SecAF congratulates SAASS grads, marks school's 20th anniversary



by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs


6/17/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The graduation of the 20th class of the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies June 15 also marked the 20th anniversary of the school's founding, a fact highlighted in the commencement address by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.

Secretary Donley said the ceremony honored not only this year's SAASS graduates but the school's nearly 700 graduates over the last 20 years.

"By now, hundreds of SAASS graduates, strategic thinkers who developed and refined their skills right here at Maxwell, have applied this education to advise and serve the United States Air Force and our armed forces," he said.

According to Dr. Harold Winton, a professor of military history and theory at SAASS, the class performed extremely well throughout the academic year, particularly on their comprehensive oral exams. Throughout its 20 years, he said SAASS has received the resources it has needed to conduct its mission, "but the primary resource is students who are willing to work hard."

The graduates' high level of performance is an indication that they will be a highly sought-after commodity in the field by Air Force officers and others on cutting-edge issues of national security, Dr. Winston said.

During the ceremony, Secretary Donley noted the important role that professional military education plays in today's national security environment.

"Educating strategic thinkers is just as critical as maintaining our technological edge," he said. "Cultivating our best thinkers is part of our investment in people. The success of our Air Force and our national security is directly related to the quality of the men and women who serve."

In addition to 46 active-duty Air Force officers, graduates of the 20th SAASS class included two Army officers, two Marine Corps officers, an Air Force Reserve officer, an Air National Guard officer and six international officers. This is the fifth year SAASS graduates have included international students.

The secretary told this year's 58 graduates to make their experience at SAASS count.

"Take this education, preparation and experience and do something great for our Air Force and for our country," he said. "Our Air Force is a world-class institution thanks to all of you. As its stewards, we are committed to ensuring that the United States Air Force continues to be the world's finest air force for years to come."

SAASS is a follow-on school for selected graduates of intermediate-level Department of Defense PME schools, aimed at creating strategists with a superior ability to develop, evaluate and employ airpower within the complex environment of modern war. Graduates receive a master of airpower art and science degree.