Impacting the community one flight at a time

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
To help the public understand what the Air Force is all about, a specially-developed team takes to the skies throughout the year.

The A-10 East Demonstration Team travels across the U.S. and the world to share the Air Force story and put a face with the Air Force.

'Interacting with the community really gives me a chance to educate people about exactly what it is that our military does," said Maj. Dylan "Habu" Thorpe, A-10 East Demonstration Team pilot. "Specifically with the A-10C Thunderbolt II, I am asked how long ago did they retire these or does the Air Force still use these. I use those chances to inform them on the A-10 and its uses in the military."

With military bases spread out all over the U.S., many people do not have a lot of interaction with the military, so this gives Major Thorpe and the A-10 demonstration team the chance to educate people.

"Many times the air shows we do are the only place that these people will be able to interact with the military, especially at civilian shows," said Major Thorpe. "For shows on military bases, this is usually their first time behind the gates and that's when they get to really see firsthand what we are doing."

Major Thorpe isn't the only one with a story he has met people from all different walks of life that have stories of their own.

"'I have learned as much from the people I meet as they have learned from me," said Major Thorpe. "I have spoken with veterans who have served in World War II all the way to current conflicts. The stories and memories they share make it an honor to perform for them."

The team's involvement with the community goes beyond their time performing. They also spend time visiting hospitals or taking trips to schools in the areas around the air shows.

"This will be my second year as a member of this demonstration team and the work that we do with children and the community really helps them understand the work we do," said Staff Sgt. Adam Sunner, A-10 East Demonstration Team crew chief. "I remember going to a school visit one time and walked into a gym full of children. They listened to us and learned about what we do. For a lot of them this was there first time interacting with the military."

The team demonstrates what Airmen do every day to thousands of people, whether it's during the performance or during one of their many community visits.

"Whenever people thank me for my service, I always remind them that the demonstration team is only here to represent the thousands of Airmen, Marines, soldiers and sailors who are supporting the mission day in and day out behind the scenes," said Major Thorpe.

"All the cheers we get when we prepare, launch and fly an A-10 really belong to all of us who serve our country," said Major Thorpe. "Since the demonstration team spends a lot of time in the public eye, it's cool to be that 'gateway of respect' and I can't tell my fellow service members enough how much their country really appreciates what we all do for them."

One of the team's most recent demonstrations was at the Jones Beach Air Show, N.Y., where they performed for approximately 200,000 people over two days and spent time with Air Force ROTC members and the community.