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Thunderbirds fly the Blue Angels

by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore
U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Public Affairs

2/23/2011 – NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  — The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds hosted three members of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels team at the Thunderbird Hangar here Feb 23 as part of the two demonstration units’ traditional exchange program.

Blue Angel No. 2, Lt. Cmdr. Jim Tomaszeski, right wing, and Blue Angel No. 4, Lt. Rob Kurrle, slot, had the chance to fly in the back seat of a Thunderbird F-16D model with Thunderbird No. 3, Maj. John Gallemore, right wing. Blue Angel No. 5, Lt. Ben Walborn, lead solo, flew with Thunderbird No. 5 Maj. Aaron Jelinek, lead solo.

The exchange program allows for both demonstration units with similar missions to have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other, said Major Jelinek.

“I can’t tell you how many times on the road we get asked if we’re better than the Blue Angels. To me, this (exchange program) is more camaraderie between the two teams, rather than a chance to compete with one another other,” said Major Jelinek. “Bringing their jet here to Nellis and flying with us is awesome because we learn from them. We can see firsthand the good things they’re doing with their operation and implement them into our own Thunderbirds mission. And hopefully they can do the same, so both teams become better.”

Prior to takeoff, the Blue Angels participated in a pre-flight briefing. From there, they took off into the skies with the Thunderbirds and debriefed after the flight.

“It’s always exciting to fly someone in the back seat and showcase what you’re doing during the various maneuvers,” said Major Jelinek. “The opportunity to fly the Blue Angels makes things a little more special, being that they’re out accomplishing the same mission on a daily basis.”

Majors Gallemore and Jelinek will head down to the Blue Angels’ training base at Naval Air Force El Centro, Calif., to shadow their counterparts for a day next week.

Lieutenant Walborn, who is in his third season with the Blue Angels, said the exchange program was definitely beneficial.

“It was really cool to see how you set up for a show and how it’s different from the way we do it,” said Lieutenant Walborn. “I think this experience will really come full-circle next week when we have (the Thunderbirds) come down to visit.”

Both demonstration units are currently scheduled to begin their 2011 show seasons next month. The Thunderbirds will travel to perform at 39 show sites in the U.S. and Europe and the Blue Angels will travel to 37 show sites in the U.S.

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