AFDW Commemorates Air Force Birthday with USAF Tattoo

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Esther Willett
  • Air Force District of Washington
Airmen from the Air Force District of Washington brought the Air Force's rich history and heritage to life with a celebration of music, drill and ceremony, aircraft, and fireworks as the service commemorated its 68th birthday on the Air Force Ceremonial Lawn at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling today. 

The United States Air Force Tattoo, themed "The U.S. Air Force: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," featured flyovers by the USAF Thunderbirds, the F-22 Raptor demonstration team, and a Warbird vintage aircraft squadron, as well as performances by the U.S. Special Operations command's Para-Commandos jump team, and the USAF Band and Honor Guard.

The ceremony reminds us of the contributions and sacrifices made by Airmen - past and present - who have served the Nation in our Air Force, said Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

"Tonight we thank millions of patriots who raised their hands and swore to support and defend the Constitution as members of the United States Air Force. We thank the millions more who supported them from home and we thank the millions yet to come who will raise their hands and follow us into the wild blue yonder," said Welsh.

Senior leaders from the Air Force and other branches of service joined in the celebration, along with leaders from Capitol Hill, community and business leaders, as well as a number of senior Air Force officers from countries in the Pacific region. The event was a perfect opportunity to showcase and celebrate this point in the U.S. Air Force's history and to invest in cooperative relationships with global partners which remain critical to ensuring continued safety and stability in key regions around the world, said Col. Jon Julian, the 11th Operations Group Commander at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.

"This is an opportunity to show off precision, excellence, and professionalism in a traditional military tattoo setting to our friends and allies," Julian said. "We are building those relationships right now in our backyard, sharing the celebration of Air Power and our birthday."

Planners and performers worked for more than ten months to execute a seamless event. Coordinating the flight portions of the Tattoo posed the largest logistical challenge. A lot of legwork went into ensuring that flyovers looked smooth and uncomplicated on execution, said Julian.

As the planning committee navigated logistical obstacles, performers faced unique challenges of their own.

"This is a joint effort between multiple units coming together, and the challenge is all the moving parts. We have assets in the air and lots of troops on the ground so timings are critical," said Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Carson, lead singer for Max Impact, the premier rock band of the U.S. Air Force. "Technology is our enemy sometimes, so we try to work out all those kinks and make sure everything flows smoothly and gives a good show."

Performing in low light also presents a challenge when you are manipulating a sword or a rifle in close quarters.

"The hardest part for the drill team is adapting to the different circumstances when we drill," said Senior Amn. Angela Mitchell, a drill team member of the U.S. Honor Guard. "We're not used to drilling at night, and our eyes are trying to adjust in the dark. It's a challenge."

But when the lights go down and the music turns up, the adrenaline carries the performers through, said Staff Sgt. Sasha Escobedo, a drill team member of the U.S. Honor Guard.

"There have been hours and hours of practice that have gone into this," said Escobedo. "But it all paid off. It was incredible."

Air Force District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Darryl Burke said it was a unique privilege for AFDW Airmen to be able to honor the service as it celebrates its 68th birthday.

"This event demonstrates Air Force excellence and capabilities to our global partners, our senior leaders, and our community," said Burke. "The talented men and women who performed today represent our proud legacy as Airmen, they represent the Airmen defending our freedom around the globe today, and they represent the Airmen who will follow us as we look to confront the challenges of the future."