HOFU-KITA AIR BASE, Japan --
The Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demonstration Team from Misawa Air Base, Japan performed at the Hofu Air Festival, giving approximately 30,000 spectators a front row seat to the power and maneuverability of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, May 21.
The team's objective is to strengthen the U.S. Air Force's relationship with countries in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through demonstrations showcasing the pinnacle of the Air Force’s core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.
After Maj. Richard Smeeding, the PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team pilot, performed 14 maneuvers over the span of 15 minutes, he returned to MCAS Iwakuni, while the four members on location made personal contact with host nation individuals on the flight line.
While the team's primary focus is to showcase the jet’s capabilities, community engagement plays a big role. They dedicated several hours answering people's questions, signing autographs and taking pictures.
“My first time ever mingling with the crowd was actually at last year’s Hofu Air Festival and it was a surreal feeling. I didn’t know how to react because I’m just a maintainer,” Tech. Sgt. Tristan Berger, a PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team aerospace propulsion craftsman and narrator said, laughing. “Now I enjoy it a lot; I look forward to making people smile and seeing the kids faces light up when they see us. They gaze up at me like I’m a giant from a far away land.”
Immersing with the Japanese culture on and off the flight line cultivates a deeper significance to the U.S. and Japan bilateral relationship, evidencing it is built on more than a military foundation.
“We are often the first U.S. military personnel the Japanese see and our first interaction is showing them this awesome display in the air while showing a friendly face on the ground,” said Capt. Dakota Newton, the PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team flight safety observer. “It’s a great experience because you can see from the looks on their faces how much they enjoyed the show.”
The PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team is comprised of members from the 13th Fighter Squadron, 14th FS and the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The team includes one pilot, two narrators, one safety observer, a superintendent and a maintenance team comprised of three crew chiefs and four specialists, responsible for the aircraft's avionics and electrical systems and engines.
With the closure of the flight line at Misawa AB, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni temporarily became one of three locations Wild Weasel pilots and maintainers are operating from until the flight line is operational. As if this was not impressive enough for the 35th Fighter Wing's team of jets, the demo team proved its flexibility even further -- they had to launch the jet from a different location than where the air show took place.
“Although this is one of the smallest air shows we attend throughout the year, we had to operate out of two locations,” explained Berger. “Half of the team stayed at MCAS Iwakuni to launch and recover the jet while the rest of us went to Hofu to fulfill the air show portion of our routine, as well as interact with the host Koku-Jieitai personnel and attendees.”
Although their show schedule keeps the team busy, this is not their primary job. They must maintain readiness to deploy with or support the 35th FW wherever needed.
“In addition to the yearly show schedule that includes roughly around 15 air shows, this team is still ready to deploy in support of the 35th FW's contingency mission within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, all while running our day-to-day jobs within the squadron,” explained Newton.
The demo team is slated to visit Chitose Air Base next on their tour.