Thunderbird enters Forest of Friendship

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The first female Thunderbird pilot was inducted into the International Forest of Friendship June 16 here at the "Wings Over Pittsburgh" air show.

Maj. Nicole Malachowski, who flies right wing for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, and retired Gen. Michael P.C. Carns, former Air Force vice chief of staff and fellow IFOF inductee, received the award on her behalf on the Forest grounds.

"It's an absolute privilege, and extremely humbling, to be honored by such a fantastic organization such as The International Forest of Friendship," Major Malachowski said.

The major is a career F-15E Strike Eagle pilot and currently pilots Thunderbird No. 3 She was nominated for the award by Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, for her accomplishments in representing the Air Force through her aviation achievements.

"Nicole has dedicated herself to serving her country and her Air Force," said Lt. Col. Kevin Robbins, Thunderbird No. 1 and team commander. "I hope her story inspires others to reach for their goals and to commit themselves to excellence."

The theme for this year's IFOF memorial is "Youth and Education Programs," which couldn't be more appropriate, Major Malachowski said.

"We've had the opportunity to interact with thousands of America's youth, which is why this year's theme is so fitting," she said. "Our message to the next generation is to follow your passion, pursue excellence in it, and to always dream big!"

The Forest is a living, growing memorial to the history of aviation/aerospace and was created in 1976 as a bicentennial gift to the nation from the city of Atchison, Kansas, the Ninety-Nines (the International Organization of Women Pilots), and Kansas State University Forestry Extension. It contains trees from all 50 states, 35 territories and foreign countries and a "Moon Tree" sycamore grown from a seed taken to the moon on Apollo 14.

Other honorees include Gen. Jimmie Doolittle, the Tuskegee Airmen, Women Air Force Service Pilots, Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James and Eileen Collins. 

(Courtesy of USAFADS Public Affairs)

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