ACC Commander offers encouragement to newest AF aviators

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Gen. Mike Holmes, Commander of Air Combat Command, addressed Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 17-14 during their graduation ceremony here Sept. 8.

Holmes, a former 14th Operations Group Commander, spoke to the Air Force’s 22 newest aviators, one of which was his son, 2nd Lt. Wade Holmes.

Holmes told his son’s journey of how he got to become a pilot and said each graduate had their own story of how they got to where they are; he is proud of every single one of them and what they’ve accomplished so far.

“We’ve tested your skills, we’ve tested your confidence, we’ve tested your work ethic,” Holmes said. “You’ve completed the events, you passed the tests, you’ve exceeded the standards and you’re joining the ranks of professional military pilots.”

As the pilots get ready to move onto their advanced training in either the fighter-bomber or airlift-tanker, Holmes said just like any other profession, the Air Force has a code of ethics in which its Airmen are held accountable to: the Air Force core values.

The first value Holmes addressed was excellence. He let the pilots know they can no longer expect or accept anything less than the best from themselves and those they will serve with. He said they’ll be put in situations that will demand a high level of excellence.

Secondly, Holmes talked about integrity and the trust instilled in each of them that they’re always doing the right thing. Their word will mean a lot. When they say they’ve completed a job, others are going to trust that the objective was accomplished and done right.

The third Air Force core value, service before self. Holmes said there will be times when the pilots are asked to go on assignments and go to places they may not be fond of and this may be an inconvenience for them and their family, but it’s all to serve their country.

With core values in mind, Holmes spoke of the challenges that they will also face.

“I think the biggest challenge we encounter now in Air Combat Command is trying to balance the continuing requirements we have to support the war against violent extremist in the Middle East, with trying to make enough time to be able to train [and] to be ready to fight more capable adversaries in contested environments.”

Being able to overcome these challenges starts with training and preparing pilots. Being an instructor pilot himself, Holmes said he knows how important of a job it is and what’s demanded of the IPs.

“Being an instructor for two years I know how hard it is, I know what the tempo is, and as an Air Force leader I know that we’re asking you to produce more pilots without any more resources,” he said.

Holmes also said there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and the pilots and the Air Force “depend on the permanent party Airmen here to prepare them to do that job.… Everybody matters and every job plays a part in that.”

The special moment of this particular graduation ceremony for Holmes was being able to pin on his son’s wings.

“I think watching my son graduate, one of the meaningful parts about it, is that he chose this himself,” Holmes said.

He said after attending college his son wanted to pursue the career as an Air Force pilot. Along the way, though, he needed eye surgery and waited for approval to come in after having it done. He also had to find his own way in, as he didn’t commission through ROTC or the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“He found his way, his own way into the same career I did, so it’s pretty neat,” Homes said.

As the pilots get ready to begin their next chapter, Holmes said they should “trust the instruction and their instructors, and put their heart in it so that they’ll come out of their next training as successful as they did here.”