Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. — Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh assumed command of the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron during an assumption of command ceremony held at the Thunderbird hangar here Dec. 20.
“At this particular point in time, the Air Force needs an experienced leader and skilled aviator who understands the unique challenges and opportunities associated with the Thunderbirds and I can think of no one more qualified for this position than Lt Col Kevin Walsh,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander.
As the Commander of the Thunderbirds, Walsh will have the unique dual responsibilities of commanding a force of 130 service members comprising 28 career fields assigned to the squadron, while also flying the number 1 jet and leading all demonstration flights that demonstrate the power and precision of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“I am excited that we are going to do something historic this year,” said Walsh. “We have a very unique set of challenges that hasn’t really happened in our history and so I’m excited to be a part of the team that pulls together and flies an effective show season.”
Walsh entered the Air Force in 2002 after completing a bachelor’s degree in Human Factors Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. He earned his pilot rating at Columbus AFB, Miss. the following year. In 2010, he attended the USAF Weapons School, and became an F-16 weapons officer.
He served as an instructor in the European F-16 Weapons School at Leeuwarden Airbase, the Netherlands, prior to his assignment as the Director of Operations with the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.
“Over the last two years I’ve gotten a great behind-the-scenes look as to how the whole team operates so I feel well-equipped and up to the task of being Thunderbird #1,” Walsh said. “It’s a huge squadron with a lot of people that do a lot of different jobs so it’d be silly to say it isn’t intimidating at all.”
Since the team’s inception, more than 330 officers have worn the distinguished emblem of “America’s Ambassadors in Blue.” Through selfless dedication, a desire to excel and a constant commitment to improvement, these leaders have channeled their efforts into making the Thunderbirds what they are today.
“When we have safely completed our training and are ready to hit the road, we’re going to blow the doors off of houses around the country,” Walsh said. “By doing so, we will recruit the next generation of Airmen, we will retain those who have raised their right hand to defend this great country, and we will inspire people from around the world, to be better versions of themselves.”
To learn more about the 2018 show season, visit http://afthunderbirds.com/site/show-season/ and stayed tuned to “afthunderbirds” on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter team updates, videos, photos and other exciting content.
Story By Staff Sgt. Stephanie Englar, USAFADS/PA