Hometown hero enjoys F-16C flight
link U.S. Air Force Photo: Airman 1st Class Chip Slack
Ronnie Marez, the hometown hero selected by the Thunderbirds for a once-in-a-lifetime flight in an F-16C, poses with the Thunderbird 7 Crew after an hour-long flight on the aircraft. Marez endured more than seven Gs and flew at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour.
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Ronnie Marez, the hometown hero selected by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds for his service to the community, flew in the back seat of a Thunderbird F-16C Fighting Falcon while the aircraft’s pilot demonstrated the abilities of the aircraft.
Reaching speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour as the plane banked and turned through the skies above Cannon Air Force Base, Marez knew he was having the experience of a lifetime — he had had no idea that what he considered a simple act of kindness would lead to his nomination and selection for the Thunderbirds’ hometown hero flight.
“One morning in January, I saw someone lying in an embankment on the side of the road,” said Marez, recalling the day that earned him the respect of his coworkers at Farmer’s Electric Co-op. “Her shoes were off, she wasn’t dressed for the weather, and she wasn’t very responsive. I knew something was wrong.”
Marez proceeded to answer the elderly woman’s call for help, recovering her shoes and putting her in the warm cab of his truck — but not before removing the thorns and spines that covered her feet and her body after her fall in the embankment.
The woman’s family picked her up from Marez’ Farmers’ Electric’s Fort Sumner, New Mexico office shortly after.
“This isn’t the first time that Ronnie’s received a commendation for helping someone in need,” said Thom Moore, Farmer’s Electric Director of Member Services. “We’ve gotten plenty of notes and thanks from people who he’s assisted.”
Moore considered it a miracle that Marez was out reading meters at just the right time and place that January morning, and that he stopped to render aid when countless others might have passed by the woman. He selected Marez for a company award at the national level, commended him in Farmers’ Electric’s member newsletter and later nominated him for the incentive flight at Cannon.
“After I found out I was nominated, I thought there’s no way I’d actually get the flight,” Marez said. “I was pretty surprised to find out that I had been picked. I don’t consider myself a hero — I work with heroes. Our linemen put their lives at stake for the public’s wellbeing. I just like helping people.”
Moore exhibited great pride in Marez’s service and humility, considering it a credit both to Marez and to his employer.
“A lot of us grew up around Cannon,” said Moore. “We’ve seen the airshows for years, and we remember jets flying over the base. But never in your wildest dreams would you imagine actually flying in one — I’m so excited for Ronnie.”
After an extensive briefing on his upcoming experience in the fighter, Marez strapped on a G-suit and climbed into the cockpit of the Thunderbird with his name painted just under the cockpit in honor of the occasion.
Friends and family looked on as he flashed one final thumbs-up before taking off and shooting vertically into the air, quickly disappearing among the clouds.
Marez flew with Maj. Tyler Ellison, air demonstration squadron operations officer, who was impressed with Marez’s ability to handle the G-force induced by the plane’s twists, turns and loops.
After climbing out of the aircraft, Marez cited the barrel roll as his favorite maneuver.
“Feeling those Gs — wow!” exclaimed Marez. “I don’t know how they handle it. These guys are awesome.”