July 13, 2012 (by A1C Briana Jones) - The Thunderbirds are the air demonstration squadron of the USAF, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. They tour the United States and much of the world, performing aerobatic formations and solo flying in specially marked aircraft's acting as the Nations Ambassadors in Blue.
Capt. Joshua Boudreaux, 31st OSS, inspects an F-16 before a training flight on July 2nd, 2012 at Aviano AB. Boudreaux was selected for a 2 year tour as part of the Thunderbirds. [USAF photo by A1C. Briana Jones]
They are an Air Combat Command unit composed of 8 pilots, 4 support officers, 3 civilians and more than 130 enlisted personnel performing in 25 different career fields.
Capt. Joshua Boudreaux, 31st Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment commander, has been chosen to serve as Thunderbird No.2., flying left wing for the next two years, travelling and training with the team.
Boudreaux first heard the news with a phone call that included every officer of the Thunderbirds.
"Hearing their voices saying 'congrats', I was very humbled, but I was also very honoured" Boudreaux said. All the members (I competed against) are wonderful people and true professionals so to be selected out of that group was just a huge honour."
Boudreaux applied to be a Thunderbird in January of 2011 and found out he was 1 of 3 selected for next year's team May 28. He will start his 2-year tour beginning in October.
Originally there were more than 30 pilot applicants from around the Air Force which were then narrowed down to 12 and then to 6. The final 6 are then interviewed by the 57th wing commander, the Thunderbirds commander, and members of the team. For 3 days the final 6 observe what the Thunderbirds have to go through during a typical show season and how the team entire team interacts to efficiently accomplish their mission week after week on the road. After that the final 3 are chosen.
Boudreaux earned his commission from United States Air Force Academy in 2003. He has been stationed at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and Osan Air Base, Korea. He has had numerous job titles to include chief of programming, assistant flight commander, flight commander and instructor pilot. Furthermore Boudreaux has been presented with the Daedalian Leadership award at Luke AFB
and the T-38 Formation Top Gun and academic award at Columbus AFB. He has also excelled in education and graduated in the top third graduate of his Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 2007 and graduated with honors from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 2011.
Although Boudreaux has clearly exceeded education and experience wise, becoming a Thunderbird is also about the whole person concept.
"Capt Boudreaux is awesome. It's really that simple. He's a leader, a combat proven fighter pilot, a true professional, and has a unique ability to translate his love and dedication to our service to the people around him" said Lt. Col. Jason Bailey, 31st Operations Support Squadron commander. "Now as a Thunderbird, he'll be able to use that rare talent to reach out to people across the world on behalf of our Air Force".
Boudreaux is excited about becoming a Thunderbird, but is even more excited that he gets to replace a long time friend as pilot No. 2., flying left wing.
"It is awesome, it's got some personal impact as far as the individual I'm replacing" he said. We flew together at the Air Force Academy as glider instructor pilots and were on the cross country team together. We were 20 years old and the Air Force gave us single seat gliders to fly together. We did that for three years then we graduated together, went off to pilot training and then eventually both ended up flying the F-16."
There's no doubt that being a Thunderbird is a life and career changing opportunity. A lot of challenges are presented with being selected, and it has its advantages and disadvantages. Boudreaux is excited about the challenges he might face and is ready to face them head on.
"When you are in the military, people every day and everywhere see you as a symbol and an ambassador for all that wear a uniform and that is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly" said Boudreaux. "I want to be able to tell some of my stories and share my experiences, as well the experiences of those who I have served with, I am humbled to be given that opportunity. "