Once a pilot, always a pilot

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Laughlin’s student squadron received a visit from Jerry Yellin, author and retired U.S. Army Air Corps Captain, Dec. 13, 2016.

By invitation, Yellin was the guest speaker for Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class 17-03, received an orientation flight and spoke during an all call while here.

"It was a pleasure speaking with a man as dedicated to military aviation history as Jerry Yellin," said Capt. Scott Molleson, 47th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations. "[Yellin’s] presentation of hope for those affected by the casualties of war was moving to say the least."

The class invited Yellin back after his visit in October where he mentored members of the 47th Operations Group by sharing his story and promoting resiliency.

“After meeting him in October and hearing his story, our class was truly inspired,” 1st Lt. Ujaval Patel, SUPT class 17-03 graduate. “He embodied the spirit we had through pilot training and he encouraged us to never give up on hope. From someone who had given so much to our country, his resiliency only enforced our faith in his message. That is what we wanted in our graduation speaker.”

There was nothing here Yellin hadn’t already seen before, but that didn’t take away the glisten from his eyes as he was brought back into the world of flying with an orientation ride in a T-6A Texan II.

The Florida-based speaker served as a fighter pilot in World War II from 1941 to 1945, flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang during combat missions in the Pacific.

Yellin participated in the first land-based fighter mission over Japan April 7, 1945, and flew the final combat mission of World War II on the day the war ended.

During that mission, Yellin lost his wingman in combat – he was the last man killed in a combat mission of the war.

Fast-forward 73 years, Yellin was right back where it started: at a pilot training base.