Columbus students complete training; become AF pilots Published Jan. 19, 2021 By A1C Jessica Haynie 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – Fifteen student from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 21-04, have officially graduated, earning their pilot wings on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Student pilots must go through a rigorous 52-week training program, operating trainer aircraft such as the T-6 Texan II, before claiming the title of U.S. Air Force pilot. These brand new pilots were accompanied on graduation day by guest speaker U.S. Air Force Col. James Akers, 1st Operations Group commander at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Akers not only offered his words of wisdom to the fresh graduates, but gave the base an extra treat with an F-22 Raptor Airpower Demo show shortly after, to all of Columbus AFB. “When I was sitting in those seats, I did not realize that operators like yourselves were going to have a tactical, operational and strategic impact on the World,” said Akers. “I am here to say you will and it is an exciting time for all of you.” As a first lieutenant, a mere 3 years after graduation, Akers was called to defend the air space of the western United States after news of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the country reached his unit. “Each one of you may not follow in the same path as mine,” said Akers as he looked out at the young pilots. “But when the Nation calls, you will generate your own story and experiences.” Akers was sure to remind the Air Force’s newest aviators that all aircrafts play an important role in the mission. He shared his story of the tanker support to the F-22 International Dateline incident that happened in 2007. Informing the group that a KC-10 saved six F-22’s and brought them back safely to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. “As U.S. Air Force pilots, you all are a part of what’s next,” said Akers. “For when the nation calls, and it will, you are the warriors America will depend on going into the future.” The newly graduated aviators will embark on their next journey, continuing onward to their assigned bases and starting training on their designated aircraft.