by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb
April 11, 2018
As Nowland talked to Class 18-04 he emphasized how important their service is to the Air Force and the United States and wants them to ensure they also provide a service to themselves by ensuring they remain adventurous and enjoy their time as an Air Force pilot.
“The Air Force is in an aircrew crisis,” Nowland said. “Think about how often you fly, think about where you go, it’s directly impacted what going on in the world, which means for you all who have earned your wings today ..., congratulations, you’ve earned a job for life.”
The pilot shortage has put stress on the Air Force, but Nowland acknowledged the importance of service beyond filling these shortages.
“For those of you who have just earned your wings, remember to fly, fight, win, and stay Air Force,” he said. “So parents I’m about to recruit you on that stay Air Force part of it. [Students] you just learned the fly part of it … but you got a lot of learning still to do. … Flying is one thing, but what we do is turn your wings into weapons. You need to learn how to fight.”
He told the newest aviators what they can expect at their first squadrons, and stressed the importance of learning how to fight and the lessons they will need to put into practice.
“You’re going to learn how to [fight] as you go to your next phase of training, your Replacement Training Unit(s),” Nowland said.
Then he spoke about winning and what it means to be an Air Force pilot, using his flying ability to adapt and overcome, flying, fighting and ultimately winning.
“Every one of us remembers our first operational squadron. That first squadron is where you’re going to learn how to win, that means taking your combat capability and doing it,” he said.
He then switched gears and explained to the audience some the reasons for why the new pilots decided to join the Air Force, but also recognized the reasons that will keep them in the Air Force. He noted to the families that they need to help keep these pilots involved, and driven, because the opportunities that will come across are the same opportunities that as Nowland recollected, kept him in.
“The demands on these pilots will be amazing,” Nowland said. “Last year we dropped 40,000 munitions. I visited an F-15E [Strike Eagle] squadron that dropped 5,000 bombs in six months. I have an A-10 [Thunderbolt II] squadron commander friend of mine who went out and his unit fired over 200,000 rounds of 30mm ammunition. I have F-16 [Fighting Falcon] guys who were in Afghanistan and in Syria who dropped equal number of ordinance. They turned their wings into weapons, turned it into defeating the enemies of the United States and the enemies of our allies.”
He reminded the pilots that constant vigilance is important now more than ever, and they will help project the Air Force’s power across the globe and not only with weaponized airpower. He spoke about every aircraft the students in front of him had been assigned to.
Nowland gave every pilot statistics on the aircraft they would be learning how to fly, and he recognized the impact that each of them had together. He spoke about the refueling airframes, cargo airframes, bombers, fighters and the remotely piloted aircraft.
“Everybody in this team is supporting one another,” Nowland said. “Every one of you is going to contribute. So fly, you’ve done that; fight, you’re about to do that; and win, you’re going to do it for the United States.”
Nowland referred to the families once again, telling them that none of this comes without a cost.
Joining the military used to be called joining the service, he said. By putting a hand up and stating one is willing to support and defend the Constitution, they separate themselves from the others. The families are with those service members from start to finish.
“The ops tempo is hard, it’s going to require service and it’s going to require sacrifice,” Nowland said. “But the value proposition is: What you do is amazing.”
He encouraged family to visit as much as they can, to be engaged in the graduates careers, to support them during their adventure.
“You need to reinforce that their service is valued, that their service is important, and it’s just not their service, it’s the family’s service,” he said.
Lastly Nowland touched on the importance of loving what one does. He explained his constant awe of being a pilot.
He remembered back to his time as an instructor pilot and how waking up before sunrise and flying as the sun peaks over the tree line was amazing every time he saw it, because he recognized the exclusivity of the job and how not many others have the opportunities to say they are an Air Force pilot.
“You’re going to stay with this because you’re going to do amazing things, with amazing people, with amazing technology,” Nowland said. “You’ve taken flying into a combat capability and very few people can do that. It defends our way of life and that’s why it’s called service.”