I recently had the honor and pleasure of making comments at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Class 19-03 graduation ceremony at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas. As a former commander of this training program, I was really happy when Colonel “Dirk” Driggers, the current commander, called to invite me to send the graduates off to their new careers as pilots in their respective Air Forces. ENJJPT, as the program has been called for decades, trains new lieutenants and captains from the U.S. and many NATO nations for exciting flying positions primarily in combat-coded aircraft.
The graduates in class 19-03 will now move on to fly their country’s most advanced aircraft, including one graduate - Second Lieutenant Samer Sholi from the U.S. (pictured above) - who will soon begin his training in the 5th-Generation aircraft called the F-22 Raptor. I was honored to present Samer with the “Outstanding Graduate” award that night and to see the excitement on his face when they announced his selection for the impressive Raptor.
In my comments at the ceremony I focused on the key requirements of becoming effective leaders in their own air forces. Primarily, I emphasized the fact that each of these newly minted pilots would need character and grit to successfully overcome the challenges they’d face during training missions and, more importantly, during combat operations around the world. I also stressed the importance of becoming competent in every aspect of tactical operations in their aircraft plus the never-ending requirement to execute proper flying fundamentals in their high-performance jets, day and night, in good weather and bad. I also highlighted the power of a coalition since ENJJPT is an international training program that builds teamwork necessary in high-end combat operations.
Next, I took a few minutes to thank the new pilots’ spouses for their roles in the training program since I knew from my own experience that it took a team effort to get to this point, and would definitely require the spouses’ unwavering support as the couple moved ahead in the training program. I mentioned that they would be asked to sacrifice a lot during their time in the military and let them know everyone appreciated their role.
Finally - I told the parents and family of the graduates to be truly proud of their sons and daughters as they cleared this important first hurdle in their long trek to become integral members of the world’s best Air Forces. I mentioned there would be some ‘knowns’ as their sons and daughters continued learning how to fly and navigate advanced aircraft - but there would also be some ‘unknowns’ as the new pilots got briefed into classified programs, weapon systems and sensitive operations. Regardless of all this, the family members should simply be proud of their new pilots.
It was a privilege to be a part of this ceremony once again - a ceremony I’d done dozens of times before and would gladly attend again tonight. As Americans, we should be very thankful there are still young men and women willing to sign-up and serve in our Nation’s military. And, we should all be very proud of the role our NATO Air Forces play in the protection of our great nation.
Jake Polumbo is a Founding Partner and Senior Consultant in Two Blue Aces Consulting.
TBA provides executive-level services to our clients and focuses on their business needs for leadership training, team building and mentoring. With a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various industries, TBA specializes in strategic reviews, business plan development, and leadership/mentor training.