U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 391st Fighter Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, pose with wounded warriors and the San Diego Chargers cheerleaders Nov. 1, 2012, inside Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif. The aircrew members flew a four-jet flyover before the start of the nationally televised football game. (Courtesy photo)
U.S. Navy Seamen hold a United States flag on the field of Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif., while four F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, perform a flyover Nov. 1, 2012. The Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-13. (Courtesy photo)
by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
11/16/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- While the National Anthem played during the recent San Diego Chargers versus Kansas City Chiefs football game Nov. 1, 2012, four F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 391st Fighter Squadron from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, streaked over the field in perfect formation to cheers and applause from more than 50,000 fans.
The Bold Tigers only returned home from a 6-month deployment to Southwest Asia a few weeks before being presented this rare opportunity.
"To come home from a deployment and be chosen to fly over an NFL game, basically representing the United States Air Force and military was an absolute honor," said Capt. Jonathan Barber, 391st FS flight commander. "We were thrilled to showcase Gunfighter airpower to the American public during the military appreciation weekend at the NFL game."
Many days of planning and preparing were necessary to ensure the success of the flyover.
"The airspace in the San Diego area is extremely crowded," said Capt. Dan Dlugiewicz, 391st FS scheduler. "There are multiple aircraft everywhere and Barber had to quickly juggle constantly changing situations as well as get us over the stadium at a precise time."
The unique challenges of a flyover required Barber and his team to work with multiple agencies.
"We coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration military liaison office and personnel from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar as well as the San Diego Chargers in order to hit our mark perfectly on schedule," said Barber. "We saw the stadium and the fireworks went off while we shot right above the smoke. We could hear the crowd cheering through our radios. It was an amazing feeling."
After the flyover, the Bold Tigers landed at MCAS Miramar and raced back to the game where they were taken on the field, introduced to the crowd and were able to watch the game by the players.
"We were on the field and they were showing us on the jumbo screen with the crowd going completely crazy all around us. I felt like a rock star," said Dlugiewicz. "The fans were clapping and cheering for us. We took photos with them and gave out patches, coins and stickers to children and teenagers. I'm convinced there is at least one kid from the audience who wants to have a career as an Air Force pilot because of what we did and what they saw."
The opportunity to be ambassadors for the Air Force was a responsibility taken seriously by the members of the aircrew.
"Having a chance to interact with people in that type of atmosphere was thrilling," Barber said. "When you take the patch off your arm and give it to a small child you make their year. Then you see their parents tearing up because they understand how significant the gesture is. It was a very special day."
"In the Air Force we tend to live in our own little world," he continued. "This was a terrific occasion for our wing, squadron and families to show what Gunfighter airpower truly is and we were absolutely privileged to be on the front end of the spear."
The aircrew personnel who piloted the flyover were all captains or below and most are currently on their first active-duty assignment.
"This was an amazing opportunity for us as junior officers and we want to thank our leadership for trusting us to represent the Gunfighters on the national stage," Barber said. "We also want to thank the FAA, MCAS Miramar personnel, San Diego Chargers, and especially their fans for being so kind and supporting us."