Pleus inspires new aviators, displays F-35s Published Aug. 3, 2015 By Airman 1st Class Daniel Lile 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- A 1990-1991 undergraduate pilot training student returned to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, in an F-35A Lightning II July 23, 24 years after his graduation. Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing Commander and Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 15-12 graduation speaker, displayed the new fighter aircraft to Team BLAZE members and the Air Force's newest aviators. "Part of the reason I am here today, besides to be the graduation speaker Friday, is to show this aircraft off to the other lieutenants," Pleus said. "We are not too far away from lieutenants getting a chance to fly the F-35 coming right out of pilot training." Pleus spoke on the F-35's capabilities and the Air Force's need for its modern technology. He said the aircraft is amazing when people realize that F-15s and F-16s were built at the time when the world had flip phones, and now it has smart phones. "This is the kind of technology jump we have made since those fighters rolled off the assembly line 20 or 30 years ago," he said. During his speech at graduation July 24, Pleus continued to give advice to pilots who are currently in pilot training who aspire to fly the F-35. "What I would tell anyone getting ready to graduate pilot training right now, is to go ahead and go do whatever aircraft you are scheduled to go fly and do the best they can in it," Pleus said. "The F-35 is not going to be available for about a year and a half to lieutenants but once it is we are going to have a lot of opportunities for people to transfer to the F-35." Pleus urged the young new aviators to make the most of where they are right now in their careers. "The best assignment in the entire world is the one you currently have," he said. "Don't waste your time wishing you were someplace else, because the time there and the friends you will meet will go by in an instant." Air Force aviators are officers before they get to flight school, and Pleus continued to explain why. "Your wings are special, but there is a reason you get the commission before you get the wings," he said. "It's because you're officers first, and you have a sworn duty to take care of those enlisted folks. It is your solemn job to make sure they can produce the mission." Pleus went on to explain how well of a job the Air Force has done in maintaining air dominance. "Since 1953, we have provided air superiority as a United States Air Force to over seven million soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines that have deployed to really bad places in this world," Pleus said. "Tens of thousands of them have died but not one of them has died from an enemy aircraft. We are not about to change that record of success." Pleus concluded his graduation speech by speaking on the meaning of the Air Force silver wings. "The ultimate responsibility of a pilot is to fulfill the dreams of those who stood on the earth and looked skyward," he said. "For those who do not fly the sky is the limit, and for those who wear the silver wings of a United States Air Force pilot, the sky is home. Welcome home graduates, we are very proud of you."