LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Officers from across the country join, for approximately 52 weeks, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in hopes to one day, wear the rated wings of a United States Air Force pilot.
While successfully graduating from the program is the ultimate goal for these students, a select few have the ability to get awarded for their hard work with one of the highest accolades Air Education and Training Command has to offer - Order of Daedalians AETC Commander’s Trophy.
The AETC Commander’s Trophy, presented by the host wing commander on behalf of the Order of Daedalians, is an award presented to a student from each graduating class who demonstrates outstanding performance with assigned check rides, daily flying operations, as well as maintains an exceptional commander’s ranking and academic score while completing specialized undergraduate pilot training.
Unlike many SUPT awards given during graduation, the student selected for this honor not only competes against those within an assigned class or respective base, but has the potential to compete against airmen from AETC’s remaining four pilot training programs for the Orville Wright Achievement Award.
For students like 1st Lt. Tyler Weaver, a native of Atlanta, GA and Class 19-17 graduate, receiving an award of such distinction based on merit and performance in a competitive environment is humbling; however, it did not come without planning.
“Preparation is key,” said Weaver. “My previous football coach from the academy use to say during practice, ‘you’re in charge of your own preparation.’ So I took that to heart.”
Pilot training is a competitive environment by nature, nevertheless, once a student finds a rhythm that works best for his or her learning style he or she can attain great success.
During each phase of pilot training, students are expected to study, work collaboratively, and seek mentorship from their instructors and senior rated commanders.
“Training was challenging,” said Weaver. “To make sure I was comfortable with the teachings, I would study, find a group environment to study in, and sometimes come in during the weekend.”
SUPT, over the course of 52 weeks, streamlines students through three phases - 1) Academics and preflight training; 2) Primary aircraft training and understanding of T-6 Maneuverability; 3) Advanced Aircraft Training within a T-38C Talon or T-1A Jayhawk.
Once graduation arrives, instructors and commanders at Laughlin are confident that each student is capable of being a combat-ready airman, leader, and pilot.
For those, who receive the commander’s trophy their ability to perform and adapt to a rapidly evolving environment goes without question. A level of confidence that Weaver credits to the time others spent in imparting their wisdom.
“Give thanks to those that invested in you,” said Weaver. “Inky Johnson once said, it’s not about you at the end of the day, it’s about the people who actually invested in you. This award is a ‘thank you’ to them and it shows that all of their hard work was fulfilled.”
In a given year, Laughlin graduates more than 300 student pilots and awards approximately 15-20 commander’s trophies.