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McElhinney delivers final speech to SUPT Class 20-18/19

U.S. Air Force Col. Tom McElhinney III, 14th Operations Group commander, speaks at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18/19 graduation ceremony July 10, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. After graduating pilot training at Columbus AFB, pilots will now go to their specified base to start training on their assigned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

U.S. Air Force Col. Tom McElhinney III, 14th Operations Group commander, speaks at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18/19 graduation ceremony July 10, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. After graduating pilot training at Columbus AFB, pilots will now go to their specified base to start training on their assigned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

U.S. Air Force Col. Tom McElhinney III, 14th Operations Group commander, speaks at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18/19 graduation ceremony July 10, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. The 52-week pilot training program begins with a six-week preflight phase of academics and physiological training to prepare students for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

U.S. Air Force Col. Tom McElhinney III, 14th Operations Group commander, speaks at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18/19 graduation ceremony July 10, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. The 52-week pilot training program begins with a six-week preflight phase of academics and physiological training to prepare students for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Col. Tom McElhinney III, 14th Operations Group commander, spoke at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18/19 Graduation on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

Twenty-five student officers graduated from the SUPT class July 10 earning the right to be a part of the newest generation of military aviators.

McElhinney began by asking the class to look back to where they started and to remember all the things they learned in the pursuit to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

“Thank you for your perseverance, your patience, and your willingness to fight to get this point today,” said McElhinney.

Once McElhinney congratulated the students for getting this far in their careers, he turned to the parents and family members, who could not be at the graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thanking them for watching the graduation via Facebook livestream and for their patience with the graduation restrictions during the pandemic.

“It is tough allowing your kids to join the Air Force and even tougher in today’s environment with a global pandemic,” McElhinney said. “Maybe you as a parent served previously or maybe your child is the first to join the military, either way we want to thank you for getting your child to us today.”

Continuing, McElhinney gave some feedback to the new aviators.

“As I look around the room to the men and women who are joining our ranks as aviators I am amazed at the diversity and the talent we have,” McElhinney said. “You did a great job .”

McElhinney shared his experiences as a fighter pilot with the graduating class and addressed how he was proud to be a part of their training at Columbus AFB. Afterwards the class was awarded their certificates and wings signifying their accomplishments.

The final segment of the graduation ceremony ended with the graduating class breaking their wings into two pieces. The breaking of the wings is a tradition entailing pilots to break their first set of wings into two, never to be brought together again while the pilot is alive. One half is kept by the pilot while the other half is kept by the pilots loved one.

Some of the graduates were assigned to be First Assignment Instructor Pilots tasked with training future SUPT classes on Columbus AFB.

Now graduated, each pilot will depart to their new respective bases to fly aircraft such as the C-5 Galaxy, F-16 Fighting Falcon, HC-130J Combat King II, C-17 Globemaster III, U28A Pilatus PC-12, AC-130J Ghostrider, F-35 Lightening II, T-1 Jayhawk, KC-135 Stratotanker, T-6 Texan II, C-130J Super Hercules, E-3 Sentry, MC-130J Commando II, T-38 Talon and the B-1 Lancer.