Aug. 14, 2006
Boyd to receive national defense honor posthumously
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Officials at the United States Air Force Academy will present the 2004 Thomas D. White National Defense Award posthumously to Col. John R. Boyd during an awards ceremony here August 16 at noon.
Accepting the award on behalf of Col. Boyd will be his son, John, and daughter, Mary Ellen Boyd.
A legendary fighter pilot, Col. Boyd was known as "Forty-Second Boyd" because of his offer to pay $20 to any opponent who could evade him for more than 40 seconds in air-to-air maneuvers; none ever did.
In 1962, after receiving a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech University, he moved to Eglin Air Force Base as an engineer where he developed his concept of Energy Maneuverability (E-M). In 1965, he was awarded the Air Force Systems Command Scientific Achievement Award for work on Energy Maneuverability. Boyd transformed the way military aircraft, in particular the F-15 and F-16, deemed by many to be the most successful fighter aircraft ever built, were designed through application of his innovative E-M theory.
Following an often turbulent military career, Boyd served as an unpaid Pentagon consultant where he worked on a new and radical theory of conflict that, at the time, was mostly ignored but now is acclaimed as the most influential thinking about conflict since Sun-Tzu. His "OODA Loop" theory described the process by which an individual or organization reacts to an event. In a briefing entitled "Patterns of Conflict," delivered over the years to hundreds of military and civilian officials, he broke decision-making into a continuous four-step cycle - observe, orient, decide, act - and demonstrated how the successful commander wins by "getting inside the loop' to disrupt and ultimately paralyze his opponent. The OODA Loop is now used in business and industry as a standard description of decision-making cycles.
A man of strong principles, John Boyd spent his life in selfless service to his country. He was not only a fearless fighter pilot with a laser sharp mind, but a man of rare moral courage. The mission of providing America with the best airplane came first, followed closely by his love for the troops and concern for their welfare. He is remembered by all he touched over the last half century as not only the original Top Gun, but a man who always had the courage to stand tall and tell it like it is.
Established March 1, 1962, by the Academy, the Thomas D. White Award is presented annually to a U.S. citizen who has contributed significantly to the national defense of the United States. The Award is named in honor of General White, who retired June 30, 1961, after 41 years of distinguished military service. He was the Air Force Chief of Staff during the formative years of the Academy, including its establishment at its present site, and during its development as a national institution.
Due to an administrative delay, the 2004 award is being presented at this time.