ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, OKla. --
The hats of graduates were not the only things in the air above the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) during graduation week. Two KC-46 Pegasus aircraft assigned to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron and their aircrews supported the USAFA class of 2020 by executing a flyover of the Academy April 17, 2020.
“Graduation is all about the graduating cadets; a testament to the long nights, hard work, and personal growth over the last four years and the commitment each new lieutenant is making to their nation,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Sobey, the assistant operations officer assigned to the 56th ARS and a 2009 graduate of USAFA. “To have even a small part in recognizing their accomplishments was an incredibly humbling opportunity, and I’m privileged to have had the chance to fly wing for the Mighty 97th’s salute to the class of 2020.”
There were a total of nine crew members onboard the two KC-46s, consisting of seven pilots and two boom operators. All seven of the pilots had one thing in common: they are all USAFA graduates.
“As a graduate of USAFA, it’s important to support the cadets that come after us and help recognize the hard work they’ve put into graduating from USAFA and commissioning as lieutenants in the Air Force,” said U.S Air Force Maj. Nicholas Dixon, the lead KC-46 pilot for the flyover, assigned to the 54th ARS. “This year is particularly challenging for cadets graduating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic…That made this flyover more important than ever.”
The USAFA class of 2020 graduated 967 new officers, all of which will be joining the ranks of the USAF and United States Space Force (USSF) in order to continue the fight to win the battle of air and space superiority. Though COVID-19 has affected operations across the nation, the 97th Air Mobility Wing is continuing on with its mission of training exceptional mobility Airmen.
“This demonstration of solidarity was all the more important during the challenges our nation is facing today,” said Sobey. “In a greater sense, too, it was a demonstration to everyone that even in these challenging times America’s Airmen will persevere and overcome, and that we will always stand ready to defend this great nation.”
The Academy is one of the only colleges in the country to host a modified ceremony for their graduating class and it took the coordination of Airmen from every level of the Air Force to make it successful.
Sobey says that during the flyover, he had his cadet jacket hanging on the back of his seat and has the following message of congratulations for the USAFA class of 2020.
“Our utmost congratulations to the men and women of the class of 2020 as they embark on their journeys in the United States Air Force and United States Space Force,” said Sobey. “Class of 2020, we look forward to having you on the team…work hard, be excellent, make good choices, and remember to always keep the “TARGET IN SIGHT!”