The IDf's first Ethiopian pilot pictured with his unit.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Dozens of new Israel Air Force pilots received their wings on Wednesday in a ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Force Base in southern Israel, including the country’s first Ethiopian pilot, Lt. Y, a graduate of the Bnei David Mechina in the West Bank settlement of Eli.
The ceremony marking the graduation of the pilots in the 177th IAF pilot course was held in the presence of the base’s commanding officer, Brig.-Gen. Aviad Dagan, as well as the commanding officer of the IAF Flight Academy, Col. Y.
Lt. Y, who studied at the Eli Mechina, was praised by the head of the Mechina, Rabbi Yehuda Sadan, as “serious and dedicated” toward his community.
“We are happy and proud of Y, a graduate of our dear and beloved yeshivah who has just completed a pilot’s course. Of course, the success is his, but we feel connected and loving,” Sadan said.
“Lt. Y. studied with us for two-and-a-half years,” he said. “He’s always very serious and dedicated to helping the Ethiopian immigrants and promoting the youth of his community. He’s confident and knows how many strengths and talents there are in his community, and he goes with it as part of the Jewish people.”
“He has a long way to go as a pilot in the air force of the State of Israel, and we hope that the Torah and the qualities he acquired at the yeshiva, together with his wonderful personality and values from home, will help him do many more good things in heaven and on earth.”
After completing the three-year-long intensive pilot’s course, Lt. Y will serve as a jet navigator.
According to the IAF, of the approximately 600 cadets who passed the preliminary tests to get into the prestigious pilot course, about two thirds drop out in the first year and only 30-40 of those who remain will successfully complete the course.
In addition to pilot training and other officer duties, graduates of the course receive a bachelor’s degree from Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba as well as the rank of lieutenant.
“The past three years here in the Hatzerim Airbase, to which you arrived as young cadets, have shaped you,” Dagan said during the ceremony.
“From the first hesitant steps on your reception day to your standing strong before us in this meaningful ceremony. With your stature and gaze, I feel a wonderful combination of a heart full of satisfaction along with a strong desire to break forward, excel among the excellent and realize yourselves as aircrew fighters,” he said.
“The thousands who are behind me in the stands, the tens of thousands of air force personnel throughout Israel and all the citizens of the country look up to you. This is a directive to you: to take the reins, to be the future generation of the IAF, to excel and to lead. The entire air force will draw fresh energy and strength from your work.”
The commander of the flight school, Colonel Y, said: “You are well acquainted with your role as air fighters; you are now skilled professionals, pilots, navigators and compilers, sharp-headed and fast-paced. Brave and professional, you will know how to fight in difficult conditions, lead and win.
“Continue to apply this skill, learn and deepen; make flight a part of you, and aerial combat your art,” he said. “You stand here today on the parade ground and fulfill the dream of many people who have not been able to complete the long journey you have made. Keep in mind and remember that even when your plane takes off, your feet will surely remain on the ground.”