26.06.2014 Noa Fenigstein – iaf.org.il
The graduates of IAF Pilot Course 168 officially became aircrew members. On the graduation stage at the Hatzerim airbase, in front of their loved ones, the graduates received their pilot wings, for which they worked hard over the past three years
With the sun beating down at Hatzerim airbase, wearing their blue commissioned officer uniforms for the first time, the graduates of IAF Pilot Course 168 stood on the graduation stage today and received their pilot wings one by one. After three years of uncompromising expectations, the cadets burst with pride in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, IAF Commander Major General Amir Eshel, as well as their family and friends and became new aircrew members of the IDF and the IAF.
Upon receiving their pilot wings, the graduates ceased to be cadets and officially became part of the Aerial Combat Division of the IDF. Each and every one of them will be sent to the IAF's operational squadrons and will execute complex, strategic missions for the security of the state. Graduates, starting tomorrow, you will part of a leading air force in the world: the IAF, a deterring, decisive and defensive arm of the State of Israel", said the IAF Commander during the ceremony. "At this very moment, soldiers from the IAF, both in the air and on the ground, are joining the effort to locate the kidnapped boys. The IAF's activities over the last week have made clear that the Middle East remains a dangerous place that the IAF plays a central role on all fronts and against all threats".
For the first time ever, the IAF Pilot Wings Presentation Ceremony did not include the traditional airshow, but rather a modest, symbolic flyover because of cutbacks in resources.
This year's ceremony marks a decade since the inception of the F-16I Division. In 2004, the first F-16I planes landed at the southern airbase in Ramon and began a new era in the IAF. Since their arrival, the jet-fughters have become the backbone of the Combat Division, with four operational squadrons. They have flown to countless areas in thousands of flights on a wide variety of missions in order to preserve the security of the State of Israel and to protect its citizens.
"From now on, you will spread your wings and take on your responsibilities. From the heart of the country to regions far beyond its borders, from the ground to the highest limits", said IAF Commander, Major General Amir Eshel. "We trust you and expect you to perform your missions and hope that you return safe and sound".