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Air Show expectations soar with Thunderbird arrival, community engagement

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The roar of F-16 Fighting Falcons could be heard throughout Clovis and Portales May 26 and 27, as the United States Air Force Thunderbirds took to the High Plains skies.

In an effort to get better acquainted with the community that supports the more than 5,000 Air Commandos who call Cannon home, the Thunderbirds visited with children and families at the Clovis-Carver Public Library; invited a local hero and a member of the regional media to fly in an F-16; and welcomed special guests to view their practice show on the Cannon flight line.

The Thunderbird team received a warm reception at the library, as members of the community shook their hands, asked questions and seized the opportunity to snap photos.

“I wanted to see the Thunderbirds and hear their stories,” said 15-year-old Kevin Winters, a Clovis resident and member of the Civil Air Patrol. “They came from different backgrounds than I would have expected. It was great to learn about people who are doing such incredible things.”

Tyrell Gonser, a Texico resident who rescued eight individuals during the blizzard that blanketed the region in December 2015, and Joe Sherwood, who works for the KLBK and KAMC networks in Lubbock, Texas, donned G-suits and helmets in preparation for a 500 mile-per-hour aerial tour of eastern New Mexico.

“I appreciate everyone letting me do this,” Gonser said. “I really enjoyed it and it’s definitely something I’ve never done before. The initial takeoff and climb was my favorite part. It was just incredible to shoot up to 14,000 feet in what felt like half a second. The experience was so much more than I expected and I’m very grateful.”

Sherwood echoed Gonser’s sentiments.

“Experiencing the sheer power of that aircraft was incredible,” Sherwood said. “The professionalism of the pilot and the support team came together in an extraordinary way I will never forget. I want to thank the Thunderbirds and members of the Air Force for what they do; they are truly remarkable professionals.”

The Thunderbirds’ final event before Cannon opens its gates to the public was a rehearsal of their performance, which was attended by community members whose unique needs or physical limitations may have prevented them from attending the Air Show under regular conditions.

“Everyone had a great time,” said Tony Marion, director of consumer services for the adult program at ENMRSH, an eastern New Mexico organization dedicated to supporting those with disabilities. “Interacting with the Airmen gives them a sense of inclusion because they’re treated so well here, not as if they’re disabled. It’s an amazing opportunity to be exposed to something new and unique.”

The 2016 CAFB Air Show is an opportunity to celebrate the long-standing relationship between the 27th Special Operations Wing and the High Plains community. The event will not only allow the Thunderbirds to demonstrate the professionalism and precision flying skills for which they are world renown, but enable Cannon’s Air Commandos to showcase their unique capabilities as well.

The Air Show is scheduled to take place May 28 and 29 with gates opening to the public at 9 a.m. For more information, visit the Cannon website at