75th Anniversary

The Air Force Association is celebrating the 75 years of educating, advocating, and supporting the U.S. Air Force and Airmen and, since its founding a year ago, the U.S. Space Force and its Guardians.

AFA was incorporated on Feb. 4. 1946 to form a grassroots network across the country to educate the public about air power and to advocate for the Air Force to become a separate military service branch. Less than 18 months later, the Air Force gained its independence in September 1947.

Under the leadership of General James Doolittle, its first president, and generations of volunteer and professional leaders since, AFA became “the force behind the Force,” a critical advocate and supporter of air power, space power, and the means and resources needed for a ready and robust national defense. 

Today, the Air Force Association’s education and advocacy work continues. AFA produces the Air Force’s premiere professional development events, the Air, Space & Cyber Conference and Aerospace Warfare Symposium, which each attract thousands of attendees and the full participation of top Air and Space Force leaders. AFA operates the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, the nation’s only think tank dedicated to the advancement of air and space power and related concepts, and it publishes Air Force Magazine, the association’s premier publication. AFA also operates two of the world’s largest and most dynamic programs for attracting and developing student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). AFA’s CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers STEM programs use fun, team-based competitions to interest students in careers in cybertechnology and engineering. AFA’s Wounded Airman Program provides life-changing assistance to seriously wounded, ill, and injured Airmen and their families. And its COVID-19 Assistance Fund provides support to those service members and their families adversely affected by the fallout from the global pandemic. 

Why AFA Matters

1.     Unrivaled history. AFA was incorporated in Washington, D.C. on February 4, 1946. For the 75 years since, no voice has spoken more loudly, more boldly, or more consistently in support of air power, Airmen, and the Air Force than your Air Force Association. 

2.     Staying informed. Air Force Magazine is the voice of the Air Force Association, tracing its history back to 1946 when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Harold “Hap” Arnold transferred ownership and control of his Army Air Forces magazine to AFA. For many years, Air Force Magazine was the principal benefit of membership in AFA. Today, the Magazine staff not only creates an award-winning glossy magazine, but also a daily email report and news website, sharing content that reaches hundreds of thousands of people each month. 

3.     Support in times of crisis. As a pandemic swept the globe, AFA created the COVID-19 Airman’s Assistance Fund, which provided emergency assistance grants to Airmen and their families, including an Air Force spouse and mother of six children who was required to quarantine without pay for two weeks while her spouse was deployed; and a senior Airmen whose civilian hours were cut in half, forcing his family to enter the food stamp program.

4.     Local-level connections. AFA mobilizes support through more than 200 chapters around the country. Being a member of a local chapter gives you access to meetings, socials, and other events, as well as the opportunity to connect with others who support the Air Force and Space Force.

5.     Recognizing achievement. Since 1948, AFA has honored individuals, units and companies for outstanding performance and contributions to national defense, flight, science and engineering, aerospace education, and arts and letters. The H.H. Arnold Award, the Flight Trophy (now named the David C. Schilling Award), the Science Trophy (renamed the Theodore von Karman Award), the Hoyt S. Vandenberg Award, and the Arts and Letters Trophy (now named the Gill Robb Wilson Award) are AFA’s longest-running awards programs.

6.     The Almanac. The USAF Almanac, first published in September 1951 as Air Force Magazine’s “Anniversary Issue,” and now available only to magazine subscribers, is the go-to reference source for the Air and Space Forces. The annual special feature is packed with historical data, as well as the most recent facts, figures, and other information about the Air Force and the Space Force.

7.     Advocating for families. AFA works tirelessly on behalf of Airmen, Guardians, and families. In March 2001, AFA successfully advocated for eliminating capital gains taxes on the sales of service members’ private residences as a result of a permanent change-of-station move. The same month, AFA successfully advocated for eliminating dual-compensation penalties for service members who take civilian jobs in the federal government immediately after military retirement.

8.     The Mitchell Institute. First established as the Eaker Institute in 1996 and renamed in 2007 to honor air power pioneer Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell, AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies produces cutting-edge, thought-provoking research and analysis to inform the national security debate and educate policymakers and the public about aerospace power’s critical and unique role.

9.     Discounts. AFA membership comes with many perks, including discounts on shopping, travel, legal services, health and wellness programs, education programs through Trident University, and more.

10.  Changing the conversation. AFA’s work makes a difference, and its 1994 special report, “The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay,” is just one example. The report exposed the National Air and Space Museum’s plan to display the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima as a prop in a politically charged exhibition critical of the mission. AFA’s report prompted Congress, the national media, and the public to pressure the museum to change its exhibit and its approach to planning future exhibitions.