”If called to act, the thunder of our engines and the strength of our arms will be felt among our enemies wherever they are, near and far.”
The graduates of the Israel Air Force’s 164th pilots course celebrate with pride.
The Israel Air Force today is deadlier than ever before, Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel told graduates of the Israel Defense Forces’s 164th pilots course on Thursday.
During a commencement ceremony marked by excitement and tears at the Hatzerim airbase, the graduates received their wings to the applause of family and friends.
Addressing the graduates, Eshel said that “the Air Force today is more varied in its capabilities to attack and defend, is more lethal, and contains a longer arm capable of continuously confronting threats. If called to act, the thunder of our engines and the strength of our arms will be felt among our enemies wherever they are, near and far.”
Standing out among the nearly all-male graduates were two women graduates — one transport navigator and one combat navigator — who have now joined 27 other women who have successfully completed the pilot’s course in the past. In the previous graduating class, five women donned the coveted pilot’s wings.
Lieutenant Amit, a combat navigator who was the most outstanding graduate of his class, was awarded his pilot’s wings by President Shimon Peres. He received a standing ovation that included the children he had mentored at the Ramat Hadassah Youth Village in Kiryat Tivon.
“When you don the wings on your uniforms, all of our hearts will be with you when you soar,” Peres told the graduating class. “This is a moment of personal fulfillment for each and every one of you and your families, but it is no less a moment of elation for the entire nation as a whole. You deserve these wings, and they are worthy of you.”
In what was perhaps a hint at the Iranian nuclear threat, Peres said “the girls and boys who join the pilots’ ranks today know how to fly long distances from short runways. The air force has to bridge the gap between the size of our tiny country and the magnitude of the threats facing us. The excellence of the air force indeed serves to bridge that gap.”
During the ceremony, the new graduates also met with veteran pilots who founded the Israel Air Force 65 years ago. Dita Perach, who was one of the first female soldiers to complete the pilot’s course, passed along the commencement torch to Lieutenants Maya and Anita, two of the new female graduates.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz also addressed the graduates, saying “your grandparents, who are watching you from the crowd with pride in their eyes, fought for the independence of our country. Your parents, who now salute you proudly, contributed their part to protecting this country. Now it is your turn to soar and perform the duties of your generation. This is a day which carries a heavy responsibility.”
“The weight of this responsibility is much heavier than the wings that will be placed on your uniforms shortly,” Gantz continued. “On this day you become active partners and leaders in the state’s efforts to ensure the IDF’s aerial superiority, its victories and its deterrence capabilities.”