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Luke crew chief to join Thunderbirds

February 5, 2010 (by A1C Melanie Iannaggi) - Most crew chiefs aspire to become part of something great like working on Air Force 1 or at NASA. But, one master sergeant at Luke Air Force base landed one of the top special assignments in his career field -- being part of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

MSgt. Manuel Gonzalez, 756th AMS production superintendent, was selected for the USAF Demonstration Team, the Thunderbirds. [USAF photo by SSgt. Jason Colbert]

After 20 years of service, eight at Luke, Master Sgt. Manuel Gonzalez, 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent, has been selected to join the Thunderbirds for a three-year controlled tour at Nellis AFB, Nev., in April.

"It is a pretty common goal for maintainers to be part of the Thunderbirds during their career," Sergeant Gonzales said. "The opportunity presented itself, so I took advantage of it and applied for the assignment. I was very fortunate to have my leadership support me, because I couldn't have done it without them."

Servicemembers at the 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit are proud of their superintendant and know exactly how high of an honor it is to be selected for the Thunderbirds.

"Thousands of Airmen apply and only a very small percent of those are selected," said Master Sgt. Ricky Soctomath, 756th AMXS section NCO in-charge. "Being a maintainer for the Thunderbirds is the most prestigious job in the Air Force for a crew chief."

Sergeant Gonzales said he doesn't know what his duties will be with the Thunderbirds yet but will find out after a 21-day introduction program that he needs to pass in order to officially be part of the team.

"It's going to be long hours," he said. "The first year will be a lot of training, but the following two years should be quite an experience. I should be traveling about 220 days a year with a tour in either Europe or Asia each year."

After the tour, Sergeant Gonzales said he plans to stay on active duty.

"I already have my 20 years of service in, but it has always been my goal to be a chief master sergeant," he said.

Courtesy of 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs