June 1, 2007 (by 2nd Lt. Erin Slaughter) - For two years running, Elmendorf's 12th FS has had the honor of one of its fliers being chosen to represent the Air Force in the USAF Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.
Lt. Col. Gregory Thomas, 12th FS, was selected to fly the No. 1 position for the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron during the 2008/09 air show seasons. [USAF photo]
Lt. Col. Gregory Thomas was selected to the No. 1 position for the 2008 and 2009 air show seasons.
As the commander and leader, he will not only command the 120-person squadron, but will also fly the lead jet in all air demonstrations.
This career change was not something Colonel Thomas had expected; his main goal was always to become an operational squadron commander.
Despite that, he says he welcomes the change of plans.
"I'm excited to go and do something different. This really is an awesome opportunity to represent the 500,000 plus Airmen engaged around the world," he said.
He fully recognizes the level of responsibility that comes with being a member of the Thunderbirds and is ready for the challenge.
"The Thunderbirds might be the only tangible piece of the military some communities see," he said.
Colonel Thomas knows this from firsthand experience. When he was nine years old, he attended his first air show and saw the Thunderbirds perform. That cemented his desire to become a fighter pilot.
The application process to become a Thunderbird is lengthy. The first applications were due at the end of January. From those applications, semi-finalists were selected. Four individuals were then selected for the No. 1 position, then narrowed down to two, and then Colonel Thomas was chosen.
The process is fairly long because it's important that selected individuals are a good fit for the team.
Colonel Thomas has not been at Elmendorf for even a year, but he will soon leave here for Langley AFB
, Va. for squadron commander's school. He will begin F-16 training at Luke AFB, Ariz. in July.
"The flying is not all that different; I'm not necessarily worried about switching jets, I just want to make sure I'm prepared," he said.
When the airshow season is over in November, Colonel Thomas will begin his Thunderbird-specific training. The outgoing commander and leader will train him during the off-season before moving on, leaving the reins in Colonel Thomas' hands for the next two years.