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TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., -- There was nothing like it east of the Great Wall of China. It was to have preserved the peace in Europe for decades. It failed by default!

More than 70 years ago France built the Maginot Line, an impenetrable system of forts and underground defenses designed to block the threat of invasion from a growingly aggressive Germany.

The 124-mile long Maginot Line was the defensive marvel of the 20th Century. Fortresses along the line were connected by massive tunnels, hardened to withstand heavy bombardment. At various points, large numbers of troops could be moved to the surface on huge elevators. Many believed the Maginot line to be the "ultimate defense."

It was never tested.

In 1940, Adolph Hitler's war machine stormed across the neutral Low Countries (Belgium. The Netherlands and Luxembourg), skirted the heavily fortified line and raced toward Paris and the Normandy Coast.

The French made a costly strategic error. By relying heavily on a static defensive system to protect them from the ravages of war, they inadvertently invited disaster. Although defensive systems have their role in national security, their shortcoming is they don't deter attack by putting the aggressor's homeland at risk.

The failure of the Maginot Line to preserve the peace demonstrated to the world that it is a nation's ability to strike back at the heart of the aggressor's base of operations that actually deters war. And that ability depends on the readiness and flexibility of its armed forces, especially its air arm.

Although America's current fight, the Global War on Terror, is against a much different adversary than we faced in World War II, the lesson is a true today as it was then. The readiness and flexibility of our Air Force and its ability to strike rapidly and with precision anywhere in the world remains America's front line of defense.

A 2007 Everett Group survey on public opinion of the military services revealed that the American public understands the important role of the Air Force in our national security. According to the poll, the majority of Americans believe the Air Force is not only accomplishing today's mission well, but is expected to be the most important branch of the military in any future conflicts.

The problem is that the American public also seems to think the Air Force can do this without the additional resources our senior leadership deems essential to meeting future challenges. The survey indicated that 65 percent of the public believe the other services have a higher priority for funding than the Air Force.

As members of the Air Force, it is important for each of us to use every opportunity to share with our civilian neighbors and friends the challenges we face as a service. We can do this by reinforcing our service's top priorities and relating how what we do fits into the Air Force mission and vision. These priorities are: (1.) Win today's fight, (2.) Take care of our people and (3.) Prepare for tomorrow's challenges.

There are no better spokespersons for the Air Force than the people who are fulfilling its mission every day. Educate yourself on the Air Force priorities and share your experience and knowledge with the community around you.