Photo: Israel Air Force
The pilots were honored in a ceremony attended by Israel’s top military and state leaders, following their successful completion of 3 years of rigorous training
Date: 27/06/2013, 8:06 PM Author: Florit Shoihet and IDF (Zahal) Website
The newest pilots of the Israel Air Force received their wings today (Thursday, June 27), in a ceremony marking the conclusion of three years of rigorous training. The ceremony was attended by President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel.
Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz discussed the regional threats facing Israel. “In today’s strategic playing field, we face challenges in air, sea and land, as well as in different ranges – more than ever before,” he said. “If we look around, we’ll see the front is fragile and unstable, from south to north. Syria continues to experience bloodshed, while Nasrallah’s influence continues to grow in Lebanon. In today’s reality, the IDF (Zahal) must stand unified and prepared.”
Addressing the new pilots, the Air Force commander emphasized the exclusive and rigorous nature of the flight training program. “Graduates of the 166th Flight Academy course, the three-year journey arrives at an end today,” he said. “You were selected, from among the masses, for one of the most demanding training courses in the IDF (Zahal). You acquired flying skills in the wonderful and three-dimensional world. You demonstrated great spirit and determination; a solid foundation for aerial fighters; courage, with a moral strength and intellectual might.”
Maj. Gen. Eshel also focused on the importance of the IAF in maintaining Israeli security and the pilots’ qualifications for playing such a crucial role. “You have become mature in your approach and considerate in your responses, as is demanded from those who will operate the most lethal force of the State of Israel,” he said. “You were found worthy of flying the vehicles, rare in number and enormous in their significance, for the security of Israel.”
President Shimon Peres addressed the new pilots, commending them on their accomplishments. “For the past 50 years, the [Israel] Air Force has been the best air force in the world. As you throw your hats into the air, you will become the young guard, the guard of this force’s future,” he told them.
Expressing his appreciation to the graduates’ parents for educating their children in a way that led them to become pilots, the president singled one soldier out for a special mention: “Lt. Ben. He studied in a yeshiva in New Jersey, and his family, which educated him, followed him in immigrating to Israel. I hope there are more like you in Israel,” he said emotionally.
The IAF pilot training course is the longest training program in the IDF (Zahal). Each of the pilots who graduated today completed three years of rigorous training, including officer training and academic training leading to a bachelor’s degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
This graduation ceremony marked 40 years since the Yom Kippur War.