The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Thunderbirds arrive at Cannon

 

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks Thunderbirds pilots gather for a post-flight briefing Thursday afternoon on the Cannon Air Force Base flight line.

Staff writer

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The grin said it all as Maj. Jason Curtis, of the Air Force Thunderbirds, stepped down from his plane.

There was no doubting that the 33-year-old pilot loves what he does.

link Staff photo: Tony Bullocks

Thunderbirds pilots gather for a post-flight briefing Thursday afternoon on the Cannon Air Force Base flight line.

“It’s an extremely humbling experience to be a part of a team that is comprised of such amazing professionals,” Curtis said. “I look behind me and I see everybody pumping up the jets right now. The maintainers are the best in the business. The officers are some of the best people I have ever worked for, so to be a part of that team is absolutely amazing.”

One could feel the excitement from Cannon Air Force Base personnel Thursday afternoon as they watched the eight planes of their “Ambassadors in Blue” land on the tarmac.

“That’s the sounds of freedom,” Lt. Col. Dave Fujimoto yelled over the roar of the jets, a huge grin spread across his face.

CAFB Commander Col. Tony Bauernfeind said base personnel are not only excited to have the Thunderbirds visiting but they are excited to have the opportunity to recognize and show appreciation for how much support they receive from local communities.

After climbing out of his aircraft, Curtis walked straight to the edge of the flight line to give his best friend, Capt. Jon Conklin a hug. Conklin, who attended flight school with Curtis and had him as a best man at his wedding, just happens to be stationed at Cannon.

Curtis is number six out of the eight Thunderbirds, and he said everybody has different motivations for why they want to be a Thunderbird.

He said his passion for serving his country and for being a pilot was hearing the stories of his father and grandfather, who also served as military pilots.

link Staff photo: Tony Bullocks

Thunderbird 6 pilot Maj. Jason Curtis meets with the media Thursday on the tarmac at Cannon Air Force Base.

Curtis said his father was killed in the line of duty before he was born, but he continuously heard stories about and saw pictures of his service when he was growing up.

Curtis said serving in the Air Force is his way of giving back to his family and his country.

He said his grandfather was not a U.S. citizen and his way of giving back to the country for everything it did for him was by serving in the military.

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks Thunderbird 6 pilot Maj. Jason Curtis meets with the media Thursday on the tarmac at Cannon Air Force Base.

He said his father, who was able to gain citizenship in his lifetime, also had a passion for the nation.

“People ask me all the time, why do you serve, and I say it’s one word, love,” Curtis said. “I love this nation and I love the people that live in this nation. It’s a small way of giving back and the best way I have to do that is by serving as an officer in the United States Air Force.”

Curtis said watching the continuous professionalism while under pressure of those he served with in Afghanistan is what inspired him to apply to be a Thunderbird.

“To see that, that really spoke a lot to me,” Curtis said. “I felt, at that point, that it was my honor to get some of those stories out, and that’s why I’m here as a member of the Thunderbirds.”

 
 

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