Columbus AFB celebrates 72nd AF birthday alongside 50 years of UPT

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Over 380 Airmen, community leaders and family members from the Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, and the local community area gathered in the Trotter Event Center to celebrate the Air Force’s 72nd birthday and the 50th anniversary of Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Retired Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, a prior Thunderbird, former Air Education and Training Command commander and Vietnam War veteran was the guest speaker for the evening.

“It’s been great to be back and have the chance to see some old friends I haven’t seen in a long, long time,” Newton said. “I wanted to say thank you to all of the great work you’re doing at the base and in this great city.”

Newton told the Air Force’s history using personal stories as his time as a military pilot, delivering powerful images of the first leaders of the Air Force fighting for their new branch of service. He described Airmen continuously making strides from World War I to Vietnam and explaining how since his arrival and retirement, the Air Force has only kept moving forward with an impressive pace.

“It takes a whole host of people to make great things happen, that’s just the American way of getting things done,” Newton said. “All of the young families and young faces on the base is a great sight to see and gives me great hope for the future.”

After Newton’s motivational words, Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, then took the podium for closing remarks

“As we celebrate our Air Force’s birthday it’s important to reflect on where we come from and who we are,” Weeks said. “I’m not sure we realize how much we’ve accomplished in the past 365 days … but over the last year we have cultivated the soil and planted the seeds of culture change. In the next year, and years to come, our team of Airmen and our community will continue to grow if we tend to those seeds planted in the Golden Triangle Region over 77 years ago.”

Both Newton and Weeks have been an integral part of the GTR area. The Airmen under each leader have been integrated with the Columbus community and that, Weeks said, is what makes the 14th FTW so special.

The 50th anniversary of UPT was also a highlight of the evening. The first UPT class, Class 71-01, entered training on July 17, 1969, with the class motto of “First of the Finest.” Class 71-01 led the way to modern pilot training on Columbus AFB.

A video showcasing Class 71-01 and the advancements of UPT was played for the audience along with a video showcasing a majority of the wing’s units, who make it possible to create pilots. The U.S. Air Force Band of the West played throughout dinner and also played and entertained following closing remarks.