America's Fortress: 50 years of defending the homeland

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station tunnel construction in 1962. April 20, 2016 marks a significant milestone in the history of national defense when Cheyenne Mountain celebrates its 50th anniversary. On that day in 1966, one of today’s modern engineering marvels was declared fully operational and began its diligent vigil protecting the nation. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station tunnel construction in 1962. April 20, 2016 marks a significant milestone in the history of national defense when Cheyenne Mountain celebrates its 50th anniversary. On that day in 1966, one of today’s modern engineering marvels was declared fully operational and began its diligent vigil protecting the nation. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station construction in 1963. April 20, 2016 marks a significant milestone in the history of national defense when Cheyenne Mountain celebrates its 50th anniversary. On that day in 1966, one of today’s modern engineering marvels was declared fully operational and began its diligent vigil protecting the nation. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station construction in 1963. April 20, 2016 marks a significant milestone in the history of national defense when Cheyenne Mountain celebrates its 50th anniversary. On that day in 1966, one of today’s modern engineering marvels was declared fully operational and began its diligent vigil protecting the nation. (courtesy photo)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. -- April 20 marks a significant milestone in the history of national defense when Cheyenne Mountain celebrates its 50th anniversary. On that day in 1966, one of today's modern engineering marvels was declared fully operational and began its diligent vigil protecting the nation.

But there is more to the history of "The Mountain" than its opening or this coming anniversary. What constitutes the true history of the facility is every day in between. It's each day over those 50 years that define its legacy, establish its current relevance and determine what the future holds.

One definition of history says it "examines and analyzes past events to determine what caused them." Another says it "provides perspective on present problems." In more simple terms neither the keystone, cornerstone nor capstone makes the wall; rather it is each individual brick that composes the structure.

In celebrating "America's Fortress" it is important to remember those bricks are people. History will not recall the people attending the opening ceremony, the cornerstone, nor those present for the 50th anniversary, the keystone event. The real history of Cheyenne Mountain consists of the many thousands of Americans and Canadians who have served inside.

It wasn't just President Kennedy as the commander in chief who made the history happen, it was the civil engineers who blasted and dug the facility out of the granite. Those who really made the 50 year mark possible for this wonder include the diesel technician who kept generators running for 38 years, the communication system engineer who operated the correlation systems for 32 years, as well as the first-term Airman defending the front portal as his first duty assignment.

There is more to history than the individual highlight moments like the start of the Gulf War or the morning of 9/11. It's about what happened along the way, what you did before and after these milestone events. History is about how your life helped to write the story and how it is helping dictate the future. It is the manner in which one served and what was accomplished every day in the 50 year span of Cheyenne Mountain's existence, or that of the 21st Space Wing, Air Force Space Command and NORAD/USNORTHCOM.

With the New Year upon us, let this landmark event - the half century anniversary of Cheyenne Mountain being fully operational - serve as a point of reflection. Whatever role you play in supporting the Air Force, a combatant command, the Department of Defense or your nation, you are creating history. Whether you serve in uniform, as a civilian or contractor, even family members, every day you are deciding how events today will be marked in the future.

One day, possibly 50 years down the road, you will be able to look back and proudly say you worked at Cheyenne Mountain or at Peterson Air Force Base. Approach every day understanding that what you accomplish will be another brick in the historical structure of our service, our community and our lives.

Be a fortress, leave your legacy, and be a part of history each and every day.