Airlift wing commander galvanizes graduates with speech

  • Published
  • By Airman Davis Donaldson
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Col. Stephen Hodge, 314th Airlift Wing commander, delivered an inspirational speech at the graduation ceremony for Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-04/05 at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, Dec. 13.

At the beginning of the speech, Hodge said he wanted the new aviators to discover their DNA.

“It’s what we are, it’s what we do,” Hodge said. “It’s how we transfer knowledge. I want you to leave here knowing a little more about what’s in your DNA.”

Hodge said a pilot’s DNA is composed of valiant actions of heroes past. Hodge told numerous stories about the history of Air Force pilots and what makes their heritage great. He encouraged the graduates to take a lesson away from each story.

The first person mentioned was Col. John Boyd, prior Air Force fighter pilot and military strategist.

According to Nellis AFB, John Boyd is most recognized for the Energy-maneuverability theory, which revolutionized the study of fighter-jet dogfighting. During the Cold War, the theory identified which Soviet-built MiGs had a dogfighting advantage over ally jets and vice-versa.

“While he may not have been overly embraced by some parts of our Air Force, the Marine Corps absolutely absorbed him in, from a point of view of how to fight better and how to fight smarter,” Hodge said. “The point to take from him is to be courageous, be attack-minded and fight for the knowledge that will make you better.”

Another Air Force hero Hodge referenced was Lt. Col. William Boyd Jr., a prior Air Force transport pilot. He has no relation to John Boyd, Hodge said.

“At a place called Kham Duc there’s people stranded, they’re about to be overrun and there was a stack of C-130s, trying to get vectors to get into this place,” Hodge said. “Bill Boyd Jr. hops in, drops to the ground, picks some people up, and in order to take off he had to maneuver around holes from mortars and try to avoid rockets from a rocket attack while doing it.”

Hodge said William Boyd ended up escaping freely and evacuated more than 100 troops and civilians. Boyd would later be recognized by receiving the Air Force Cross medal.

“Think through that level of courage you will need in your career and the way you work,” Hodge told the graduates.

Hodge told other stories aside from the first two. He said he kept telling stories because he wanted the new pilots to realize heroes are a part of their DNA, and they too can be heroes. Hodge also said pilots set an example and they will be looked up to once they reach their assignments.

Hodge concluded his speech by saying he was grateful for the opportunity to speak at the graduation of SUPT Class 20-04/05 and gave the graduates one last motivating remark.

“Train hard every day, for when you don’t, your adversary will,” he said. “Work hard, that’s what’s in your DNA. Follow your courage, follow your innovation, fight to the win, dominate your foes and protect your way of life. All those things are easy to say, but go live them, that is your challenge.”