July 13, 2009 (by Maj. Bernadette Dozier) - When the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform at the base's open house this weekend, there likely will be many spectators hoping to be part of that team someday. However, for a man in the crowd, that will be a reality starting this fall.
Maj. John Gallemore, assistant chief of 388th Operations Group standardization and evaluation, was one of three pilots selected to fill positions for the 2010 team. As Thunderbird No. 8, he will serve as the advance pilot and narrator. Major Gallemore will arrive at each demonstration site before the entire team to ensure all arrangements for the performance are complete. He'll also narrate each demonstration, as well as fly media and orientation flights.
"I was extremely honored to be selected and excited about the challenges that lie ahead," Major Gallemore said.
As one can imagine, the selection process to be part of the "premier demonstration" team is very thorough and competitive.
From a pool of pilot applicants the team picks 10 semi-finalists, he explained. The semi-finalists then travel with the Thunderbirds to one of their demonstration sites where they are interviewed by all team members, as well as the commanders of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and 57th Fighter Wing, who are both based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., where the team is also based. Then the team picks five finalists for another round of interviews and orientation flights.
Although the major is a highly qualified F-16 pilot with combat experience, he will still undergo training since the flying the Thunderbirds do is completely different than the flying done in the Combat Air Forces, he explained.
"In the CAF you are flying your jet to employ ordnance or maintain air superiority or air support in close proximity to friendly forces," he said. "The Thunderbirds are flying to demonstrate the aerial performance capabilities of the F-16."
For some pilots, being a Thunderbird is a childhood dream; however, that wasn't the case for the Conroe, Texas, native.
"I have not always wanted to be a Thunderbird," he admitted. "As an Air Force officer and aviator I have always wanted to be the best. I personally feel the Thunderbirds are not only the best at what they do, but also the best way I can represent the U.S. Air Force."
Major Gallemore is not the only one excited about the good news -- his wife, Amy, and two daughters, Lucy and Emma, share his sentiments.
"My family is extremely excited, but I would be lying if I said it will be easy," he said of the demanding schedule.
Each year the team performs approximately 70 shows from March to November in the United States and other countries.
"Our profession - whether it be as a combat aviator or part of the Thunderbirds as a demonstration pilot - requires us to leave our families," said Major Gallemore, who has served almost 11 years in the Air Force. "Sometimes it is defense of our nation and sometimes it is to represent, recruit and retain Airmen.
"Fortunately my wife is not only very understanding of this higher calling, but extremely supportive and is excited about the opportunity to support our country and our Air Force in a new capacity."