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Graduating the future of flight: Class 24-07

  • Published
  • By 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
  • 47th Flying Training Wing

Nineteen U.S. Air Force officers earned the coveted silver wings as a symbol of their hard work and training during a graduation ceremony held March 22, 2024.

Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) is a training program that helps prepare prospective military pilots. Upon completion of the program, graduates earn their silver wings as Air Force aviators.

The guest speaker at the Class 24-07 graduation ceremony was Lt. Col. Imran Khan, 85th Flying Training Squadron commander.

“The first badge of the military aviator was instituted on May 27, 1913. It was awarded to graduates of Army Air Corps Pilot Training as members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps,” said Khan.

“Beginning in World War II, the badges evolved into the version we use today; issued in three degrees: Pilot, Senior Pilot, and Command Pilot. A polished, silver colored version of these badges are the same that will be awarded to the graduates this morning.”

The following aviators received their pilot wings during the ceremony; 
1st Lt. Rye Julson

1st Lt. Jonathan Junco

1st Lt. Carter Walker

2nd Lt. Jed Bilibei

2nd Lt. Drew Buerck

2nd Lt. Jacob Ellison

2nd Lt. Elijah French

2nd Lt. Andrew Garofalo

2nd Lt. Frederick Heidt

2nd Lt. Emily Huber

2nd Lt. George Keil

2nd Lt. Jackson Kenney

2nd Lt. Jared Kohntopp

2nd Lt. John Legg

2nd Lt. Hunter Mason

2nd Lt. Caleb Price

2nd Lt. Henry Scott

2nd Lt. Caleb Wong

2nd Lt. Loren Young

In addition to the graduation ceremony, a special emphasis was placed on recognizing the sacrifices and contributions of military spouses. It served as a reminder that while the graduates were the ones receiving their wings, their achievements were also a testament to the love, sacrifice and constant support of their spouses, who serve alongside them in spirit and strength.

“Military spouses are often said to ‘live in the shadows’,” said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Music, 47th Student Squadron commander. “Although not in uniform, spouses have an essential role to play and are the backbone of the military community. Today is about your pilots earning their wings, but also a recognition of you. Your love, sacrifice and ad nauseam quizzing of bold face procedures has not gone unnoticed.”

The ceremony continued with the breaking of the wings, a tradition symbolizing the start of a new journey for the novice pilots. According to this tradition, the first pair of wings a pilot receives should never be worn. Instead, the wings are broken into two halves to invite good fortune through their aviation career. One half is kept by the pilot, while the other is given to a significant person in their life. To preserve that good luck, those two halves are said to only be brought together again in the next life.

The event culminated in the pinning of the wings, where friends and family members affix a pair of silver wings onto the graduates’ uniforms. This gesture signifies the official transition of the students into winged aviators, fully prepared to embrace the forthcoming roles within the United States Air Force.