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​Newly minted Air Force second lieutenants celebrate during their graduation at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017. The guest speaker during the ceremony was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford. Air Force photo by TSgt. Julius Delos Reyes.

—Amy McCullough

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford told the 979 graduates in the 2017 US Air Force Academy graduating class that their success will no longer be based solely on their individual merits, but what they are able to accomplish as a team, and flexibility will be key as they navigate today’s ever-changing security environment.

Dunford said when he entered the service in 1977, US marines were still outfitted with cold-weather gear from the Korean War and rifles and machine guns from Vietnam. Many of the tactics were remnants of the World War II era.

That’s no longer the case. "In the past four years, the world's greatest Air Force has tripled the number of remotely piloted aircraft," he added, and made similar advancements in space, command and control, cyber, stealth, and precision capabilities.

"The pace of change is not going to stop when you graduate," Dunford said. "By the time that you make major, the United States Air Force is going to look much different even than it does today."

He urged the graduates to lead from the front, saying they don’t have to look too far back in history to find regular airmen like them who have done heroic things in combat.

"What's going to distinguish you as a leader is not your ability to develop cyber tools, fly a joint strike fighter or maintain satellite constellation—we expect you to do all that. You're graduates of the United States Air Force Academy," Dunford said. "What is going to distinguish you as a leader is your personal example … Your ability to create an environment where those intangible qualities I spoke about —those qualities that are passed down from one generation of airmen to the next—your task is to build an environment where those qualities flourish."