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Challenge, Change Face USAFA Graduates, Says Vice President

By Butch Wehry
American Forces Press Service

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo., June 1, 2005 – Vice President Richard B. Cheney told more than 900 graduating cadets here today that they are taking their places as commissioned officers of the most powerful air and space force in the history of mankind.

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Vice President Richard B. Cheney addresses the graduating Air Force Academy Class of 2005, June 1. Photo by Charley Starr

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Responsibility comes to you in a period of unprecedented challenge for your country and extraordinary change for the armed forces," Cheney said. "In these four years that you have studied and drilled and prepared to become leaders, you have seen changes in yourself. You have been tested in mind, body and character. You have felt the pride that comes from striving, succeeding and becoming the person the Air Force knew you could be, and you have proven yourself worthy of the honor you receive today."

The vice president said he brought greetings and congratulations from President Bush.

Cheney noted that members of the cadet wing are drawn from all regions of the country and two dozen foreign lands. "Taken together, they represent the future of air and space power and freedom's cause," he said. "When you see these men and women, and understand the rigor of the service academy, you can't help but feel confident in the rising generation of military leaders. The defense of this nation is in very good hands."

The graduation guest speaker reminded the class of when they arrived four years ago.

"Some believed that our nation had entered a long period of relative quiet with few real threats to our security, little reason to expect danger from abroad and no chance of direct attack," Cheney said. "You were here on that day when illusions gave way to critical, national priorities. All of you remember that Tuesday morning in 2001 when alarms were sounded when the military was put on high alert and the gates of this academy were locked."

He said in Colorado Springs and at the nation's other service academies, men and women knew immediately that a new mission had come to America and some of the most vital work would be carried out by your generation.

"The attacks on our country underscored the seriousness of the profession you had entered and oath you had taken only a few months earlier," Cheney said. "Many of you shared the same wish that you could graduate on Sept. 12 and take your place on the first war of the 21st century. A great deal has happened since that day, but we have much left to do as a nation. You will be among those who will lead us to victory against freedom's enemies."

The vice president said the threat continues, demanding "a unified, effective response" to increase the nation's ability "to respond to any future attacks, to reduce our vulnerability and, above all, to hunt down the terrorists before they can hit us again."

"As leaders in the Air Force, you will be participants in that transformation to let America meet the challenges of the 21st century," Cheney told the graduates. "A military that was designed in the 20th century is becoming lighter, more flexible, more agile and lethal in action."

(Butch Wehry is assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy public affairs office.)

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Richard B. Cheney

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