Wills gives pilots four pieces of advice

COLUMBUS,MISSISSIPPI -- The Director of Strategic Plans, Requirements and Programs, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, visited Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, to deliver the keynote address during Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 17-06’s graduation Mar. 10, 2017, at Kaye Auditorium.

Brig. Gen. Craig Wills supports the Commander Pacific Air Forces, by providing oversight of the strategy for operational plans, international relations, theater security cooperation and programming of $16.5 billion in Pacific Theater resources. He is also a Command Pilot with over 2,500 flight hours and 252 combat hours mainly in the F-15C/E Eagle.

The general began his speech by thanking those in attendance, including Col. James Fisher, 14th Flying Training Vice Wing Commander, for the privilege of being there, Team BLAZE for the work they do at Columbus AFB, the instructor pilots for their hard work, and the parents for supporting their sons and daughters through SUPT.

“I’d like to welcome the families and friends of our graduates,” Wills said. “All of you have traveled a long way to here at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, to honor these graduates. I’d like to just thank you for being here to show your love and appreciation.”

Wills then thanked the rest of Team BLAZE for supporting the mission to produce pilots. He talked about how each part of the base was important because without everyone else the planes won’t fly.
“This base is here for one reason, and that’s to train pilots,” Wills said.

Wills said if the maintainers don’t fix the aircraft, the pilots can’t fly. That’s an important lesson he learned pretty early in life and aviation career.

Wills told the graduates four things they should remember through their careers. The first is they should be very proud to be here. He explained it is a hard path to become a U.S. Air Force pilot and it is not for everyone.

The next thing he told them is to be humble. He said it takes 400 Airmen for one plane to fly.

The third thing was the graduates’ work is just beginning. He told them they will have to continue to better their skills as a pilot.
The final point he made was that the pilots are officers first. He said their bars (referring to their rank) go on their shoulders first, not their silver wings on their chest.

During his speech Wills singled out some of the graduates and gave them a summary of what they should expect with their new assignment. He gave examples such as a lieutenant whose next assignment is the F-15E.

“Flying alone at 300 feet at 500 knots, maybe a little bit of weather to make it a little harder, you are going to look up and see the shadows of giant mountains well above your airplane and it’s fantastic. Just at the right time you’re going to jack the nose up, light up the burners and when you get to the right altitude the world is going to get small,” Wills said. “You’re going to roll on your back. You’re going to pull back down and then you’re going to put the (targeting system) on and put some very specific warheads on some very specific foreheads so the U.S. ground troops can live to fight another day.”

Wills finished his speech by saying why the graduates are here.

“We have an Air Force to protect our nation and our way of life,” Wills said. “Today you become a pilot in the most combat capable, powerful fighting force the world has ever known and I think that is awesome.”