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558th FTS hold first winging ceremony

Commander of Air Education and Training Command, Gen. Edward Rice Jr., pins pilot wings on one of the newest remotely piloted aircraft pilot graduates.  The 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas held their first undergraduate RPA training class winging ceremony May 3, 2013. Rice winged several of the Air Force’s newest RPA pilots; he also served as the guest speaker for the graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Commander of Air Education and Training Command, Gen. Edward Rice Jr., pins pilot wings on one of the newest remotely piloted aircraft pilot graduates. The 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas held their first undergraduate RPA training class winging ceremony May 3, 2013. Rice winged several of the Air Force’s newest RPA pilots; he also served as the guest speaker for the graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas -- *Editor's note: for security reasons, some personnel are referred to by their first names*
The 558th Flying Training Squadron held their first winging ceremony, May 3, for Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Training.

After graduation students receive aircraft specific training at the formal training units located in Holloman AFB, N.M. and Beale AFB, Calif. The 558th FTS is the Air Force's only undergraduate RPA pilot training squadron.

"The winging ceremony is the culmination of training at the undergraduate level for all aviators. We were very proud that Gen. Rice, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, was able to present the wings to the officers of the 558th FTS," said Lt. Col. Scott Cerone, 558th FTS commander. "This first winging ceremony aligns undergraduate RPA pilot training with traditional pilot training."

Traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training graduates are presented aviation badges after the completion of their undergraduate training but before they attend their formal training unit course for their major weapons system. When undergraduate RPA pilot training was first developed, the Air Force decided that RPA pilots would receive their wings after completion of their formal training unit course.

"With the winging ceremony held by the 558th FTS, the tradition is more in line with piloted aircraft training," said Maj. Brian, a 558th FTS assistant director of operations. "The presentation of the aviation badge symbolizes all the hard work students put into training and that their study of aviation is moving to the next stage."

While assigned to the 558th FTS, student RPA pilots start their aviation training at Pueblo, Colo. for flight screening to understand the basics of flight and how to operate aircraft in the national airspace. The second phase of training is a rigorous syllabus of academics and simulator missions patterned off the T-6 syllabus from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. The final phase of undergraduate RPA training is a 30-day course of academics and flying an MQ-9 simulator.

Maj. Brian summed it up best when he said, "You never forget the day you receive your wings. It is a very special event for all aviators. You feel an intense pride having a pair of silver wings on your chest but you are humbled knowing there is so much more to learn."