Graduating the future of flight: Class 24-09

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Twenty-seven U.S. Air Force officers were awarded the coveted silver wings as a symbol of their hard work and training during a graduation ceremony held May 3, 2024.  

Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) is a training program that helps prepare prospective military pilots. Upon completion of the program, graduates earn their silver wings as Air Force aviators. 

The guest speaker at the Class 24-09 graduation ceremony was U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Matteo Martemucci, Deputy Chief, Central Security Service, National Security Agency. With over two decades of military experience, Martemucci is an accomplished leader in intelligence and cyberspace operations. He has commanded at various levels and deployed in support of operations such as Decisive Endeavor and Iraqi Freedom. Fluent in Czech and proficient in Italian and Spanish, he is a qualified European Foreign Area Officer and a seasoned military parachutist. Martemucci, recognized for his expertise in cyber strategy and policy, has served as the Director of Intelligence for U.S. Cyber Command. Apart from serving as the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony, Martemucci was also attending his son's graduation from Laughlin's pilot training program. 

Receiving their pilot wings during the ceremony were: 

Capt. Michael Pessalano 

Capt. James Rick 

1st Lt. Yi Da Chiam 

1st Lt. Cezar Sabiuta 

2nd Lt. Mackenzie Adkins 

2nd Lt. Hunter Bleakney 

2nd Lt. Willie Blevins 

2nd Lt. Julia Bradley 

2nd Lt. Francesco Cico 

2nd Lt. Levi Cope 

2nd Lt. Isadora Germain 

2nd Lt. Charles Howard 

2nd Lt. Jack Johnson 

2nd Lt. Miles Kelley 

2nd Lt. Dalton Lantz 

2nd Lt. Mario Martemucci 

2nd Lt. Robert Martin 

2nd Lt. Nicholas Mazzola 

2nd Lt. Tyler Parke 

2nd Lt. Austin Patel 

2nd Lt. Cole Raymond 

2nd Lt. Brian Sacco 

2nd Lt. Robert Strollo 

2nd Lt. Joffrey Theret 

2nd Lt. Robert Vadnais 

2nd Lt. Pieter Wemaes 

In addition to the graduation ceremony, a special emphasis was placed on recognizing the sacrifices and contributions of military spouses. It served as a reminder that while the graduates were the ones receiving their wings, their achievements were also a testament to the love, sacrifice and constant support of their spouses, who serve alongside them in spirit and strength.  

“Military spouses are often said to ‘live in the shadows’,” said Maj. Kris Lieber, 47th Student Squadron director of operations and T-6A Texan II instructor pilot. “Although not in uniform, spouses have an essential role to play and are the backbone of the military community. Tonight is about your pilots earning their wings, but also a recognition of you. Your love, sacrifice and ad nauseam quizzing of bold face procedures has not gone unnoticed.” 

The ceremony proceeded with the breaking of the wings, a tradition symbolizing the start of a new journey for the novice pilots. According to the tradition, the first pair of wings a pilot receives should never be worn. Instead, the wings should be broken into two halves to invite good fortune throughout the pilot’s aviation career. One half is kept by the pilot, while the other is given to a significant person in their life. To preserve that good luck, those two halves are said to only be brought together again in the next life. 

The event culminated in the pinning of the wings, where friends and family members affixed a pair of silver wings onto the graduates’ uniforms. This gesture signified the official transition of the students into winged aviators, fully prepared to embrace the forthcoming roles within the United States Air Force.  

Pilot wings are a symbol of hard work, training, and dedication. Aviation wings are issued to pilots who have achieved a certain level of proficiency or training.