A Father’s Story

“Now We Can Say: We’ve Made It” A Father’s Story

“The pride we feel is not because of his graduation, but because of the whole journey” Behind every IAF Pilot Course 168 cadet that received his pilot wings this week, are the parents who experienced these challenging three years together with him. Yair, the father of a weapon systems officer who graduated this week, talks about three years of stress and his immense pride

Noa Fenigstein

This week, the cadets of IAF Pilot Course 168 will receive their wings and thus officially become part of the IAF aircrews. Over the past three years, the cadets have undergone intense experiences, difficult material and a lot of stress and uncertainty. The parents of the cadets, who were spared neither stress nor pride, have accompanied them every step of the way.

“I might choke from crying during the interview”, warns Yair, the father of G’, who graduated the course as a weapon systems officer. “This course entails many low moments and few peaks. Now that they are at a peak, as parents, we feel immense pride. I am thrilled and I stand proud of his journey and of the long journey we went on together”.

Yair became the father of a boy in the IAF Pilot Course more than three years ago. “You can say that the story began when G’ called to tell me that he passed the IAF Pilot Course tryouts and I screamed with joy”, he recalls. During the long course, the parents of the cadet learn to contain the moods of the cadets and to develop a support system for their children during this difficult process. “Pnina, G’s mother, was helping him recharge his batteries with food on Saturdays. I decided to take him from the base every Friday and bring him back every Saturday evening. It was through these small gestures that we were there for him the whole time, ready to listen”, Yair explains.

For Yair, the regular trips to the base became a type of barometer of what his son experienced. If Friday’s chat was fluent, lighthearted and filled with laughs then it was a sign that it was a good week. If there was silence, you knew it was a tough week. That’s how I learned a lot about the experiences he went through”, he adds. “Nonetheless, the way back to the base on Saturday evenings was always happy. In time, the course starts to become a second home and returning to it seems natural, they know they have to go back and to keep working. It becomes a way of life and you learn to accept it. It’s an acceptance that is the product of blood, sweat and tears”.

“Now We Can Say: We’ve Made It”
Very often, the challenges the cadets in the course face are completely foreign to their parents. “For our son who is in the IAF Pilot Course, our place as parents is to hug him and accommodate him”, explains Yair. “The language of the course and the unique challenges the cadets face is a whole other language I was unfamiliar with. So, I personally contacted the commanders from the IAF to develop the tools to listen and understand G’s new language. In time, I developed the patience to deal with the ongoing uncertainty”.

In the IAF Pilot Course, the stakes are high every step of the way and the parents experience, firsthand, the fear of rejection their children feel. In time, Yair made a new dictionary of the IAF Pilot Course language, in order to support G’. “The expression ‘it’ll be ok” doesn’t exist in their lexicon, because you can never be sure that it will be. You have to find other words”, he explains. “There are many moments of silence, knowing that there is nothing to say at the moment. Just bite your lips, carry on and be there for him”.

Over the past three years, the cadets have been through quite a journey. A sense of personal empowerment, the ability to think and group responsibility have all developed and created meaningful change in them.”The course changes everyone who passes it. For example, G’ was a professional soccer player and during his years as a soccer player he refused to take a penalty shot. Taking the penalty shot means taking responsibility, being in the spotlight and dealing with the prospect of failure”, recalls Yair. “One day, during the course he told me, ‘Dad, today I took a penalty shot’. I understood that that was the day he was ready to take responsibility and wasn’t afraid of failure. The pride we feel is not because of his graduation but because of the whole journey. Now we can say: we’ve made it”.