March 16, 2009
Columbus played host to Middle Eastern royalty Friday.
Saudi Arabian Prince Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Abd al-Rahman, Governor of Ryiad, Saudi Arabia was at the Columbus Air Force Base to witness the graduation of his son 2nd Lt. Khalid Al Saud.
Prince Abd al-Aziz Abd al-Rahman, who is third in line to the Saudi Arabian throne, was joined by a large delegation of Saudi dignitaries.
The younger Al Saud has been in Columbus for a little more than a year, earning his wings from CAFB. Al Saud is a member of the 09-06 graduating class and is a officer of the Saudi Arabian Royal Air Force.
Al Saud was not the only international student earning his pilot''s wings. Two other Saudis were members also graduated Friday along with students from Portugal, Uruguay and the United States Air Force.
"We are grateful that Prince Salman attended the graduation and are honored by his presence," noted Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Qahtani, Air Attaché, Royal Saudi air force. General al-Qahtani also graduated from pilot training at CAFB, in 1985.
According to Col. Tim Carey, Chief, Gulf Cooperation Council Division, Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, continuing to strengthen ties with countries like Saudi Arabia is important as it is a leader in the Gulf region.
A total of nine members of the Royal Saudi Air Force trained in various programs with the USAF in 2005; 161 trained in 2008, punctuating the strengthening of the partnership.
"The number of pilots trained and the number of hours flown here in Columbus are among the largest segments we have in the Air Force for pilot training," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Hanson, who served as graduation speaker. "The fact they have such a large contingent of international partners here training adds a special dimension.
That''s the way we fight wars today, in coalitions. By training with our coalition partners on a day to day basis it helps build those partnerships we can use, not only in times of peace but in times of conflict as well."
This story contains reporting from CAFB Public Affairs.