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About 800 military personnel from Little Rock Air Force Base turned out in full dress uniform the night of Sept. 16 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Air Force becoming its own military branch. The formal affair for the easy-going bunch was presented by the Little Rock AFB Community Council with the theme "Breaking Barriers Since 1947."

A VIP reception for certain officers and their guests preceded the gala. Dinner tables were marked with the years covering the Air Force's 70-year span.

Guest speaker was Maj. Gen. Mark H. Berry of Ozark and Little Rock, a member of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Cabinet and commander of the Arkansas Air and Army National Guard. He has nearly 10,000 airmen, soldiers and state employees under his charge.

The program recognized the many firsts by the men and women of the Air Force: the first female Thunderbird pilot, the first black woman in the Air Force to be promoted to the rank of colonel and the first test pilot to break the sound barrier (legendary retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager).

Little Rock Air Force Base opened in October 1955 and at that time was only the third Air Force base that had not previously been an Army base. One timely fact: The U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division sent by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower to escort the first black students into the all-white Central High School in September 1957 landed at the local base.

The program was replete with all the pomp and circumstance one would expect from a military ball, including the singing of "The U.S. Air Force" (aka "Wild Blue Yonder") song. The attendees and their significant others closed out the evening with a dance.

Gallery: 2017 Air Force Ball

-- Story and photos by

Cyd King

High Profile on 09/24/2017

Print Headline: Air Force marks its 70 years as military branch with gala

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