The Air Force on Wednesday unveiled the names of the six officers — including three pilots — who will join the Thunderbirds demonstration team for the 2020 season.
The six new Thunderbirds, who are assigned to the 12-officer team for two years, will join the six officers who were added for 2019. The Thunderbirds stagger their openings evenly, so the squadron maintains continuity of experience and leadership and does not have a year when its roster completely turns over. Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, selected the new members of the team, which is officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron.
“This year’s applicant pool featured some of the very finest Air Force leaders, who showcased a remarkable level of skill and motivation,” Lt. Col. John Caldwell, the team’s squadron commander and No. 1 pilot, said. “This was an incredibly difficult choice, but I’m confident we chose the right team to carry on the Thunderbird mission and showcase America’s Air Force.”
The new officers are:
♦ Maj. Trevor Aldridge, of the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, who will be the team’s left wing pilot and serve as Thunderbird No. 2. The release said Aldridge will fly as close as three feet from the squadron’s No. 1 jet during formations. Aldridge will replace Maj. Will Graeff.
♦ Capt. Zane Taylor, of the 8th Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, will be the team’s slot pilot and serve as Thunderbird No. 4. As slot pilot, Taylor will fly aft of the No. 1 jet, between the two wingmen. He will replace Maj. Whit Collins.
♦ Capt. Kyle Oliver, of the 27th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. He will serve as Thunderbird No. 6 and be the team’s opposing solo pilot, performing maneuvers intended to push the F-16′s capabilities to its limit. Capt. Michelle Curran, who is now serving as opposing solo pilot, will transition to the lead solo position.
♦ Maj. Kevin DiFalco, of the 31st Operational Support Squadron at Aviano Air Base in Italy, who will be the team’s operations officer, or No. 7. He will perform air space coordination, ground communication with the pilots in the air, and safety observation, and will replace Maj. Eric Gorney.
♦ Capt. Katherine Moorkamp, of Air Combat Command headquarters at Langley-Eustis, who will be Thunderbird No. 10, the team’s executive officer. She will lead an executive support staff responsible for the team’s budget, training and force support actions for the squadron commander. She will replace Capt. Lauren Venturini.
♦ Capt. Remoshay Nelson, of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, who will be Thunderbird No. 12, the team’s public affairs officer. She will replace Maj. Ray Geoffroy and handle media relations, community relations and public relations.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.