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Thunderbirds announce 2018 officer selections

FILE PHOTO -- The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, performs precision aerial maneuvers demonstrating the capabilities of Air Force high performance aircraft to people throughout the world. The squadron exhibits the professional qualities the Air Force develops in the people who fly, maintain and support these aircraft. The Thunderbirds squadron is an Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots (including six demonstration pilots), four support officers, three civilians and more than 130 enlisted personnel performing in 25 career fields. The Lockheed Martin (formerly General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon represents the full range of capabilities possessed by the Air Force's tactical fighters. This highly maneuverable multi-role fighter has proven itself to be one of the world's best precision tactical bombers and air-to-air combat aircraft. The only modifications needed to prepare the aircraft for its air demonstration role are installing a smoke-generating system in the space normally reserved for the 20mm cannon, and the painting of the aircraft in Thunderbird colors. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, performs precision aerial maneuvers demonstrating the capabilities of Air Force high performance aircraft to people throughout the world. The squadron exhibits the professional qualities the Air Force develops in the people who fly, maintain and support these aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command, has officially selected the officers who will be joining the United States Air Force Thunderbirds for the 2018 demonstration season.

Capt. William Graeff, 88th Fighter Training Squadron, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, has been selected as Thunderbird No. 2, the team’s left wing pilot. He will fly as close as three feet from the No. 1 jet during flight formations, demonstrating the teamwork and precision of America’s Air Force. Graeff will replace Maj. Ryan Bodenheimer.

Capt. Stephen Del Bagno, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida, has been selected as Thunderbird No. 4, the team’s slot pilot. Like Graeff, Del Bagno will also fly in close formation with the other demonstration pilots, just aft of the No. 1 aircraft and between the two wingmen. Del Bagno will be the first F-35 pilot to serve on the team and will replace Maj. Nick Krajicek.

Capt. Matthew Kimmel, 79th Fighter Squadron, Shaw AFB, South Carolina, has been chosen as Thunderbird No. 6, the team’s opposing solo pilot. The solo pilots perform maneuvers that showcase the maximum capabilities of the F-16 aircraft. Maj. Whit Collins, the current opposing solo pilot, will transition to the lead solo position in 2018, replacing Maj. Alex Turner.

Maj. Eric Gorney, 613th Air Operations Center, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, will serve as Thunderbird No. 7, the team’s operations officer. His duties will include air space coordination, ground communication with the pilots in the air and safety observation. Gorney will replace Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh.

Capt. Lauren Venturini, 704th Munitions Support Squadron, Ghedi Air Base, Italy, has been selected as Thunderbird No. 10, the team’s executive officer. Her responsibilities will include leading an executive support staff responsible for Thunderbirds budget, training and force support actions for the commander. Venturini will replace Capt. Angelina Urbina.

Capt. Kassandra Mangosing, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, will serve as Thunderbird No. 11, the squadron’s maintenance officer. She will be responsible for the operational capability of 11 F-16 fighter jets and the management of more than 90 Airmen in various aircraft maintenance specialties. Mangosing will replace Maj. Warren Smith.

Maj. Raymond Geoffroy, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, has been chosen as Thunderbird No. 12, the squadron’s public affairs officer. He will assume the team’s extensive media relations, community relations and public relations programs. Geoffroy will replace Capt. Sara Harper.

“The entire field of officer applicants this year was phenomenal,” Lt. Col. Jason Heard said. “The seven officers selected for the Team will no doubt bring the level of pride, precision and professionalism to uphold the tradition of excellence of our Team.”

The 12 officer positions on the team are two-year tours of duty. By design, the position openings are staggered, allowing the squadron to maintain continuity of experience and leadership. In 2018, Thunderbird Nos. 1, 3, 6, 8, and 9 will be replaced.

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