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Third generation pilot graduates at CAFB

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- When one SUPT Class 17-10 graduate pins on his Air Force wings, June 9, 2017, he will become the third generation of Air Force fighter pilots.

Second Lt. Curtis Hunter Hughes is following in the footsteps of his father, and his grandfather before him.

Hunter grew up in Denver, Colorado, and graduated from Colorado State University in 2013.

“I grew up in an Air Force environment,” Hunter said. “It was like a big family of friends, many who I still know today. I felt like it was destiny to do the same thing my father and grandfather did.”

From a young age, Hunter was exposed to the Air Force and the fighter community through his father and earned his private pilot’s license when he was 17.

“I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I knew I wanted to fly fighters,” Hunter said. “I wanted to be a part of the fraternity that is the fighter squadron family.”

After much searching, he finally found a unit to call home. Hunter joined the 190th Fighter Squadron of the Idaho Air National Guard in Boise, Idaho, in 2015, earning his Air Force commission at Officer Training School in 2016.

Hunter will also be the second generation to graduate from pilot training at Columbus

“Both of these men are my heroes,” Hunter said. “They truly embody the spirit of the Air Force-integrity, service and excellence. I’m lucky to have them and without them, I would not be here.”

Hunter’s father, retired Lt. Col. Curtis “Custis” Hughes, attended Benjamin Franklin Sr. High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, and graduated from the University of Colorado in 1984.

Custis joined the 122nd Fighter Squadron of the Louisiana Air National Guard and was commissioned at the Academy of Military Science in 2005, graduating from UPT at Columbus in Class 86-07.

He flew the F-15A with the Louisiana ANG from 1987 - 1990 then attended F-16 RTU at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, where he flew the F-16C with the 302nd Fighter Squadron, U.S. Air Foorce Reserves 1990 - 1992.

Later he joined the 120th Fighter Squadron, Colorado ANG “Redeyes” from 1992 - 2006, commanding the squadron from 2002 - 2004, including combat deployments in OIF I and OIF II.

Hunter’s grandfather, retired Maj. Ernest Curtis "Curt" Hughes, enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1959 and then attended the University of Oklahoma. Curt was commissioned through OTS in 1964 and went on to pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, Class 66D.

Curt was first assigned as a T-37 Instructor at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, 3553rd Pilot Training Squadron, 1966 - 1968 and as a T-37 Standards and Evaluations Check Pilot and Instructor Pilot at Moody AFB from 1968-1969.

He flew fighters in the Air National Guard, first with the 187th Fighter Wing Alabama ANG, flying the RF-84 and RF-4C, 1970 - 1972 and later with the 159th Fighter Group Louisiana ANG, flying the F-100D, 1972 - 1980.

Curt retired as a Delta Air Lines B-767 Captain in 1999.

At graduation, Hunter’s wings will be the ones originally earned by his grandfather, given to his father and now passed to him.

Hunter will attend the A-10 Replacement Training Unit with the 47th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in the fall of 2017 before returning to his unit in Boise in 2018.

“People ask, ‘Can anyone be a pilot?’ and the answer is yes,” Hunter said. “It’s not just the smartest people who can become pilots, it’s the people who want to be pilots more than anyone else.”

(Editor’s note: This article was written with contributions by Hunter’s father, retired Lt. Col. Curtis “Custis” Hughes.)