The year 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds (the unit I current serve with.)
Each year, the Thunderbirds celebrate their anniversary by performing in an air show (usually coinciding with Nellis Air Force Base’s “Aviation Nation” open house).
The duties of organizing the reunion activities alternates between the current Thunderbird team and former team members (via the Thunderbirds Alumni Association). This year was an alumni responsibility, so the TBAA did the heavy lifting to put on a week’s worth of reunion events. I didn’t participate in the golf outing, or the weapons shooting at the firing range, but I had fun at a barbecue in the hangar and the F-105 rededication.
In 1964 Capt Gene Devlin was flying a F-105 “Thunderchief” when he crashed. We had a model at the front gate of Nellis for several years, but time and weather made it look bad. Recently, television star Rick Dale (of the History channel’s “American Restoration”) refurbished a model of the Thunderchief. We had a ceremony to bring it back to glory.
See the a news clip of the Thunderbirds F-105 rededication here: 8 News NOW
We also have a party, called the Fitzgerald Banquet, where we give out awards to Airmen who have done great things during the previous show season. At the banquet, I met retired General Lloyd “Fig” Newton, who holds the distinction of being the first Black Thunderbirds pilot.
I also met with Delores Muller, who says she was the first Black female enlisted Thunderbird.
It was a pleasure to speak with the two of them.
We had fun swapping stories with Thunderbirds past & present, but nothing was more fun than seeing Muna having a good time.