Viper West season takes off

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Beth Woodward
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Combat Command's West Coast F-16, Fighting Falcon, Demonstration Team, better known as Viper West, began its 2007 season Jan. 31 in Tucson, Ariz. The team will performed Feb. 17 and 18 at the Falcon and Condor Airshow in Lima, Peru.

During Peru's first international airshow, Viper West provided static displays, aerial demonstrations and orientation flights, exhibiting the power of U.S. military aircraft and furthering relations with allied partners.

Viper West, which stages out of Hill Air Force Base, is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC. The team's combat capability performance shows what the F-16 and Air Force bring to the Global War on Terrorism.

"I am particularly impressed with this year's team," said Col. Robert Beletic 388th Fighter Wing Commander. "The demonstration pilot, safety observers and maintainers excelled in their training and have started the season with precision that I normally only see in more developed teams. Our new demonstration pilot, Capt. Russ Piggott, is the leader and will continue to advance the team known for its rich legacy of professionalism and precision.

"While I am naturally partial to Viper West, I would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to see any of Air Combat Command's demonstration teams to go see the incredible display of air combat capability of our U.S. Air Force," said Colonel Beletic. "The demonstrations make one proud of our Air Force and of our nation. They make me want to sign up for the Air Force all over again."

Viper West Airmen are chosen for their two-year terms after a records review and intense interview.

"The men on this team are the 'cream of the crop' and are truly the most professional Airmen serving our Air Force," said Captain Piggott, Viper West pilot and officer in charge. "I'm inspired by them - the hard work they do to prep the jets and make them shine for the crowd."

In addition to building public trust in the Air Force and promoting recruiting and retention programs, team members also reach out to the local community by visiting schools and hospitals, spreading the message of hard work and achieving goals.

"[Being part of the team] allows me to interact with kids - to let them know there are options to being a productive person in society, and there is an opportunity to go to college and learn a skill or trade," said Tech. Sgt. David Sullins, Viper West assistant team chief.

A pilot, two team chiefs and seven maintenance Airmen make up the Viper West team. From February to November, these Airmen perform at approximately 28 airshows, including international shows in South America, Europe and Canada.

The team's first stateside airshows will be held at Davis-Montham Air Force Base, Ariz. and Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif. While large cities on the 2007 schedule, like Louisville, Ky., are rewarding for the team because of the media interest they generate, smaller shows remain the favorite for many team members.

"I must have been told 'thank you' by everyone I talked at the smaller shows like Georgetown, Texas, Lehmington, Ontario and Salinas, Calif. The public was extremely appreciative of the military and all that we do for our country," said Sergeant Sullins.

Additional Viper West 2007 team members include: Master Sgt. Jonathan Veal, Technical Sgts. Daniel May and Dixon Enriquez, Staff Sgts. Ryan Douglass and Jerry Rivers, Senior Airmen Kenneth Umeck, Arthur Greene and Israel Woodmancy.