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Macomb boy dreamed of flying, now a Blue Angels pilot

Blue Angel commander/leader Capt. Tom Frosch, originally from Clinton Township talks to the media about the upcoming Thunder Over Michigan air show at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Thursday, August 27, 2015.

Tom Frosch was 6 years old when his dad took him to an airshow at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.
The Blue Angels blue jets stood out and the young boy from Clinton Township became attracted to flying.
Four decades later, Frosch is a captain in the U.S. Navy and the commanding officer and flight leader of those famed blue jets that he loved watching as a child.
Jets that he can pilot from zero to 170 m.p.h. in two seconds off of a ship. Jets – specifically the No. 1 or boss jet – that he will fly over Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti this weekend as the front pilot of the Blue Angels Demonstration Squadron.
Frosch – who was born in Detroit and played football at Fraser High School – will be flying in a F/A-18 high above family (many from Michigan), friends and strangers in a state that he still loves.
“It’s a great opportunity,” the 45-year-old said of performing in his home state. “It all started here in Michigan, watching the show at Selfridge.”

The Blue Angels practice at the Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Thursday, August 27, 2015 for the Thunder Over Michigan show that will be held on August 29h and 30th.

This weekend’s Thunder Over Michigan Air Show at Willow Run Airport is Frosch’s third show in Michigan since joining the Blue Angels in 2012. Last year, performing in the airshow at Selfridge, he landed at the base where his love of flying first took off. He also flew at a show in Traverse City last year.
Unlike many people who grow up and move away, often forgetting where they’ve come from, Frosch has not.
“His parents passed on, yet he still has ties with the neighbors,” said Joan Mrofka, who lived next-door to Frosch and his parents in Clinton Township and has known Frosch since he was born. “He’s just a wonderful young man. He’s very humble. He’s very loving. He’s very caring. He’s been that way all his life.”
Mrofka said that 54 neighbors from Frosch’s childhood home were invited to see him at last year’s air show. He always made a point to see the neighbors when visiting and his e-mails often start with “Hello neighbor.” Last year, he also visited schools, including Fraser High School.
“He has not forgotten where he was raised and the people,” she said. “You don’t find too many young men out there that do that today.”
Frosch said his parents came to the U.S. from Germany in the 1950s, first living on the east side of Detroit before moving to Clinton Township.
He said his dad came to the U.S. with $5 and had different jobs in the auto industry, including being a tool-and-die maker. Frosch said that’s what he thought he wanted to do, but he said his dad wanted him to go to college.
His parents, married 63 years, lived in their same home until they died within a year of each other in 2011 and 2012.
“My bedroom was untouched since I left,” Frosch said, adding that it still contained his trophies.
It was the same house where Frosch, starting at age 2, would climb onto the roof and onto a huge swing set his father made for him that Mrofka said remains in the back yard.
“He could be a little daredevil,” she said of Frosch, known as Tommy. “He’s always like reaching for the sky.”
Frosch graduated from Fraser High in 1988, where he played football as a punter and field goal kicker for four years. He then was recruited to the Naval Academy for football, where he said he was primarily a punter. He graduated from the academy in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
He has undergone various flight trainings, earned a master’s degree from the Naval War College and reported to NATO. He has more than 3,800 flight hours and 830 carrier-arrested landings and has received numerous service medals and commendations, according to his online biography.
Frosch said he served tours in the U.S. and overseas, having been to Iraq, Kosovo, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. He isn’t allowed to say exactly what role he served during combat, but he said he flew missions to support operations.
Frosch, who is married with three children ages 8 to 13, said he comes back to Michigan when he could.
Frosch was to be with Blue Angels squadron in 2013 and 2014. With air shows mostly shut down during sequestration in 2013, Frosch continued on the 2015 team. He said he will not be with the Blue Angels 2016 team at the change of command in November.

Blue Angel commander/leader Capt. Tom Frosch, waves to one of the maintenance crew members before taking off at Willow Run Airport, Thursday, August 27, 2015.

Frosch said being with the squadron is “like a NASCAR routine.” It flies to its destination, practices two days, performs shows for the next two days, leaves on Sunday and has a day off, he said.

After this weekend’s show, he’s off to Atlantic City, then Maine, before heading back to Pensacola.

There are 130 people on the team, including seven F/A-18 pilots and three C-130 pilots, he said. Frosch’s jet can fly 600 m.p.h. and the 15-ton aircraft travel 18 inches or less away from each other in precision flying.

The pilots aren’t on autopilot, he said, it’s all hand-eye coordination during the demonstration.

When asked if he ever gets scared, Frosch said he gets nervous – good butterflies “like when you play sports.”

Mrofka, who watched Frosch move up in the ranks, said she remembers what Frosch told her and her husband, Jerry, when he got the Blue Angels command: “It’s like winning the Heisman Trophy.”

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