Retired Brig. Gen. Rudolf Peksens revisits Vance as guest speaker for Class 22-11

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Soto
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – A Vietnam-era student pilot returned to Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to inspire new aviators at the graduation of Class 22-11, held June 17.

Retired Brig. Gen. Rudolf Peksens, a student pilot at Vance in 1967, is known for being the only Air Force officer to operate fighter, bomber, and reconnaissance aircraft in combat. His track record, with close to 3,900 flying hours, includes more than 600 combat hours in five different aircraft.

Peksens spoke of the past, present and future to Class 22-11, highlighting the value of the base where his career took off and the importance of understanding global dynamics.

“At the time of my graduation, we had over 500,000 troops in Vietnam. I didn’t comprehend the reality of the political state we were in,” said Peksens. “Unfortunately, I was too naive to understand this during my time at Vance.”

Comprehending the current political landscape and keeping up with current events on a global scale is incredibly vital for service members, he said.

“Graduating pilots need to pay attention to the world around them, and seek a deeper understanding of the political objectives of our adversaries,” said Peksens. “They need to know their missions and how they fit in the bigger strategy. I did not pay enough attention to that when I was a young pilot.”

It has been more than five decades since Peksens earned his wings at Vance. “Not much separates me from today’s students,” he said. “At the end of the day, we love flying.”

The main difference he noticed from his days as a student was the diversity of the student pilot cadre. “I think the process of expanding our candidate base and producing a diverse supply of pilots is working out great.

“You have the opportunity to fly and learn with outstanding people,” Peksens told the graduates. “You have an amazing wing commander, an awesome mission and a beautiful base.”

The students in Class 22-11 received their Air Force pilot wings during the graduation ceremony. They will continue their flight training at Vance in either the T-38C Talon or the T-1A Jayhawk.