Pensacola, Florida - U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, announced officers selected for the 2017 air show season, Saturday.
The squadron selected three F/A-18 demonstration pilots, events coordinator, C-130 demonstration pilot, flight surgeon, supply officer, and administration officer to join a previously selected Executive Officer on the 2017 team.
Each officer was recommended for selection by Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Dell Bull, and ultimately approved by Chief of Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, for final selection to the 2017 Blue Angels team.
Many highly qualified Navy and Marine Corps officers submit applications to join the Blue Angels each year. "It is such a privilege to have so many talented officers apply to be part of the Blue Angels tradition of showcasing the Navy and Marine Corps to the American public," said Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi, Flight Leader and commanding officer for the 2016 team. "I am inspired by all of those who applied this year and we have an exceptional group to add to next year's team."
The Blue Angels select "finalists" to interview at the team's home base of Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, during the week of the Pensacola Beach Air Show each year. The team makes selections at the conclusion of that week.
"We were extremely fortunate to have so many qualified and motivated applicants apply for the team," said Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, Right Wing pilot and applications officer for the 2017 team selection. "I am excited to see what next year's team will be able to accomplish."
The newly selected 2017 officers include:
F/A-18 Demonstration Pilots:
Navy Lt. Brandon Hempler, 32, of Wamego, Kansas, is an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot currently assigned to Training Squadron TWO-TWO (VT-22), the "Golden Eagles," at NAS Kingsville, Texas. He is a 2007 graduate of Kansas State University, Salina, Kansas.
Navy Lt. Damon Kroes, 34, of Fremont, California, is an F/A-18 Hornet Instructor Pilot currently assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101), the "Sharpshooters," at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. He is a 2006 graduate of San Diego State University, San Diego.
Navy Lt. Nate Scott, 31, of Danville, California, is an F/A-18 Hornet Instructor Pilot currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO SIX (VFA-106), the "Gladiators," at NAS Oceana, Virginia. He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Navy Lt. Dave Steppe, 31, of Birmingham, Alabama, is an EA-18G Growler Naval Flight Officer currently assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron ONE TWO NINE (VAQ-129), the "Vikings," at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. He is a 2008 graduate of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.
C-130 Demonstration Pilot:
Marine Capt. Kyle Maschner, 33, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is a KC-130 Hercules pilot currently assigned to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan. He is a 2006 graduate of Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.
Navy Lt. Juan Guerra, 31, of Ocala, Florida, is a Flight Surgeon currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO SIX (VFA-106), the "Gladiators," at NAS Oceana, Virginia. He is a 2011 graduate of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland.
Navy Lt. Bryan Pace, 32, of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, is a Supply Officer currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA-101), the "Grim Reapers," at Eglin AFB, Florida. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts.
Navy Lt. j.g. Timothy Hawkins, 37, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is an Administrative Officer currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron ONE FOUR THREE (VFA-143), the "Pukin' Dogs," at NAS Oceana, Virginia. He was commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in 2013
Pre-selected to join the 2017 team was:
Navy Cmdr. Matt Kaslik, 43, of The Woodlands, Texas.
Expected to return for the 2017 season are:
Commanding Officer, Flight Leader:
Navy Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi, 43, of Los Altos, California.
F/A-18 Demonstration Pilots:
Navy Lt. Lance Benson, 33, of McPherson, Kansas.
Navy Lt. Tyler Davies, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia.
Navy Cmdr. Frank Weisser, 38, of Atlanta.
C-130 Demonstration Pilots:
Marine Maj. Mark Hamilton, 38, of Becker, Minnesota.
Marine Maj. Mark Montgomery, 37, of Cartersville, Georgia.
Navy Lt. Samuel Rose, 36, of Whitehouse, Texas.
Public Affairs Officer:
Navy Lt. Joe Hontz, 38, of Longmont, Colorado.
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.