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Blue Angels announce new commanders and pilots for 2016

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels announced this week the selection of new
pilots and support team members for their 70th anniversary season in

The Navy’s aerobatic flight squadron the Blue Angels
will launch their 70th anniversary with a new commander and three new
pilots as the team prepares for a busy 2016 air show season.

The joint U.S. Navy and Marines
flight demonstration squadron is welcoming Navy Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi as
the Blues new Boss and Angel 1 for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. A native
of Los Altos, California, Bernacchi’s addition was announced
on May 5, as he succeeds current Boss Capt. Tom Frosch. The two will
work closely together during the final two months of the current season.

The squadron was also notified on Wednesday by top naval leaders that
Navy Command Master Chief Blake Schimmel will take the helm as the
Blues new Command Master Chief. Schimmel’s new position was created by
the Navy’s top admirals in 2014 to oversee internal activities and moral
among the squadron.

“I am truly blessed, humbled and honored to join such a professional
team,” CMC Schimmel said today. “I look forward to beginning my time
with the best Flight Demonstration Squadron in the world.”

The Blues selected two new pilots this week to fly the sleek blue and
yellow FA-18 Hornets, Navy Lt. Tyler Davies of Kennesaw, Georgia and
Navy Lt. Lance Benson of McPherson, Kansas. The pair will replace
current pilots LCDR Nate Barton and LCDR Mark Tedrow, Angels 4 and 5,

“Selecting team members is always a difficult process, but once again
I am confident we have picked the best, most qualified individuals for
our team,” Capt. Frosch said. “The 2016 team members were chosen from an
exceptionally competitive talent pool, and we are excited to have them
join our team.”

Current pilots Navy Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, Navy Lt. Andrew Talbott,
Navy Lt. Ryan Chamberlain and Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss are poised to
return with the team for 2016. Chamberlain will move up to lead solo
pilot in Angel 5.

Marine Maj. Mark Montgomery of Cartersville, Georgia will soar next
season in the cockpit of air show crowd favorite Fat Albert — the
team’s C-130 transport aircraft. Maj. Montgomery is arriving as lead Fat
Albert pilot Major Dusty Cook departs this November.

The C-130T soars with a crew of eight including three pilots and five
support personnel, including Marine Maj. Mark Hamilton and the Blue Angels first female pilot Marine Capt. Katie Higgins. Both Higgins and Hamilton joined the team in November 2014.

“The individuals selected are some of the finest Navy and Marine
Corps officers in the fleet today, and we look forward to serving with
them,” said Lt. Chamberlain, the applications officer for the team
selections. Chamberlain added that the “qualified applicants went
through a rigorous screening and interview process.”

The Blue Angels have performed for more than 485 million fans since their first public air show in May 1946. The 2016 season schedule will begin at El Centro NAS, California in March and conclude 35 show sites later at their home base in Pensacola.

Several key support personal were also selected including Navy Lt.
Samuel Rose of Whitehouse, Texas, and Navy Lt. Joe Hontz of Longmont,
Colorado. The current rotation of Angels pilots and team members are two
or three years.

The newly selected pilots and team members will report in September
to the squadrons home at Pensacola Naval Air Station to begin training.
In January, the Blue Angels will depart for the winter training home in
southern California for six weeks of intense flight and tactical
training prior to their first air show next March.