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New aviators graduate from SUPT, receive wings

The graduating class of 21-02 stands to break their silver wings in half Nov. 13, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base Miss. To graduate, students completed 52 weeks of pilot training with six-weeks of preflight academics and physiological training followed by primary training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

The graduating class of 21-02 stands to break their silver wings in half Nov. 13, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base Miss. To graduate, students completed 52 weeks of pilot training with six-weeks of preflight academics and physiological training followed by primary training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force and international student pilots from class 21-02 clap for one of their fellow classmates receiving a diploma Nov. 13, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base Miss. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions the graduation was live streamed to Facebook on the Columbus AFB page for viewers not in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force and international student pilots from class 21-02 clap for one of their fellow classmates receiving a diploma Nov. 13, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base Miss. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions the graduation was live streamed to Facebook on the Columbus AFB page for viewers not in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Leard, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander, speaks to the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class of 21-02 during their graduation ceremony Nov. 13, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. As commander, Leard is responsible for the formal training of all KC-46 Pegasus, C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker aircrews for active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units, as well as multiple partner air forces from across the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Leard, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander, speaks to the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class of 21-02 during their graduation ceremony Nov. 13, 2020, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. As commander, Leard is responsible for the formal training of all KC-46 Pegasus, C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker aircrews for active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units, as well as multiple partner air forces from across the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Twenty students from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, have officially graduated Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training and earned their first set of wings.

Receiving wings in the United States Air Force is an achievement that symbolizes the completion of training and solidifies the title of Pilot.

After receiving their diplomas and awards the newly appointed pilots in SUPT class 21-02 followed a tradition called the breaking of the wings, originating decades ago when the Army Air Corps first started issuing pilot wings to young graduating aviators.

As tradition has it, the pilot breaks their first set of wings into two parts, never to be worn. One half is to be kept by the pilot while the other half goes to the pilots loved one. The two halves should never be brought together while the pilot is alive. After death the two halves are once again united with the pilot to bring good luck in the next life.

“Even though we are the best trained pilots in the world, it never hurts to have a little luck on our side,” said Lt. Col. Courtland Stanley, 14th Student Squadron director of operations. “I am honored to be leading our newest pilots and continuing these traditions.”

Appearing at the graduation was guest speaker Col. Matthew Leard, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander, from Altus AFB who arrived to offer advice to the graduating class.

“One of the greatest pleasures and obligations of being a military officer is mentoring and providing developing junior officers,” Leard said. “We are all the product of the officers that came before us and took a personal interest in our development.”

Leard grew up as an Air Force brat often being around aircraft and looked up to the pilots that flew them. Now as a wing commander, with flying experience in various airframes, he leads a daily life of inspiring and developing the next generation of Airmen.

“Learn your trade, be an operational expert, but never forget you are an American first, an officer second and a pilot third,” Leard said. “The role you will perform for this nation is truly indispensable, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for fun. Relax every once in a while and remind yourself that you are a pilot in the greatest fighting force this world has ever known!”

Now graduated the class will continue onward to their respective bases and begin training on their designated aircraft. Selected students will stay at Columbus entrusted with the position of First Assignment Instructor Pilot in order to continue the training of world class aviators.