HomeNewsArticle Display

Air University commander visits SUPT graduation

Graduates from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class 21-15, break their first pair of wings during the graduation ceremony, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Per tradition, pilots will keep one half of the broken wings and give the second half to a loved one. The two halves are never to be brought back together while the pilot is still alive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

Graduates from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class 21-15, break their first pair of wings during the graduation ceremony, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Per tradition, pilots will keep one half of the broken wings and give the second half to a loved one. The two halves are never to be brought back together while the pilot is still alive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University Commander and President, and Col. Seth Graham, 14th Flying Training Wing Commander, bow their heads in prayer during the graduation ceremony of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 21-15, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Hecker was commissioned in the Air Force in 1989 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has commanded at the squadron, group, wing and numbered Air Force levels prior to his current position. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University Commander and President, and Col. Seth Graham, 14th Flying Training Wing Commander, bow their heads in prayer during the graduation ceremony of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 21-15, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Hecker was commissioned in the Air Force in 1989 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has commanded at the squadron, group, wing and numbered Air Force levels prior to his current position. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University Commander and President, giving his speech during the graduation ceremony of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 21-15, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Graduates of SUPT have to complete a demanding 52-week course, comprised of academics, physiological training, and flight training in the T-6A Texan II, T-1A Jayhawk, and T-38C Talon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University Commander and President, giving his speech during the graduation ceremony of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 21-15, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Graduates of SUPT have to complete a demanding 52-week course, comprised of academics, physiological training, and flight training in the T-6A Texan II, T-1A Jayhawk, and T-38C Talon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Jacobsen)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University Commander and President, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, stopped in for the graduation ceremony of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 21-15, Sept. 10, 2021, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

Hecker facilitates full-spectrum education, research and outreach at every level through formal professional military education and the continuation of higher-level education. He leads the Intellectual and Leadership Center of the U.S. Air Force, graduating more than 50,000 resident and 120,000 non-resident officers, enlisted and civilian personnel each year. Additionally, he is responsible for officer commissioning through Officer Training School and the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Hecker took on the role of guest speaker at the ceremony but was also there in support of his high-school best-friend’s son who was in the graduating class. The graduating class took this opportunity to hear what Hecker had to say during his speech where he gave words of advice and encouragement.

“No matter how good you are, be humble in what you do,” said Hecker. “Make sure, whatever your job is, that you are approachable so that everybody out there can come talk to you. Being able to give advice and help solve people’s problems will make all the difference whether it has to deal with mental health, family issues or work related problems. Just make sure they can come to you in a time of need.”

Hecker is an experienced pilot with more than 3,500 hours flying various aircraft including the F-15C Eagle, F-22 Raptor, MQ-1B Predator, HH-60 Pave Hawk, C-208 Caravan and the T-38C Talon. He highlighted stories about his family and mentioned how important it is to keep your family close.

“The big thing is you always need to have both immediate and long range goals,” said Hecker. Those long range goals have to go beyond the Air Force and for me it was to still have my family with me. I want to still be close to them and have fun. So if the Air Force ever stops being fun, you will still have your family to lean on.”

After the ceremony had ended, Hecker met with the graduates to offer his congratulations.

“I really had a good time,” said Hecker. When I come to things like this it really helps re-energize my spirit’s to see the excitement on their faces and their families.”

Having receiving their diplomas and being congratulated for their hard work, the graduates will move onward to their respective bases and begin training on the aircraft designated to them. Some selected officers will stay at Columbus AFB, entrusted with the position of a First Assignment Instructor Pilot to continue the training of world-class aviators.