The Navy's flight demonstration team, better known as the Blue Angels, begins its 2014 schedule on March 14 at Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif. Here, they fly over Pensacola, Fla., during training in October. (MC1 Terrence Siren / Navy)
■ Blue Angel billets are open in the following rating/paygrade combinations: AD2, AE1, AE2, AE3, AM2, AM3, AME1, AME2, AO2, AT2, AZC, AZ2, AZ3, HM2, LS1, LS2, MC3, NC1, PR2, YN2 and YN3.
■ Applications must be received by May. Selections are made in June.
■ Selected sailors would report to the unit in November.
■ Consult NAVADMIN 005/14 for full eligibility rules and application procedures.
Hanna Rains’ biggest thrill as a member of the Blue Angels had nothing to do with a jet, a pilot or a roaring engine.
“I was eating breakfast with another female on the team,” Rains said, “and a lady came up to us. She said, ‘Seeing you, it gives my daughter hope that she can do whatever she wants to do when she gets older.’
“It gave me chills. It gives me chills just telling you about it.”
Rains, an aviation ordnanceman second class, is one of about 100 enlisted Navy personnel who provide ground support for the Navy’s flight demonstration team. It’s a tightly knit unit that travels the nation during air show season, performing their regular duties while interacting with the public on and off the airfield.
And, as of this month, it’s hiring.
More than 20 billets are open across the aviation community and other skill sets (see box for the list). Sailors who make the cut would join the team for the 2015 air show season; the 2014 season begins in March.
“We look for integrity, professionalism, the ability to communicate,” said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic (AW) Leonard Timms, who’s been with the team for 15 months. “It’s a big selection process we go through.”
Enlisted personnel usually serve three to four years with the unit, according to the Blue Angels’ website. In addition to an application and a letter of endorsement from their commanding officer, applicants will be given a one-on-one interview. Full eligibility and application details are available in a fleetwide message, NAVADMIN 005/14, released Jan. 13.
“People person” isn’t one of the requirements, but it wouldn’t hurt.
“The first day I was at work, I realized how much public speaking I would be doing and how interactive everyone is at the command,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class (AW) Michael Flemister, 28, who was inspired to join the crew after seeing a show in New Orleans. “Everyone is so outgoing that you’ll never walk past someone without them shaking your hand, giving you a fist bump.”
Sailors often visit with air show crowds, even sign autographs and pose for pictures. They visit schools and hospitals.
When they’re off the road, they participate in various community outreach programs near their Pensacola, Fla., home base — something team members got to do a lot after budget moves cut the 2013 season short.
“If you’re stage-shy, be ready for that to be a struggle,” said Rains, 25, in her third year with the Blue Angels. “But that’s something that, as a team, we’ll get you through.”
Before her current job, Rains was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman. Flemister served at a fleet readiness center. Timms, 39, was with the “Airwolves” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 40 out of Mayport, Fla.
“I wanted to give it a shot because I wanted to see what it’s all about,” Timms said of his current post. “I’m happy that I actually did it.”
The job represents a different type of travel than most billets — a show schedule that runs from March to November, with 65 performances in 34 locations. Flemister compared it to a professional football team, but one with road games all year.
His road-trip advice to aspiring crew members: “Have a favorite snack to bring.”
The trips help build unit camaraderie, all three sailors said. And the crowds help build morale.
“When you go to your first air show ... and you see that first kid and that look in their face ... there’s no way to put into words the feelings you can get from that,” Rains said.