IAF welcomes another class of pilots, with women making up a record number of graduates
Date: 30/12/2011, 3:24 PM Author: Adam May
From the runway, a rainbow of families and friends – all proudly sporting colorful T-shirts honoring their new pilots – eagerly awaited the guests of honor. As all the cadets of the course began to march in, recent graduates included, more than a few ponytails stood out in the crowd.
It has been 60 years since Yael Rom became the first woman to complete IAF flight training. Since 1995, women have been welcome to apply to the famously rigorous IAF flight training course and have been joining the flight ranks in greater and greater numbers. This year, a record number of five female pilots will join the 22 female pilots already serving in the IAF.
The issue of women’s rights in Israel has been brought into focus by a number of recent events. Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed the issue in his speech to the new female pilots. “You are the answer to anyone who tries to exclude women,” he told them. “You make the entire country stronger.”
“In a country where women can sit in the pilot seat, they should be able to sit anywhere they want,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There is no greater proof against the absurdity of gender inequality than you standing here in from of me.”
A well-earned celebration
The dusky skies over Hatzerim airbase were filled with the roars of jets, competing with the proud parents and emotional cadets mouthing the national anthem.
The atmosphere was triumphant as relieved graduates enjoyed the spectacular ceremony – an honor well-earned after completing the world’s most grueling pilot course.
Men and women alike must complete a three-year course, with a very small portion of cadets finding themselves at the graduation ceremony. The course includes intensive combat officer training and acquiring a bachelor’s degree, along with extensive flight training.
“You, as parents, should be proud of raising men and women like these, who will go on to do amazing things” Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told the parents.
The ceremony featured dazzling displays by both the IAF’s antique aircraft and modern marvels.
Dealing with threats abroad
Both Lt. Gen. Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed to the new pilots how important their new role had become in today’s age. The two emphasized the foreign threats that have become apparent.
“You are the steel fingertips of Israel’s long reach,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said. “You protect our nation from those wishing it harm.”
Lt. Gen. Gantz also spoke of the importance of the IAF’s far-reaching operational range. “The long arm of the IDF (Zahal) is capable of any mission, any place, any time,” said Lt. Gen. Gantz. “We cannot be a defensive army only, we must develop means of responding to threats far and deep within an enemy country, to reach anywhere where our enemies are acting against us. You are, without question, a crucial part of Israel’s defensive wall.”
The IAF has played a major role in every conflict since Israel’s founding, and continues to be one of the most prestigious and active branches of the IDF (Zahal).