Hmph ... That's odd ... I thought this would be big news. There seems to be an absence of a certain ornithological piece ... A headline regarding mass awareness of a certain avian variety. Oh, have you not heard? It was my understanding that everyone had heard.

I am Major Darrick Lee, Thunderbird 12, the Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. I manage publicity and marketing for our 130-person squadron with the help of a great team of Airmen. I am not a pilot, but have often been known to fly by the seat of my pants. I'm from Denver, Colorado.

With sequestration in effect, my team is working hard to keep the squadron active in the Las Vegas community until we get back in the air and on the road again.

I've spent 22 years in the military, with 10 of those years served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Although most of my service has been in either photography or public affairs, I've served as part of Marine Embassy Security details in Ottawa, Canada and New Delhi, India. As an Air Force Officer, i've served a brief stint as a nuclear missileer with the Minuteman III ICBM. Combat deployments include service as an Info Ops officer with a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan, and service as the Deputy Director of Public Affairs with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Southern Philippines.

I love '80s hip-hop music and am saddened by the Disneyfication of Star Wars (although I like playing Lego Star Wars on Xbox with my son.)

Proof it's me: http://instagram.com/p/bq2zaeO4au/

Ask Me Anything!

On Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/YouTube: afthunderbirds

Bababa-ooma-maw-maw, bababa-oomaw-mumaw ... DON'T YOU KNOW? About the BIRD? Well, TWELVE is gonna tell ya about the BIRD!

UPDATE: It's been fun! Thanks for supporting your Thunderbirds. Stay tuned for more Thunderbirds AMA in coming weeks! PA, ALL DAY!

Comments: 815 • Responses: 78  • Date: 

blatshaw199 karma

Last year my husband and I took our new Webelos den to a special Breakfast with the Thunderbirds in Battle Creek, MI. One of the members of your team (Thunderbird TEN) sat with our boys and had a great discussion. He challenged not to just to the minimum requirements to get their Arrow of Light, but to truly do their best. He then gave a challenge to the boys to be Super Achievers and earn all 20 Activity Badges (similar to merit badges for the older Boy Scouts.) I have one scout whom has already completed his challenge and I have 2 more that will more than likely succeed. Would there be anyway to get a congratulation letter from the crew for these boys that have stepped up to the plate? Thank you!

afthunderbirds182 karma

Visit our Facebook page ... message me.

SaysStupidThings37 karma

I'm having trouble getting Thunderbird to recognize an imap server. How should I proceed?

afthunderbirds189 karma

Step one: Switch to Chrome.

Step two: restart your computer.

Step 3: ?

Step 4: Profit!

IAMKRUM6 karma

Have you seen thunderbirds the movie

afthunderbirds13 karma

I haven't, but cueing Netflix right now. I've seen several of the shows, and know that the series is making a comeback. http://movies.netflix.com/Movie/Thunderbirds/60036248

Eskimo_Bro86 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds69 karma

They usually try to give you one "safe/fun" place, then one not-so-stable place. Obviously, Ottawa was my "fun" place.

maxxusflamus21 karma

where did you end up for your "not so stable"?

afthunderbirds63 karma

New Delhi, India. The night I arrived, there was a bombing at a Holiday Inn. Overall the tour was still fun, just not as "open" as Canada.

porlov23 karma

The night I arrived, there was a bombing at a Holiday Inn.

do you have an alibi?

afthunderbirds8 karma

Um ... err. Yes? I mean ... YES! ... Yes I DO have an alibi. I was with my fellow Devil Dogs.

Eskimo_Bro6 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds21 karma

No, but I'd love to find out what that's all aboot, eh?

FSTB5Dirty62 karma

Good morning Maj. Lee, and good to see you again. First off, let me start by saying that we appreciate members of the USAF Thunderbirds taking time out to do these "AMA" segments. So with that being said, my question is this. Due to the sequester, I think an added benefit has been the increased participation of your team being involved in sessions like this, and other events and gatherings around Nellis AFB and the country. You continue to be well received of course and demonstrate the bigger picture of making a positive impact in other people's daily lives. But assuming in the new physical year that the team returns to the air, has the team begun to formulate ideas or plans where they team will continue its community involvement, obviously not as much as they have done lately, but at an increased effort over previous years?

admiralallah_ackbar51 karma

Redditor for two months, all questions regarding the thunderbirds....

IT'S A GODDAMN TRAP

afthunderbirds28 karma

I see what you did there ...

afthunderbirds39 karma

Hi, Dirty! We're prepping to resume flying in October in preparation for a 2014 season. When we get back on the road again, we'll keep pushing our community relations effort while we travel, reaching out to folks at each show site. It's hard to say exactly how involved it will be ... We'll have to see what 2014 looks like.

thisizit11 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds12 karma

Thanks for your support!

Sircampalot2310 karma

From a fellow airman and crew chief, thank you and your maintainers for their support of the Thunderbirds and all they do.

afthunderbirds6 karma

We appreciate the support, and thanks to YOU for your service.

360walkaway58 karma

What's the Highway like?

afthunderbirds195 karma

It's pretty cool. Kenny Loggins drove me there one time.

Right. Into. The DANGER ZONE!

soggit30 karma

I'm really happy you picked up on that.

Speaking of which....why are there no pilot movies anymore....Top Gun probably did more for recruitment into the Air force and Navy than a million commercials.

afthunderbirds59 karma

I don't know, but I know the Air Force Entertainment liaison is working on it. We have an office of AF PAOs that tries to do just that. http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20130707/NEWS05/307070006/The-Pentagon-s-Hollywood-liaison

I know some of the folks in that office ... Maybe I can get Denzel to play me in a summer blockbuster.

msgbonehead19 karma

You're good at this PR thing. Easy to see why you're a PAO. I've got a friend that just commissioned and is tracking to PAO. Whats the field like?

afthunderbirds15 karma

The job is (in my opinion) one of the best support jobs an officer can have. PAOs get to learn about what the rest of the military does, while leading Airmen that document it. It's not all fun though ... I spend a lot of time helping leaders deal with emergencies. But, if you like journalism, photography or just dealing with people, PA is a great gig. In the military, it's probably one of the few occupations where you can be creative to solve problems.

Hickeroar54 karma

Any chance you guys will kill the annoying music during the air shows and let us fully enjoy the roar of the planes?

afthunderbirds59 karma

Who doesn't like Neil Diamond? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3ERWwX-AWw

berklee56 karma

That depends. Is your target demographic above or below the age of 70? ;)

afthunderbirds71 karma

Touche', berklee ... touche'

calamormine18 karma

Terrorists.

afthunderbirds97 karma

Yeah, but they don't like anything. If you take away Neil Diamond from our demonstration opener, the terrorists win!

Drecin52 karma

Just a friendly reminder to buy your crew chief a beer once in a while

afthunderbirds47 karma

I buy lunch for my photojournalists all the time. But, I'll throw some love to our crew chiefs, too. They're great Airmen.

yourperfectsunday37 karma

Maj Lee,

It is wonderful to have you on this site. I think the question we would all like to hear you answer is quite obvious:

Describe your perfect Sunday.

afthunderbirds119 karma

My perfect Sunday starts when I awake because I'm rested, not because my sleep is interrupted by a work emergency, our barking dogs, or my son making noise.

Then ... Waffles. Preferably made by my wife, but hey, I'm not picky. I can drive to Waffles Cafe if I need to. Just. Waffles ....

Then, I do absolutely nothing. All. Day.

Perfect Sunday.

Rjschmitt040 karma

Sleeping 'till you wake up is the shit. Take note summer redditors, it's one of the only things left when you get older.

thisizit11 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds18 karma

I've been in the military since I was 18 years old. While I like my job, and they do give us leave (vacation time,) one learns to appreciate simply doing nothing every once in a while.

FTLKarma35 karma

The Air Force really cut back on fireworks this year to save money. Next year, could the fighter community just agree to shoot something out of the sky instead?

You could use one of the old planes in the Aero Club. Feel free to submit this through the Idea Program.

afthunderbirds18 karma

Now THAT would be one heck of a show. Probably wouldn't pass a pre-flight safety review, though.

FBIsurveillance32 karma

Did you know chicks dig crew chiefs?

afthunderbirds39 karma

Our crew chiefs are pretty awesome ...

randomlurker2230 karma

Going from serving the USMC to the Air Force, what was the hardest thing to get used to?

afthunderbirds110 karma

Real talk ... The hardest thing for me was learning that the great quality of life the AF provides is not a weakness.

When I was a young Marine, I remember poking fun at the Air Force (what with their air conditioned barracks, and nice gyms, etc.) Meanwhile, I was living in a quonset hut eating MRE's.

But, I now realize that those benefits just demonstrated the AF's commitment to taking care of it's Airmen. (Not that the Marine Corps didn't ... they just did in different ways.)

Once I learned that Airmen can enjoy life while still maintaining their edge in combat, I've been enjoying it.

JCDG24 karma

Being in the Services, what are your thoughts on Edward Snowden and the United States attempts to block his asylum?

afthunderbirds115 karma

That's a really good question, that I'm woefully unqualified to answer. I haven't bumped into Snowden while booking interviews for the Thunderbirds, and the countries he's seeking asylum in haven't reached out to me for advice. Yet.

Geek2009115 karma

You will not get an answer. He is doing this AMA as an arm of the United States Government. Any thing posted would be something the US has already stated about the situation and not the Majors personal views. There is clear guidance about things like this for members of the military.

afthunderbirds111 karma

Two points for Geek2009.

aero199219 karma

Good morning, Maj Lee. Can I have your old sunglasses (since you got new ones)? None of the other T-Birds will give me theirs, but you're a nice guy, so I have hope.

afthunderbirds31 karma

Sorry, I joined after the transition. I only have one pair.

I've heard Amazon can work wonders ...

PichinchaV19 karma

What made you decide to switch from the Marines to the Air Force?

afthunderbirds45 karma

I wanted to be an officer, but at the time, the Corps had few opportunities for commissioning. The Marines are "The Few, The Proud" ... literally. There were simply higher numbers of opportunities and occupations in the Air Force.

Sectoid_Gang_Rape18 karma

Have you ever been to Tracy Island?

afthunderbirds32 karma

I have! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAbnCr7Rq6U Thunderbirds are GO!

FSTB5Dirty17 karma

Thanks! My other question is this. When it comes to photography, Nikon or Canon? And with that....do the immediate staff members in the PAO that do the shooting get photography training....or are most of them just avid photographers and bring their own skillset to the team?

afthunderbirds24 karma

I'm a Nikon guy, like most of the combat photographers I know. I have two AMAZING photographers on the team (TSgt Manny Martinez and SSgt Larry Reid.) They are formally-trained photojournalists, and have combat camera experience. The Defense Information School (Ft. Meade, MD has the lead in training servicemembers in PA, photography etc.) Of course, they're passionate about shooting. I originally joined as a combat photographer, but learned on a Nikon F-4 (before digital, of course.)

KC135R11 karma

Thank you!

Out of curiosity, what brand of sunglasses to the Thunderbirds use? They don't appear to be the standard issue HGU-4/P sunglasses.

afthunderbirds21 karma

We used to wear really nice Scheydens branded with "Thunderbirds" on the sides of the ear rest. But, we recently switched to Ray Bans. I don't think they're standard issue for other pilots.

Karitz10 karma

Why do Air Force pilots have call signs like Viper and Razor but the Navy pilots have call signs such as Squishy and Stiffy?

I know how Navy pilots get their call signs. It's typically based on a mistake they made when they are a junior officer. But I have no idea how Air Force pilots get them.

afthunderbirds24 karma

Same process ... we just use cooler names.

hoilst9 karma

As the PR officer for a highly-trained, formation-flying and aerobatic unit, are you able to more closely co-ordinate press releases, and better maneuver words than your standard Air Force PA officer?

afthunderbirds4 karma

I've served at several base public affairs offices as the "standard" PAO. (F.E. Warren, McGuire, Misawa, etc.) Our squadron is kind of unique, in that most of our Public Affairs activities are routine ... We publicize a show, we arrange community relations events, we do media interviews ... then we go to another city and do it all over again. Because of that, we have a little bit of freedom when it comes to pushing out information. But like all PAOs, we have to coordinate with other offices. I most often work with Air Combat Command PA and the good folks here at the 99th Air Base Wing PA shop.

jtinz8 karma

What are the policies for members of the Air Force regarding reddit? And does it employ public relations personnel specifically for public forums?

SheeEttin12 karma

What are the policies for members of the Air Force regarding reddit?

They have general guidelines for social media. Basically, OPSEC. Don't talk or post pictures about things you shouldn't.

And does it employ public relations personnel specifically for public forums?

Well, he is one, so...

afthunderbirds15 karma

Two points for SheeEttin ...

afthunderbirds11 karma

As a Public Affairs Officer, I am one of those employees ...

http://www.defense.gov/socialmedia/

Countbunghole7 karma

If you could fly any plane what would it be and why?

afthunderbirds28 karma

I really like the F-16. But if I could I'd fly the Millenium Falcon. Any ship that can make the kessle run in less than 12 parsecs is a BEAST!

vinuash7 karma

Do you often start press conferences with the Surfin' Bird lyrics? If not, you should start every single one from now on like this.

What are you doing to keep active with the sequester going on?

Where is your favorite place that you have traveled to as part of the military, if you have one?

afthunderbirds5 karma

We're keeping busy with our community relations effort here in Las Vegas. We talk to youth groups, do community service, etc. We've always done it as part of our appearances on the road, but since we can't travel right now, we're focusing on our home base.

I loved Germany and Japan ... really nice.

Eskimo_Bro6 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds9 karma

Neither. I'd rather convince them beforehand to not attack.

_cinnamin6 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds9 karma

Hi, SrA Kim! I was commissioned through Officer Training School, not ROTC or the AF Academy. I am not a pilot, although I spend most of my time trying to make pilots look good (which is sometimes tougher than flying a jet, if you ask me!) Life as a PAO means you get to learn about all of the things Airmen do (behind the scenes) to make our service function ... often times, it has little to do with flying. Of course, the cool part about being a PAO is working with Airmen who fly and fix our awesome jets.

I was enlisted for 10 years in the Marine Corps before switching to the AF. Like you, I was a communications major (Regis Jesuit University in Denver.) Your passion will serve you well if you pursue becoming a PAO. It's a GREAT job. Thanks for YOUR service.

captshady2 karma

Parris Island, or Hollwood?

afthunderbirds5 karma

WessstSIYEEED!

dawgflymd2 karma

If he enlisted in Denver, he's a Hollywood.

afthunderbirds3 karma

Two points for dawgflymd

ProfoundBeggar6 karma

Good morning Major,

I was curious, are there any talks in the works for the Thunderbirds to transition from the Viper to the F-35 (or perhaps the F-22) anytime in the relatively near future? And do you have any insights into how the Thunderbird pilots might feel about such a transition?

afthunderbirds28 karma

No word on the rumors about switching to new aircraft. The F-16 has been working for us for decades ... if it's not broken ...

Several of our pilots are actually trained on other aircraft. Thunderbirds 1, ǝʌıɟ, and 7 are originally F-22 pilots.

luvmuppet4 karma

Keep in mind the F16 is still in active production. Tried, tested, reliable.

afthunderbirds5 karma

More than 30 years, and counting!

captshady6 karma

Every any friendly ribbing and banter between the Blue Angels, and T-Birds? Would love to hear a story or two.

Also, stupid question, have you ever met Gunny Ermy?

afthunderbirds29 karma

The blue who?

I LOVE Gunny Ermy. Never met him during my time in the Corps. Would love to, though.

shwingthing6 karma

What is your professional opinion of the British RAF Red Arrows? Picture for the uninitiated:

http://sqmagazine.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Red-Arrows.jpg

afthunderbirds12 karma

I've never met them, but after talking with fellow Thunderbirds who have, they're awesome. I hope our paths cross next year.

LiptonCB5 karma

Sir,

Coming from flight medicine - what is it y'all want more of from our side of things (or what is it that the pilots want. Either way)?

Aside from a rubber stamp for flying status.

afthunderbirds12 karma

I think Thunderbird 9 can answer that question best ...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBODbUQggug

LiptonCB5 karma

Fair enough, had no idea if y'all had your own doc.

Thanks, sir.

afthunderbirds2 karma

Yep ... He'll be doing an AMA soon. You should reach out to him.

FLAkate2 karma

Living in Daytona this has a special place in my heart. Thank you. Also, it was a pleasure serving your team that weekend :) http://i.imgur.com/wNZzfy1.jpg

afthunderbirds3 karma

HI, FLAkate! Thanks for the GREAT service and putting up with our large (loud) group.

Hope we left a decent tip. Sometimes I act like Mr. Pink in Reservoir dogs.

ConsistentlyConfused4 karma

Good morning Major Lee. Two quick questions. First: What is your family's feeling on your membership in the Thunderbirds? From first hand experience, my cousin's family was the primary reason for turning down an opportunity to join the Blue Angels (Sorry, I'm a Navy guy). Second: If you could pick any plane (I'm imagining the most superior) to fly in any era in the 20th century, what would it be and why? Many thanks for coming on here today!

afthunderbirds6 karma

I remember when I first got the call, alerting me that I had made the team. My wife and son were crowded up in my face, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation as Thunderbirds 1-through-12 were telling me congratulations. They're just as happy as I am about me handling the Publicity and Marketing for these amazing pilots and maintainers. And they love being a part of the Thunderbirds family.

I'm not a pilot by trade .. But if I were to chose, I'd pick the F-16. I was fortunate enough to ride with Thunderbirds 3 and 8 a few times, and am amazed to see how they do what they do. If I had the opportunity, I'd try to do the same.

Afterfx214 karma

I am getting really sick of seeing these Thunderbird posts. In this sequestration era of minimal spending, how can we possibly justify funding this program while we fire and furlough our civilians? Why pay for the Thunderbirds to sponsors NASCAR while we simultaneously cancel all tuition assistance for enlisted Airmen. "Sorry we canceled all of your training TDYs, we just cant afford them, by the way u need to work Saturday to volunteer for the Air Show". I am impressed by what you do and I appreciate all of your hard work, but how are the Thunderbirds and Tops in Blue still pulling in money when the AF can't even guarantee to fund the education that the service has built its culture around?

afthunderbirds8 karma

During sequestration, funding our squadron has taken a back seat to higher priorities. That's why we're not flying right now. No one has been forced to work a Thunderbirds air show lately, because we haven't flown since April.

I'm not sure, but I think Tops in Blue has also stopped performing.

In any case, I applaud your passion about how our services spend taxpayer dollars. But, I'll say that under normal circumstances there IS a value to the team engaging the public. It's hard to quantify, but whether it's by bolstering the local economy when we're in town, or just inspiring a young person to learn more about our government, demonstration teams are an important part of an all-volunteer military. Again, I'm talking about when our leaders determine funding is available ...

Sequestration is tough ... But if you think folks in the military are just conducting business as usual right now, you might want to read up.

Narimatsu3 karma

Hi there TB 12 I am planning to visit Nellis in Nov. if your team may resume practice flights in Oct. would there be any way for me to come and watch one of your practices at Nellis in Nov.? If so, how far in advance would I have to notify the team that I was going to be there to watch? I am coming to visit from Hawaii with the original intent of watching the Aviation Nation event; that has since been cancelled. But if a practice show was going to happen sometime when I planned to visit Nellis could I come and watch it? Thanks!!

afthunderbirds6 karma

We take off from Nellis, but actually practice over Creech AFB. If you have access to Nellis, you could come see us take off/land, but you'd have to watch the skies over Creech to see a practice. Aviation Nation is usually the exception when we'll perform at Nellis.) Visit our Facebook page and message me. If you're ever in the area, we'd love to see you.

SSJMuhammad3 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds5 karma

I served as a Public Affairs executive officer in Stuttgart Germany (HQ, US European Command.) LOVED Germany, and hope to return. Prior to joining the team, I was the PAO at the 35th fighter wing in Misawa, Japan ... also high on the list.

DistinctlyBenign3 karma

Have you ever seen My Little Pony: Friendship is magic?

Do you secretly wish you were a Thunderbolt?

afthunderbirds22 karma

Sorry, I'm not a brony ...

KC135R3 karma

Do you know if the Air Force (and US military in general) are planning airshow support next year?

afthunderbirds9 karma

We're still prepping to resume flying in October, planning for a great 2014 season.

Unicornpark3 karma

Sir, thank you for your service.

My brother was part of the 2013 USAFA graduating class and will be heading to Del Rio very soon. His graduation was going to be my first chance to see the Thunderbirds fly. Unfortunately, Sequestration killed that opportunity.

I'm now more keen than ever to get the chance to watch you fly. When you resume air shows, will they be of the same frequency and caliber?(aka # of birds in the air, length of the show, number of shows, etc)?

Secondly, do you guys ever fly in the same shows as the blue angels? Also, how different are your shows compared with the Blue Angels?

Edit-2013, not 2014. He's not living in the future, yet.

afthunderbirds9 karma

We're not sure exactly what our 2014 season will look like. We're planning for a great season, but know that we have to have funding in place first.

Regarding flying in the same shows, we don't usually perform at the same place & time, but there have been a couple of times that we've flown joint formations with the Blue Angels, the Canadian Snowbirds and the Red Arrows. I'll snap a pic and post it in our Instagram page.

Grindstaff2 karma

Have you ever seen a two-legged dog ?

moeloubani2 karma

22 veterans a day kill themselves. How do you feel about that being one of the ones that goes around actively trying to recruit young men and women on sites like reddit? Do you ever feel bad that you are contributing to what will in many cases be the worst decision these young people have and will ever make?

afthunderbirds9 karma

Thanks for the loaded question. I'm not sure you're really expecting a reply, but here goes:

The there are plenty of people that love serving in the military. I am one of them. Coming from the Five Points/Park Hill neighborhood of Denver (years ago) with little positive outlook for the future as a teen, joining the military was, by far, the best decision I've ever made.

Do people give the ultimate sacrifice for our government? Indeed they do. We thank them.

You mention veteran suicide ... PTSD, depression and other illnesses are real, and I know the VA is tracking the issue. http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Suicide-Data-Report-2012-final.pdf

But, in terms of safety, I feel safer serving with our Armed Forces in combat than I ever did on the streets. (Chicago knows what I'm talking about.)

I do not mean to trivialize what suffering veterans are going through ... But for every service member that struggles for a sense of normalcy, there are THOUSANDS who enjoy a fruitful tour/career in the military. I am one of them, and will do everything I can (including host AMAs on reddit) to help another kid like me know that whether you choose to serve or not, life has more to offer.

But, to clarify, I'm not pushin'/sellin' anything here. Stay if you like. Click away if you don't, right?

colorcollector2 karma

What's your favorite color?

afthunderbirds3 karma

Red.

MattchewTaDerm2 karma

Thunderbird's are Go? Which puppet were you?

afthunderbirds3 karma

Kyrano

blueangelsolo52 karma

Maj. Lee, who does the air transport of your equipment? The team used to have a few cargo plane types, C-119 Boxcar, C-123D Provider, and C-54 Skymaster, all with the TB paints cheme, like how the Blue Angels have the C-130 Hercules "Fat Albert" now, do you load everything into a C-17 that flies to shows with the Thunderbirds or what? Thank you for doing this AMA Maj.

afthunderbirds2 karma

We used to have dedicated support aircraft years ago. But now, we rely on Air Mobility Command to transport our support personnel and equipment. It's usually a C-17 or a couple of C-130s.

JustinPM2 karma

Due to the sequestration grounding the squadron, what do the days of the Thunderbirds look like? Do they fly simulation while they're grounded? If so, are there any good simulation pranks that you can pull on a pilot?

afthunderbirds2 karma

The pilots are taking lots of sim rides, but in the meantime, we're doing what we've always been doing ... reaching out to others. Since we can't travel, my team is booking local events (here in Vegas) for the team to talk with kids, visit hospitals, do community service, etc. Most folks don't know that we do this on the road when we're flying as part of our demonstrations too.

Our showline and maintenance folks are still keeping our jets in tip-top shape, practicing their ground demonstration and serving the community. We can't wait to get back up in the air, but we're doing our best to stay busy in the meantime. I haven't been the victim of any sim pranks (yet,) but I'll update once I've been targeted.

killbone2 karma

[deleted]

afthunderbirds7 karma

If you're still in school, get good grades. To be an officer you'll need to have a 4-year degree. To be a pilot, you'll have to apply for a commission with the Air Force. To be a THUNDERBIRDs pilot, you'll have to demonstrate excellence during your AF service and then apply.

hobbsarelie832 karma

I think my friends fiance is also a Thunderbird. Matt?

afthunderbirds2 karma

We've got a few Matts ... Do you see him here? http://afthunderbirds.com/site/our-team/

mybigballs2 karma

It seems there are at least one crash or two a summer. What safety protocols do you have if shit hits the fan? Would you stick with the plane if it was heading for a crowd?

afthunderbirds9 karma

The Thunderbirds haven't had any incidents recently (I think we had a pilot eject safely in 2003.) Safety is a part of every flight briefing, all of the pilots review possible scenarios before flight, and we coordinate our activities with the FAA and the local flight ops offices. Thunderbird 7, our Operations officer and Thunderbird 8, our advance pilot carry the brunt of this burden, but I know everyone on the team strives for a safe demo.

As a Public Affairs officer, I don't fly during the demonstration.

TBones00722 karma

Does your son realize how awesome it is to have you as a dad, or is it "just what dad does" Also wanted to say "nuclear missileer" sounds like a pretty bad ass position to have. Thank you for your service.

afthunderbirds31 karma

My son is cool ... He likes what I do, but is also too busy being awesome by himself to be preoccupied with what dad is doing. Here's him playing in a piano recital in Japan. While the other young pianists are playing the standard classical pieces, guess which song he chooses?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMxD37S29Gw&feature=c4-overview&list=UUlHkqUa7O02G8am_FB9IThg

Being a missileer was challenging ... It's a HUGE responsibility.

photo1kjb2 karma

I'm sure that made you quite the proud papa!

afthunderbirds2 karma

Indeed, it did.

lmYOLOao2 karma

Any affiliation with The Fabulous Thunderbirds?

MrRight002 karma

without being press, how could I (or anyone else) ever get a ride in a modern us jet fighter?

afthunderbirds2 karma

The real answer is: have a large following. While we often perform media flights, the people we fly are people that have a large following (with which we hope they'll share their positive experience about the Air Force.) By default, most of them end up being famous, but famous is not the criteria.

We do sometimes fly the "average joe" if they happen to have a unique story. But, most of our jets are single-seaters ... for the few two-seaters we have, we simply can't fly everyone. Picking people with the most reach is the best way we can fill the empty seat while serving our mission to communicate and represent the AF

velocirapper991 karma

will you and your team be coming to Oshkosh this year or the next?

afthunderbirds1 karma

The team won't officially be coming this year. We planned to, but sequestration threw a monkey wrench in our plans. But, you might have a special guest visiting in the area during AirVenture.

Don't forget to check out the Thunderbirds-themed Ford Mustang at the EAA AirVenture. (No federal endorsement intended.) Auction.http://www.airventure.org/news/2013/130702_thunderbirds-mustang.html

US-Desert-Rat1 karma

Its a pleasure to read your AMA Major. I plan to Join either Marines or Air force to (Try my absolute Hardest) become either a Fighter Pilot, or a Helo Pilot if my height becomes an Issue for the Ejection seat. Seeing as you've been in both Marine and Air force, What are your thoughts and what would you recommend?

afthunderbirds2 karma

The best advice I give potential recruits is: Find out what you want to do BEFORE you walk into the recruiters office. All of the other standard "my-service-is-better-than-your-service" debate material is irrelevant if you're doing what you like to do.

Look for the service that provides the job you want first. If multiple services provide similar jobs (like pilots or public affairs officers,) learn as much as you can about each services' version of that job.

Don't buy into the whole "The Marines are better because they're more hardcore," or "the Air Force has smarter people" jazz ... EVERY service has a good mix of geniuses and knuckleheads. Find the right job, then worry about which service.

For me, as a young, single man at 18, with no plans/money for college and a burning desire to leave my mother's house, the Marine Corps really turned me into a man ... I learned about testing myself. I learned about teamwork. (I also learned that some women really like the Marines' dress blue uniform!)

When I became older and had a family and joined the Air Force, I learned about selflessness, I learned about balance between work and family, and learned about helping others. (I also learned that my wife likes tight-fitting flight suits even more than she likes dress blues.)

Had I known then what I know now, I would've join the Air Force first. I LOVED my time as a Devil Dog, but I could have gotten what I needed from the Air Force, too (and did it in an air conditioned building!)

Sasasquatch1 karma

Pancakes or Waffles? Also, do you prefer breakfast food in the morning or at night?

afthunderbirds2 karma

Waffles. Hands down.

My wife makes THE. BEST. Breakfast-for-dinner plate. Waffles at night? With eggs and bacon? It's riDONKulous!

KaotixStorm-1 karma

Any "Oh shit" moments while flying?

afthunderbirds2 karma

As a Public Affairs officer, most of my OH $h!t moments happen on the ground. I spend lots of time helping units deal with crisis.

I've escorted media in combat zones, have helped handle media in response to disasters, and try to stay ahead of the next big "oops."

Although, I have taken a ride in the F-16 a few times with Thunderbirds 8 and 3. It's an amazing experience ...

EbilInc-4 karma

Do you ever have anyone treat you poorly or call you any names because you're in the air force? Ex: Murderer etc.

afthunderbirds32 karma

What a great question! Let me say ... Oh, excuse me for a sec ... I'm receiving an urgent message from Admiral Ackbar ...