigger than ourselves...something beyond our blood family...We simply want to Belong. It can be the high school football te4am, the Scouts, the Church, the band or the college fraternity. And with each association, we bring the experience of our past and the lessons from our family to enrich it, but we are also challenged to embrace the "values or standards" of that group or leave it. For all of us, the Air Force is that "new organization." It is a place where standard bearers are Airmen who teach and demand adherence by all to Integrity First...Service Before Self...and Excellence in all We Do. Thus, the Air Force becomes the Air Force Family...a place we belong.

You use many weapon systems to defend America, but they do not define you. Instead, it is your combat-hardened attitude, your thirst for adventure, and your resolute commitment to each other that make you America's WARRIOR AIRMEN. AIRMEN who FLY...FIGHT...and WIN!

I am blessed, honored, and incredibly grateful to have served side-by-side with every one of you over the past 37 years. YOU have defined and given meaning to my career.

The U.S. Air Force...Founded by Airmen...Dedicated to Airmen...Led by Airmen.

You are forever in my prayers.