Air Force service song changed to use gender-neutral lyrics

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Air Force changed lyrics in its service anthem by dropping gender references that exclude women.

The change announced Thursday by the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. David Goldfein, is designed to make the service friendlier to women, The Gazette reports.

"Our song must reflect our history, the inspiring service and accomplishments of all who’ve served, and the rich diversity that makes today’s Air Force indisputably the strongest and most capable in the world," Goldfein wrote in a message to airmen, cadets and academy alumni.

The change originated when female Air Force Academy cadets asked Goldfein why the anthem's third verse hailed the bravery of men, but not women.

The third verse is meaningful to cadets at the academy near Colorado Springs, where it is sung after sports victories, but students took issue with the third line: "To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly."

In the new version, the line is changed to read, “To a friend we send a message of the brave who serve on high.”

Other gender references in the song remain, including “at 'em boys, give 'er the gun.”

"It's the right thing to do," said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the academy superintendent, who added that females are more than a demographic.

"They are among our top performers, vital to our success as an institution and as a military," Silveria said.

The "brother men" line was written into the song in 1938, when only men could fly Army Air Corps planes. Women joined the Air Corps in World War II, but were limited to flying planes from factories to forward bases.

The Air Force Academy, established in 1954, was open only to males until 1976.

Since 2003, the academy has had its first female commandant, dean and superintendent.

Women are seeking admittance in unprecedented numbers, making up 32% of the academy class of 2024 entering in June.