• ISRAEL - first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course.

     

    Lt. Y' is the first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course. In a special interview, he told the IAF Site about his childhood, his process in the Flight Course and what it feels like to make history.

     

    "Sometimes people say: 'you're the first Ethiopian to graduate from the Flight Course? No way"', said Lt. Y', who is graduating from Flight Course 177 as a jet fighter WSO (Weapon Systems Officer). "It makes me laugh, but it's also nice to hear – people presume that there aren't many Ethiopian aircrew members. I feel as if a small obstacle has been overcome".

    ISRAEL - first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course.

    Photography: Noam Nachum.

    Thursday night. We are seated around a wooden table near a "Lavi" (M-346) simulator in Hatzerim AFB's Flight Academy. Several days later, Lt. Y' will stand on the parade ground and receive his coveted pilot wings. However, right now he is here with me, telling me about his experiences from the course. He has a clear message: "It's important for me that anyone who hears my story is motivated to succeed, even if they don't believe in themselves. Don't decide what you can't do – try. Worst case scenario – you don't succeed".

    Groundbreaking
    Lt. Y' originally wanted to serve in the IDF Ground Arm, but decided to join the Flight Course after receiving a summoning letter. "With each stage that went by, I grew more certain that I wouldn't pass. I would tell myself that it was the last time, and then find out that I passed", he said. "We started off as 315 cadets and I knew that only 30 would be graduating. I thought to myself, why would I be one of the 30?"

    ISRAEL - first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course.

    Photography: IDF Spokesperson.

    In spite of his self-doubt, Lt. Y' did not want to give up on the course, and he considers his first test flights experiences he will never forget. "During the first sortie, I smiled as wide as a little boy", he recalled.

    Lt. Y' is 23 years old, born and raised in Petah Tikva. His mother is a nurse and his father is an agronomist – his father emigrated from Ethiopia in 1986 and his mother emigrated in 1984, when she was 16. "When my mother heard that she could move to Israel, she argued with my grandfather until he agreed", Lt. Y' recounted.

    ISRAEL - first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course.

    Photography: Noam Nachum | Graphic design: Ron Tamir.

    Memorable Moments.
    Lt. Y' enlisted and joined the Flight Course at the age of 21. Even a year-and-a-half into the course, he remained hesitant regarding his participation. One of his most memorable moments occurred during the test flight stage, held one year into the course, which determines how the cadets are divided into the various arrays. "I had no preferences before the test flights, but during the fighter jet test flight I realized that that was what I wanted", he recalled. "Then they told me that I didn't pass. I felt that I had missed out – they said a resounding 'no' and I couldn't do anything to change it".

    ISRAEL - first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course.

    Photography: Noam Nachum | Graphic design: Ron Tamir.

    Afterwards, Lt. Y' passed the jet fighter WSO test flight. "I'm happy I managed to shake off the feeling of failure and get to where I am", he said. After six months of jet fighter WSO training, Lt. Y' decided that he would finish the course. "I realized that I wanted to be a WSO in the IAF", he recalled. "I understood that serving as an aircrew member would be a great privilege, significant to the safety of Israel".

    A Significant Responsibility.
    Over time, Lt. Y' realized that he was one out of just several Ethiopians who even joined the Flight Course. As a result, he felt the responsibility on his shoulders grow as time went by. "I didn't believe that I would be graduating until now", he revealed. "I feel as I made a breakthrough of some sort. If I didn't think I would graduate, others probably didn't as well".

    ISRAEL - first Ethiopian to graduate from the IAF Flight Course.

    Photography: Noam Nachum.

    "At first I thought that anyone who graduates from the course would have superpowers, but when I arrived I saw that they were real human beings who can make mistakes as well. That's when I realized that it was possible". Another Ethiopian Jew joined the Flight Course several cycles after Lt. Y'. "It made me happy", he concluded. "And yet it's still odd that there's just one every few cycles. I hope that my graduation raises awareness"… (By Nuphar Blitt).

    http://www.iaf.org.il/4480-50829-en/IAF.aspx?fbclid=IwAR12ERWTZVhLbIZ4I4iRQLFxAqzNdxkG3hSoTK5iPLrzVu0TY6B6TiEUQt8

     


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