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Blue Angels members bring life advice to students

Blue Angel pilot uses Chrisman student Grady Ogle to demonstrate some of the techniques used by pilots to breathe while dealing with several times the force of gravity during a show. | Mike Genet/The Examiner

Independence, Mo.

    Years ago, Navy Lt. Andy Talbott told William Chrisman High School students, a high school student he calls “Mumbles” coasted through his first two-plus years of high school.

    After some sophomore partying, he started to buckle down as a junior, avoided the crowd that could drag him down, earned straight A’s as a senior and took the ACT enough times to get into college. After college he worked his way up to becoming a Navy officer and pilot, flew rescue missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, served as an instructor pilot, had his pick of a next assignment.

    Eleven months ago, he joined the Blue Angels, the famous U.S. military flight demonstration squadron.

    “Guys, I’m Mumbles,” Talbott told the students on Friday, wrapping up his presentation. “That’s my call name.”

    Talbott and Blue Angels aircraft mechanic Sean McMahon, who also is finishing his first year with the team, dished out plenty of life advice for the Chrisman students, sharing some of the traits that helped them get to their current positions. Blue Angels team members also spoke at Truman and Van Horn.

    Talbott emphasized that he wasn’t there to recruit for the military – rather that his goal was “to inspire a culture of excellence, to convince you to achieve that goal in the back of your mind.”

    Talbott, who hails from tiny Sedan, Kan., near Independence, told the students he first became interested in flying at age 4, but easily could’ve gone off track or not achieved nearly as much if he had not pushed himself into the right crowd and developed a strong work ethic.

    “Talent only takes you about 20 to 30 percent of the way,” he said. “Don’t take no for an answer.”

    “If you hit some speed bumps, it’s not the end of the world,” McMahon added. “If you’re a good person and have a good head on your shoulders, it’ll be OK. The only person that can tell you ‘No’ is you.”

    If you’ve surrounded yourself with good people, he said, “They’ll be around to lift you up when you can’t lift yourself up.”

    Talbott explained how the Blue Angel pilots can fly their Boeing F/A-18 Hornets barely more than an armwidth apart, pulling 6 to 8 G’s – “If that’s not the epitome of trust, I don’t know what is,” he said – and he used a pair of student demonstrations to exemplify precision flying required and the techniques pilots employ to stay avoid passing out.

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