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News > Surgeon General gives advice to SUPT graduates
Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas Travis, Air Force Surgeon General spoke to the members of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-13 during their graduation Aug. 16 in the Kaye Auditorium. Travis began his career as a F-4 pilot who later transitioned into a pilot physician flying the F-15 and F-16 for more than 1,800 combined flying hours. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Charles Dickens)
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Surgeon General gives advice to SUPT graduates

Posted 8/22/2013   Updated 8/22/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Charles Dickens
14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

8/22/2013 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The Air Force Surgeon General gave the Air Force's newest aviators some career advice during the graduation address of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-13 on Columbus Air Force Base Aug. 16.

Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas Travis, a command pilot and chief flight surgeon with more than 1,800 hours flown, encouraged the pilots to keep up with their classmates through the years, make the best of all opportunities and always step up to leadership challenges.

The general also said that the friends made during pilot training are similar to friends made during other major milestones throughout life such as graduating high school or college, and that the graduation of SUPT is just one of the first opportunities to make great Air Force friends.

"The folks you've just been through 54 tough weeks with will become life-long friends if you let them be," said Travis. "As you get older and progress further along in your career, these old friends will mean more and more to you, just don't lose them."

Travis told the class that although he graduated from pilot training 35 years ago, he still keeps in touch with several of the friends he made during the training and that with the social media available now there is no excuse to let them fall to the wayside.

The general continued by telling the class that he received some of the best leadership lessons through personal experiences, that he encourages everyone to read biographies because a lot can be learned from people who have experienced tough times and to always keep options open.

"You're at the beginning of what I call a tremendous career opportunity," said Travis, who transitioned to a pilot physician after 10 years as an Air Force pilot. "I say opportunity because not every one of you will make this your career. For those of you who do make it a career, and I hope every one of you do, not every one of you will see the service or have the experiences that I have, but I hope that you do."

With all of the experience in assignments that were not necessarily what he wanted, Travis learned the importance of tunnel vision when it comes to jobs in the Air Force.

"I had two assignments in a row that I wouldn't have chosen myself, that were what the Air Force asked me to do, and it turns out the Air Force is a much better designer of a career than I was; that's a lesson," said Travis. "Turn a job into the best thing that's ever happened to you, take it with energy; I don't care what the job is, turn it into your own-- excel at it and good things will happen. I've had a lot of great jobs, even the one I have now, I love what I do and I'm proud to put on the uniform every day, and I'm going to miss it when I'm done."

Travis advised the new aviators to concentrate on what is currently at hand and to do it well. He also said that as the pilots continue to do well they will be given opportunities to lead and it would behoove them to capitalize on those chances.

"Step up at every level you're given; you really just have to do that," said Travis. "It's not because you're trying to advance yourself or advance your career. I know people like that and they're the most miserable people in the world; do it because you know you're the best person to take on that responsibility, lead others and get your job done."

As he closed the speech, the general informed Class 13-13 that he had spoken with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh III, and Welsh had prepared a special note just for their graduation.

"Dear UPT graduates, congratulations, you're the newest pilots in the world's finest Air Force. This is both an honor and a responsibility. You stand on the shoulders of heroes, people like Col. George 'Bud' Day who passed recently. Follow his example, live up to his standards, do this and we will remain the world's greatest Air Force. Thank you for what you do, who you are, and what you stand for-- it's an honor to serve with you. Air Power, bring it."

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