By Capt. Corinna Jones
Deputy Director, Academy Public Affairs
PASADENA, Calif. – The Air Force parachute demonstration team, the Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue, jumped into the Rose Bowl as part of pregame activities during the Citi BCS National Championship Jan. 7.
Wings of Blue members dropped into the stadium of 93,000 people with the American flag, game ball and game coin as well as team flags for the Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas Longhorns, the two teams competing for the championship trophy.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance. This represents all of the work the 98th Flight Training Squadron has done up to now,” said Cadet 1st Class Spencer Walker, who jumped with the Alabama flag. “This is years of work of getting our name out there, jumping and doing a good job and performing this mission like we are supposed to.”
The Rose Bowl jump marks number 510 for Cadet Walker, who will attend pilot training after he graduates in May.
“I’m from Alabama and have been an Alabama fan my whole life. For them to be playing in the Rose Bowl is all the more special for me.”
Other cadets chosen to jump were Cadet 1st Class Joseph Valdez, a native of Las Vegas, N.M., who carried the Texas flag; Cadet 1st Class David Leibrand, a native of Scobey, Mont., who jumped with the BCS Championship flag; and Cadet 1st Class Spencer Schardein, a native of Louisville, Ky., who jumped with the game ball and coin.
“You work hard throughout your Wings of Blue career and to be chosen to jump into this high visibility game of more than 93,000 people is pretty humbling,” said Cadet Valdez. “It’s an honor to represent the Air Force at this game.”
The Rose Bowl jump marks 621 for Cadet Valdez, who attended the U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School, graduates in May and will also attend pilot training.
The Wings of Blue jump team is the Air Force’s official parachute demonstration team and comprises 115 people including cadets, active-duty servicemembers, Reservists and civilians. However, only 18 people represented the Air Force at the Rose Bowl. Four of the six who jumped were cadets.
The Wings of Blue, now the Air Force Parachute Demonstration Team, began as a cadet parachuting program in 1963 when interested cadets formed a recreational club. The basic Academy course evolved from that original club into today’s program. The objectives of the parachute program are threefold: train cadets in basic free-fall parachuting, represent the Academy at competitions and demonstrations and provide a leadership laboratory and motivational experience for cadets.
“The USAFA parachute program is a leadership lab for building leaders of character,” said Lt. Col. Aldru Aaron, 98th Flying Training Squadron commander. “This demonstration allows us to combine the finest aspects of aircrew, training, jumpers and discipline in order to show the Air Force’s capability to the world.”