EL CENTRO – Excitement builds every year as the Valley anticipates the return of the Blue Angels, the navy’s elite flying team that spend their winters where the sun (mostly) shines. This year is no different as photographers and fans greeted the pilots, watching as their familiar formation flew into the Valley skies Saturday afternoon and landed on time at their winter home at the El Centro Naval Air Base.
A total of 16 officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels. Each year the team typically selects three tactical fighter jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to relieve departing members. Officers typically serve two years with the team. Blue Angels officers return to the fleet after their tours of duty.
The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the “Boss,” the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. Boss must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. The Commanding Officer flies the Number 1 jet.
The number 2 position, is the right wingman, this year manned by Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, he is Blue Angel #2. Suyderhoud’s job is setting the formation off the Boss and everyone else follows him.
Suyderhoud says the Blue Angels are here to inspire a culture of excellence and he personally wants to inspire kids and others to reach for excellence.
“My favorite part is getting to go talk to high schools and kids. I love the job, but talking to kids about what I do is the best part,” Suyderhoud said.
Kristopher Haugh runs the naval base’s public relations including the Blue Angels when they call El Centro home.
“The Blue Angels have been coming to El Centro since 1967 when El Centro asked them to visit,” said Haugh. “This will be the 49th year the Blue Angels have been training in El Centro.”
Also, the Blue Angels will celebrate their 70th anniversary as an elite performance crew this year, already performing for more than 484 million fans. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, ordered the establishment of the team on April 24, 1946.
A civilian support group here in the valley, the Navy League, works hard to make their stay a memorial one according to member Lisa Gallinat.
“We provide family support to the active duty members as well as their families,” said Gallinat. “The relationship is kept throughout the year, even when the teams have finished their winter training here in El Centro. We even support them when they go back to Pensacola, Florida.”
Career-oriented officers specializing in maintenance, administration, aviation medicine, public affairs and supply fill support positions. The Blue Angels base their selection of officers on professional ability, military bearing and communication skills.
The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.[envira-gallery id=”70265″]