The Air Force is rolling out the final tweaks to its official song to remove the last references to just men, and make it more inclusive of the women in the service.
In an interview May 19, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said that the line “at ‘em boys, give ‘er the gun” in the first verse of the U.S. Air Force Song will be changed to “at ‘em now, give ‘em the gun.”
And in a release Friday, the Air Force outlined additional changes to the well-known song, which begins “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.” The second verse will drop the gender-specific lines “Hands of men blasted the world asunder” and “Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer” to “Valiant hands” and “Boundless souls.”
The final verse will also change from “Flying men, guarding the nation’s border” to “Fly to fight,” the release said.
Gen. Goldfein knows the change will be controversial, but said it's "about adding to, not subtracting from, who we are."
The Air Force said in the release that removing the male-only references was necessary “to capture the distinguished service, the high standards, and central role that women play in every facet of the modern United States Air Force.”
Goldfein acknowledged in the interview that most of the last changes won’t be noticed by many.
“Quite frankly, nobody really knows the second verse or ever sings it,” Goldfein said. “But it is important that we complete the task we started at the academy and update our Air Force Song to celebrate all of us that are members of the profession of arms.”
The Air Force previously changed the song’s third verse, which is also the Air Force Academy’s song and is sung after athletic events, to remove references to “brother men who fly” and “A toast to the host of the men who boast."
At the time, Goldfein said that he attended a women’s volleyball tournament at the Pentagon last year that included the academy’s team. And as they sang the academy’s alma mater, with its references to only men, Goldfein said it was apparent the song left the female cadets out. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy had already updated their songs more than a decade ago.