Two years across the Pacific with the PACAF Demo Team
By Staff Sgt. Daniel Bargielski, Pacific Air Forces Demonstration Team
/ Published August 24, 2010
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- There are two types of servicemembers overseas. There are those who go to work, do their job and then go home while staying well within their comfort zone. Then there are those who get out into the local community, make a difference and leave with experience and memories they'll never forget.
I returned from Chitose, Japan, Aug. 9, after performing with the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team as a crewchief. Chitose, a particular show I have performed in three times -- more than any other one place in my demo career, was where I performed first, and last. I remembered feeling, after I finished my last show with the team, that I had experienced something few others had experienced. I was glad to have the opportunity and privilege of serving with the Demo Team. Something so exuberant, when given the chance, should be experienced by all.
Chitose was a great air show due to the crowd proximity and reaction. I think it's the one place I will remember the most. At the end of the ground portion of the show, we marched straight toward the huge crowd and could hear the cameras snapping over the roar of the jet engine and stopped 10 feet in front of them. It really does give you a rush and a major rock-star-like feeling.
As I look back on my two-year tour with the PACAF Demo team, a few things come to mind. The first is comaraderie and working as a team to accomplish difficult and time-consuming tasks to make sure our jets are ready to be pushed to their limits.
The rest of the team and I have spent countless days and nights preparing these jets to not only fly, but to also have them looking their show-quality best. There were many hard days dealing with certain issues and getting to where we needed to be, but ultimately, the preparation made the shows worth our time and we all came together like a family.
For example, in Bangalore, India, we had limited tools and parts to accomplish a particular job. Getting a certain part to fix one of the jets was difficult without sacrificing security. We were isolated with no U.S. base nearby to rely on for replacement parts. It took all of us coming together to get the part in securely and get the plane back in the air.
India was also unique in that we were the only actual demo team there, which made us feel a little more special, because we were the main attraction. The whole time there, we worked next to the German Air Force and saw the Euro-fighter along with numerous other aircraft that we wouldn't have been able to experience firsthand. And of course, we have Australia. With the great weather and people, who wouldn't want to go there?
We saw some places and things most people in my career field wouldn't be able to see. As a team, we have been all over Japan, India, Australia, South Korea and Singapore. We worked with foreign militaries at each location and learned some ways that were different from our own.
In the end, the crowds were what really made it worth our while. Interacting with the different audiences, making their air show a great experience for them, was something I was proud to be a part of. Taking pictures, signing autographs and handing out free pins and patches to kids to see smiles on their faces made all the hustle and bustle of prepping for these shows all worth it.
As I take a look back on the years I have been a part of this team, I wouldn't change a thing. It has truly been a great experience all around, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I suggest to anyone, if given the chance to be a part of something as great as the PACAF Demo team, to go and participate in new experiences you will never forget.