Brigadier General William W. Spruance
Spruance Hall Dedication Acceptance Speech
13 April 2002
I'm delighted to have this building named after me, and I'm delighted that I'm a Guardsman and not a regular officer. To have a building named after you, you have to be dead if you are a regular officer - and I'm not looking forward to accomplishing that regulation for the regular Air Force.
Also, I appreciate having my name on a building because it makes it easier for the occupants to spell, and Spruance was the name that came with the body. I didn't pick it out, and it's damn hard to spell for everybody. So it's nice to have Spruance Drive in Delaware, Spruance Hall in Daytona, and Spruance House in Prescott. Now with Admiral Spruance, although I don't affiliate too closely with "anchor clankers" - and in fact had to have my "naval" removed to get promoted last time -- I'm really appreciative that my name is being spelled better.
I was surprised when Colonel Burris proposed the idea of dedicating this building to me. In fact, I was speechless - almost . . . almost! Then I remembered that I.G. Brown and I got in a B26 about 30 some years back and flew out to Hamilton Air Force Base to the Air Force NCO Academy, and I gave my speech there. I was the cover while he sneaked around the Academy and stole some of their curricula and some of their personnel, including Chief Lankford, and set this educational institution up. I'm sorry that Chief Lankford isn't here, because he's really one of my heroes, and I'd rather hear him speak than anybody I know.
I asked I.G. Brown, "Do you want me to talk to the first class here on leadership? My field is safety, not leadership." And he said, "To get promoted, career progression, you've got to outlive your supervisor - so survival is essential." So I commend that to you young people over there. Stay Alive! Follow some of the things in my speech.
Getting here by air has always been a pain, and it's really difficult to get to Knoxville. As you all know, you can't get here direct from almost any place, unless you have your own airplane like some of these VIPs. So I thought when Colonel Burris suggested this [dedication], we ought to try to do it all by remote control for the people who are incapacitated and can't attend -- like General Philbin, former executive director of the National Guard Association, or the people who are busy fighting the war, like General Brubaker, General Jumper, or even the President. We didn't invite the President or General Jumper because if you get those people, you get so much security that you forget who the hell the building was dedicated for.
So we conceived the idea of having a remote, distance dedication ceremony, and all the letters that were sent in will be on that website. I urge you who have any thoughts or comments that you want to preserve for posterity, that you put it in that website so the young people coming along can follow this. And also, so we can have this kind of dedication be a pioneering type deal for people through our electronic media miracles -- these pioneers like Wayne Smith and Chris Morin, and some of the rest of you under Colonel Burris. That's a model for future events if we could do it electronically and efficiently. So I urge you all to participate in this [website].
You can also get a free tape from the website. It's pretty easy if you can remember three w's - it's ANGTEC.ANG.AF.MIL/SPRUANCE. You can get one tape for free delivered to one military address from Tobyhanna - all the data is on the website, and maybe you can get the thrill of saving somebody's life with that tape as I have so many times -- because it's a really rewarding experience.
In August of 1946 the colonel responsible for my federal recognition of the proposed Delaware Air Guard Unit asked me, "Why do you want to join the Air Guard bad enough to take a bust from a major to a captain?" And I said, "Well because I want to fly the airplanes on the government's nickel. I've done it on my own, and I'd much rather have them pay for it, and they're better airplanes anyhow." He said, "Well we'll take you, but that's not the reason," and I said, "Why else?" - and he said, "You'll stay because of the people. You'll never really get away from the people that you associate with in the Air Guard." . . . these guys right over here who even take care of preserving the alcoholic outings, the old linking, and important type stuff like that for posterity. "It'll open up a whole new world for you."
I know in recognizing people it's always difficult, and I want to recognize everybody. So on the count of three I want you to say your own name. One, two, three, "Bill Spruance." "I can't hear you!" One, two, three, [pause] - There you go, now your name has been mentioned on the program, so don't feel slighted. I want to thank every one of you for attending. I'm really honored beyond belief.
I've tried to do something for each of you in some small way, like in the one-liners out of my safety pitch:
Craig McKinley here [on stage] was a young fast burner. I spotted him early on and got him on the Board of the Air Force Association when he was just a young sprog. Look where he is today; up here with two stars - "Where's that jacket? I thought you were going to give that to me?" "Damn, I can get anything out of this Air Force except a jacket!" I'm losing my scrounge powers or something, but the mentor system is really something. Janet Robinson, sitting over here -- got her to be on the Board of the National Guard Association when she was a young company grader. Bringing these young people to the power center and getting them exposed -- like Hugh Broomall, when he was a lieutenant, used to take him to the Guard and AFA conventions. He ran the state association, as Janet ran the state associations for both Air Force and Guard. Expose these young people to the power center and to the opportunity to get the fast burners out there. "If the nerds can't stand the pace - to hell with them." You want to get the fast burners out front so they can be our future leaders.
My punch line in that Crash Survival pitch is, "Be prepared for the worst, and pleasantly surprised if you don't crash."
Now, I don't recommend crashing for opening up a great world of opportunities like it has for me, but it certainly has done just that. The feedback has been rewarding beyond my wildest dreams. Up here today! I can't believe it! But the Air Guard's basically been the greatest thing that's happened to me.
I asked the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff if he had a son or daughter and a military obligation, what would he advise them to do. He said, "Put them in the Air National Guard, because as a traditional Guardsman they can contribute to the economy. They can produce tax revenue to support the military establishment, and there the Air National Guard is the greatest bang for the buck you can get." With the support of the families, the traditional Guardsmen are unique in that they have two bosses -- an employer, as well as a military boss, and they can be part of the greatest component of the greatest military establishment of the greatest country in the world - the United States of America.
President Ronald Reagan was a great communicator and a great actor, but he muffed his line when he said, "God Bless America." President Bush has emulated that, and I've been trying to get him to change it to say, "God Bless the United States of America," because America includes the north pole, the south pole, the penguins, the polar bears, the narcotic drug runners, and Fidel Castro. God's got enough to do without taking care of all those people.
I hope I won't offend any of this highly religious community here, but I think we need to identify it as the United States of America. Every one of those states has a star or a stripe in that flag there [on stage]; and it's the fact that that's sown together; and it's the fact that that flag symbolizes what we have in our country. Although we have F16s and F15s and all kinds of sophisticated weaponry in our Guard units, you don't see us shooting at each other across state borders where there are no gates on the borders either. The Afghans ought to get that message instead of doing what they're doing today. It's a long process, but we've just got to be positive and hope to heck it comes out all right.
We pledge allegiance to the United States of America. The currency is of the United States of America. All the government officials, including the politicians and all the military take an oath that they'll defend and support the Constitution of the United States of America - and they end with the Constitution of the United States of America.
Our terminology sometimes gets screwed up. The regular Air Force - they defend the nation in the air - so they should be called the Air National Guard. We're several states united together, so we ought to be called the United States Air Force. So the thing is backwards from the word GO. But the terminology where we lose our identity just appalls me. Although the Air National Guard is doing wonders of publicity in recognition, in employer's support, and family stuff in the communities, in the national media you hardly see the word mentioned with the possible exception of General Shepperd every now and again.
It's really tough inside that beltway to remember that those federal people who suck up all our money and try and control everything are really getting their powers granted by the states. We've got to avoid terms like the Air Reserve Components, abbreviated ARC -- you know that's Noah's boat. The Reserve Component (RC) - that's a Royal Crown Cola - that's a drink. Air Reserve Forces - that's ARF. That's a dog bark for crying outloud. We want to say Guard and Reserve.
[Student Response] - "GUARD AND RESERVE!"
There we go! These guys do it every time. Yea! Let's try that one more time - "Guard and Reserve."
[Students Response] - "GUARD AND RESERVE!"
"Hey! You get the message? Now we need to send some of these guys up there to the beltway and run that by the Pentagon at the river entrance."
There're a lot of people who would also take the word God out of our system. I hope this doesn't offend some of us who are religious in this particularly religious community, but if people are going to take God out of the prayers, and God out of the schools, and they insist upon doing that, let's put on the money: "In Guard we trust." When they say the Pledge of Allegiance, let's say, "One nation under Guard." When they get through their oath of office, they can say, "So help me Guard." They can say, "Guard Bless the United States of America."
I think the Guard is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I want to thank all of you for being here. If you want to do something to thank me, I want you to participate in that website. Let's put everything we can in there that's going to help the future leaders of the Air National Guard -- these gentlemen and ladies [TEC Students]. Will the traditional guardsmen in both groups, please stand up. There's where four-fifths of our Air National Guard force comes from. Will the "Full timers" stand up. "Don't forget that those guy who stood up before are your bread and butter. You're a great team. Good luck to all of you.
God bless the United States of America, and God bless all of you.