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14th FTW exemplifies resiliency amid pandemic, graduates SUPT students

Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-10/11. (Courtesy graphic)

Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-10/11. (Courtesy graphic)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Although nearly all base outreach events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 14th Flying Training Wing was still able to find a way to recognize the Air Force’s newest pilots during a graduation ceremony here March 27.

The ceremony recognized graduates of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-10/11, and was conducted in accordance with safety and health guidelines from the Defense Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since friends and families of the graduates were unable to attend, they were invited to watch the ceremony via a Facebook live stream.

Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th FTW commander, spoke to the graduates before giving them their silver wings and graduation certificates.

Weeks first thanked family and friends for watching the ceremony and aiding the aviators throughout their training.

“I am sincerely appreciative for all of the friends, family and mentors who have been supportive along this journey,” Weeks said. “While they may not be here in person today, I want to thank the families and friends for always being behind us 100%. In light of the global pandemic, we are continuing to graduate the world’s most advanced generation of pilots.”

Weeks said during atypical times, aviators must continue to remain resilient and answer the nation’s call. She said in several months, the pilots will play a significant role in the nation’s defense.

“In about six to nine short months you will be defending our borders, projecting power, or transporting vital personnel and equipment to the next fight,” she said.

During her speech, Weeks read a letter for the pilots written by Brig. Gen. Mark Weber, Montana Air National Guard chief of staff. She said the letter was written as a form of encouragement for the graduates because no guest speaker could attend.

Weeks read the letter aloud.

“Congratulations on today’s milestone,” the letter read. “Earning the wings of your Air Force is a culmination of a yearlong training program, designed to make you a key part of your greatest Air Force. You have committed countless hours of study and flight training to bring you to this moment.”

Weber wrote in the letter that although Airmen are facing a difficult period, the Air Force has and will continue to train the pilots to the best of their ability.

The graduation marked two things for the pilots’ time in service, he wrote in his letter.

“Today not only marked a significant milestone in your professional development, it also marks the beginning of the many contributions you will deliver to the operational Air Force,” Weber wrote. “You will be challenged to continue your professional development, to accept new roles and leadership positions and one day train the next generation. Welcome to the Air Force.”

After reading the letter, Weeks expressed her gratitude toward the graduates for their future service.

“We thank you for your tireless efforts and offer support for the trying times that will inevitably cross your paths,” Weeks said. “You’ve donned the cloak of our nation and answered a greater calling. I, along with all of the leadership here at Columbus Air Force Base, salute each and every one of you.”

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