Retired Brigadier General encourages SUPT Class graduates

Graduates break their first set of wings following Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class’s 19-17/18 graduation in the Kaye Auditorium June 28, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Breaking of the wings is a tradition for new pilots, as one half is kept by the pilot and the other by a loved one. The two halves are not brought together until the pilot’s death. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)
January 13, 2020

Retired Brig. Gen. John Cherrey, former Director of Intelligence, Operations and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, spoke at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class’s 19-17/18 graduation June 28, in the Kaye Auditorium.

Cherrey spoke about his last 30 years as a pilot and wanted the newest generation of aviators to understand how important their job is.

“What you do every day matters,” Cherrey said. “What you do matters because it’s in a special way that you make the mission work. Whatever it is that you are delivering or doing, it does matter and the takeoff and landings just assures that it’s done safely.”

He expanded upon the theme of what the pilots do matter through their training in SUPT.

“It starts out with the people that brought you this far,” Cherrey said. “The instructor pilots out there, they know it matters. They all came from different [airframes] and that’s why they’re so passionate about making sure that every landing matters.”

He continued with the professionalism and responsibility it takes to be able to be put on the spot with a situation and have the knowledge to quickly and accurately respond to each respective situation with ease.

Cherrey furthered the theme by speaking of the first assignment instructor pilots and how they impact the mission.

“To the soon-to-be FAIPS, I appreciate everything that you do, the work that you put in to make [the students] the greatest pilots in the world,” Cherrey said. “You’re going to teach the next generation of people, so I want to thank you in advance.”

He also spoke directly to the family members and friends of the graduates in attendance.

“Your support has been key to what they have been able to do,” Cherrey said. “I say that because they’re going to need you in the future. This is just the beginning of the training. There’s more to come, there’s more fun to follow. They’re going to need your help and support.”

Cherrey noted that holidays, birthdays and other events will be missed, and families can help pilots get through those difficult times. He stressed the importance of understanding that the pilots may come home at a moment’s notice and maybe it’s time to throw a party because they’re home.

“Put your arms around them and tell them that you love them and give them a place to stay as they’re in between assignments for a couple weeks,” Cherrey said. “Your help and support matters in their future success and it matters to our country because keeping the pilots on track is what this is all about. We have a small investment in them right now, but there is much more to come.”

He then left the graduates with words of advice and a congratulations.

“It’s so important today that we recognized the fact that this is a heavy burden that you’ve put upon yourself,” Cherrey said. “Nobody here was ‘voluntold’ to go be a pilot. This is what your nation has asked you to do and you’ve stepped up to do it.”

Cherry said the pilots could have chosen any other Air Force career, but they made the commitment to be a pilot.

“So on behalf of a grateful nation, this is a great day and you’re going to make a difference for all of us,” he said.