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F-16 Viper Demonstration Team prepares for upcoming season

Gen. Hawk Carlisle (center), commander of Air Combat Command, and Maj. Gen. Thomas Deale, ACC A3, congratulate Capt. John "Rain" Waters, on certifying as the pilot for the 2017-18 F-16 Viper demonstration team Feb. 1, 2017 at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Demonstration pilots, who perform at air shows worldwide, serve two-year tours on their respective teams, and must be certified at multiple levels. Carlisle, as COMACC, was Waters' final level of certification, and named him as a demo pilot immediatley after the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Emerald Ralston)

Gen. Hawk Carlisle (center), commander of Air Combat Command, and Maj. Gen. Thomas Deale, ACC A3, congratulate Capt. John "Rain" Waters, on certifying as the pilot for the 2017-18 F-16 Viper demonstration team Feb. 1, 2017 at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Demonstration pilots, who perform at air shows worldwide, serve two-year tours on their respective teams, and must be certified at multiple levels. Carlisle, as COMACC, was Waters' final level of certification, and named him as a demo pilot immediatley after the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Emerald Ralston)

A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon piloted by Capt. John Waters, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot, soars over Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., during a practice demonstration, Jan. 12, 2017. The mission of the team is to inspire the future generation of pilots and maintainers through their combat demonstration of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)

A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon piloted by Capt. John Waters, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot, soars over Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., during a practice demonstration, Jan. 12, 2017. The mission of the team is to inspire the future generation of pilots and maintainers through their combat demonstration of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)

(From left) Staff Sgt. Dominic Dizes, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team dedicated crew chief, Capt. John Waters, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot, and Senior Airman Adam Armstrong, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team dedicated crew chief, walk out to their aircraft for a 9th Air Force certification flight at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Jan. 20, 2017. The F-16CM Fighting Falcon is a fourth generation fighter aircraft that can withstand nine times the force of gravity, or nine G’s, which exceeds the capability of all other fourth generation fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)

(From left) Staff Sgt. Dominic Dizes, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team dedicated crew chief, Capt. John Waters, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot, and Senior Airman Adam Armstrong, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team dedicated crew chief, walk out to their aircraft for a 9th Air Force certification flight at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Jan. 20, 2017. The F-16CM Fighting Falcon is a fourth generation fighter aircraft that can withstand nine times the force of gravity, or nine G’s, which exceeds the capability of all other fourth generation fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)

A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon piloted by Capt. John Waters, F-16 Viper Demonstration team pilot, soars over Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., during a 20th Operations Group certification flight, Jan. 4, 2017. In order to be certified as a demonstration pilot, Waters has to perform and pass four certification flights from the 20th Operations Group commander, 20th Fighter Wing commander, 9th Air Force commander, and Air Combat Command commander. The F-16CM Fighting Falcon was first put into action in 1979 as a multirole fighter capable of suppression of enemy air defenses, offensive counter air, defensive counter air, close air support, and forward air controller missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)

A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon piloted by Capt. John Waters, F-16 Viper Demonstration team pilot, soars over Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., during a 20th Operations Group certification flight, Jan. 4, 2017. In order to be certified as a demonstration pilot, Waters has to perform and pass four certification flights from the 20th Operations Group commander, 20th Fighter Wing commander, 9th Air Force commander, and Air Combat Command commander. The F-16CM Fighting Falcon was first put into action in 1979 as a multirole fighter capable of suppression of enemy air defenses, offensive counter air, defensive counter air, close air support, and forward air controller missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- As preparations begin across the globe for the 2017 air show season, an elite team of Airmen assigned to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina are hard at work getting ready for their new year debut.

The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team is one of three single aircraft performance teams in the Air Force preparing for the season by training and certifying new maintainers and the new demonstration pilot. Part of the selection process includes four certification flights approved by the 20th Operations Group commander, 20th Fighter Wing commander, 9th Air Force commander, and Air Combat Command commander. The final steps of certification were completed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Feb. 1, 2017.

Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Combat Command commander, said he was impressed with the team's show, and encouraged them to not only enjoy the experience, but to represent the U.S. Air Force well before the eyes of the world.

The new pilot for the team is Capt. John “Rain” Waters from Peachtree City, Georgia. Waters is a veteran pilot with more than 2,500 hours in a military aircraft and 180 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve.

Waters is taking over from Maj. Craig “Rocket” Baker, the former F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot, who started with the team in 2015 following the shutdown of all single ship demonstration teams in 2012. Demonstration pilots serve two-year tours on their respective teams.

“The certification is important because it gives us the validation that we know what we’re doing and that we have the best Airmen on the team as possible to go out and to represent the Air Force,” Waters said.

According to the Air Force Recruiting Service, 20 years ago 47 percent of children could name someone they knew who served in the military, today only 16 percent of children are able to do that, and the Viper Demonstration Team is hoping to increase that number.

“The most rewarding part of the job is being able to go to the schools and to interact with the public and show them what the Air Force can do,” Hall said. “There is a large part of the population that doesn’t know about the military, and it’s our job to go out there and share our experiences.”

Fulfilling the team’s mission to inspire the future generation of pilots and maintainers by demonstrating the combat capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the demonstration team performs approximately 21 air shows a year across the United States and Canada.

The F-16 is the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft capable of flying up to twice the speed of sound. Its General Electric F-129 engine can produce up to 27,000 pounds of thrust.

Following the certification process, the demonstration team is scheduled to go to the Heritage Flight Conference at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, where Waters will be certified to fly alongside World War II and Vietnam era aircraft, known as a heritage flight.

“Knowing that I can be a part of a team that can function at a high level, learn through adversity, and ultimately excel is inspiring and humbling to be a part of,” Waters said.

In 2016, air shows were considered the number one recruiting asset for the Air Force. By having highly dedicated and motivated Airmen on these teams to spread their knowledge the Air Force will be able to stay as the world’s most dominant power in air, space and cyberspace.

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