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HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The 314th Fighter Squadron here graduated its inaugural class of F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots at 6 p.m. June 25 at the Holloman Club.

The 17 graduates, class 15-BBH, completed hundreds of hours of training over 10 months to reach the historic ceremony and to join the proud heritage of the 314th.

The 314th’s heritage began on July 6, 1942 at Logan Army Air Base in Maryland. The “Warhawks” served valiantly throughout World War II.

Before the squadron was inactivated on Nov. 6, 1945, they had received three Distinguished Unit Citations, 11 campaign streamers, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, and took 41 aerial victories.

The squadron was reactivated at Luke Air Force Base and served proudly from Oct. 1, 1986 until its inactivation on April 1, 1994.

On its 73rd birthday, the squadron was reactivated July 6, 2015 at Holloman Air Force Base under the 54th Fighter Group to resume its mission to “train the world’s greatest fighter pilots.”

To highlight the storied heritage of the fighter pilot, the 314th FS invited retired Lt. Col. Jeff Tice to be the guest speaker for the inaugural class.

Tice was not only one of the first five lieutenants assigned as aircraft commanders on the F-111 Aardvark, but he was also one of the youngest instructor pilots in F-111 history.  

He is also a combat pilot who had previously served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During Desert Storm, Tice was shot down, captured and interred as Prisoner Of War.

It was his personal experiences as a fighter pilot, leader, Airman and survivor that he offered to the graduates to help prepare them for the future they would face.

“When things get tough, your training kicks in,” said Tice. “You are leaders – warriors. The warrior spirit doesn’t know rank. The warrior spirit doesn’t have rank.”

The Silver Star recipient also offered a variety of practical advice to the new pilot class from his time as a POW.

“I’ve been on the giving end and the receiving end of a 2,000 lb. bomb,” he said. “I recommend the giving end. I like the giving end a whole lot better.”

As the ceremony continued, the graduates took a moment to recognize those who helped them achieve their dreams. The class gave out six awards to recognize the individuals they felt had the most significant impact on their successful graduation. They are:

The 15-BBH’s Top Enlisted Support Airmen – Senior Airman Cody

The 15-BBH’s Most Valuable Crew Chief – Senior Airman Tyler

The 15-BBH’s Hammer Award – Maj. Eric

The 15-BBH’s Most Valuable Academic IP – Maj. Brian

The 15-BBH’s Most Valuable Simulator IP – T.O.

The 15-BBH’s Most Valuable IP – Lt. Col. Matthew

The awards kept coming, but this time, the Warhawks recognized the families and friends who supported the students.

Then, they put their sights on the top graduates of class 15-BBH.

The first award presented was the Top Academic Award. This award went to the student with the highest overall grade point average on all tests taken.

With an overall average of 100 percent, the Top Academic Award winner was Capt. Matthew.

Next, the Daedalian Leadership Award was presented. This award is presented to the graduate who demonstrates the highest potential to be a strong flight leader. This person shows excellent officership, patriotism and self-sacrifice.

The Daedalian Leadership Award winner was Capt. Graeme.

The next award given was the Red River Rat Award. This award was created by the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. This award is presented to the graduate who best meets the award’s only criteria – which student does the cadre want on their wing if they had to fly into combat tomorrow.

The Red River Rat Award winner from Class 15-BBH was 1st Lt. Logan.

Class 15-BBH also recognized two distinguished graduates.

The Distinguished Graduate Award is present to the student or students who best exemplify the highest standards of officership, Airmanship, academics, attitude, judgment, situational awareness and mission preparation on a daily basis.

The Distinguished Graduate Award winners were Capt. Matthew and 1st Lt. Kyle.

Following the recognition of the class’ top students, the official graduation ceremony began.

Following graduation, more than 60 percent of the class will go overseas – an opportunity each graduate is excited to be a part of.

As they depart to take their place as the fighter pilots of tomorrow, they will take with them the training, experience and attitude of the 314th FS.

“Attitude is everything,” said Tice. “If you think you’re losing, you will lose. If you think you’re winning, you will win.”