Valdosta's Hometown Hero flies with USAF Thunderbirds | News
VALDOSTA, GA (WALB)- The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are in south Georgia at Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta.
Today a Lowndes County leader got to experience the thrill of flying in an F-16.
It's a moment most people don't get to experience, flying in a United States Air Force Thunderbird F-16. For Lowndes County Deputy, Lt. Joseph Dukes, he says it was an honor to be awarded the flight as Valdosta's Hometown Hero.
"It's a very humbling experience. I work with great guys all the time that for one reason from anther could definitely be in this spot," said Dukes.
The Thunderbirds are in town to represent the pride, power, and fearless flight stunts by America's Ambassadors in Blue. But today the spotlight was on Dukes, a former airmen and now a sheriff's deputy with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience.
"Once you get up there is was absolutely amazing, it was really amazing watching how effortlessly that it was for them to be able to pre form those maneuvers," said Dukes.
120 members make up the Thunderbirds team, but only six are pilots. Major Caroline Jensen flies jet number 3 and says giving people like Dukes the opportunity to experience the power of an F-16 makes her job worthwhile.
"It's a once in a lifetime experience for people to come and meet the team and hop in the backseat of one of the Thunderbirds, and get to go out and fly the maneuvers that we do and see the capabilities of the F-16," said Jensen.
Right now the Thunderbirds are inspecting the F-16 from top to bottom, preparing for their next flight this afternoon.
After an hour in the air, Dukes says he's hungry but glad he didn't throw up his breakfast.
"An egg mcmuffin from McDonalds, I'll probably get something a little more substantial," said Dukes.
Dukes had to go through a few hours of training this morning before he took flight.
You can see the Thunderbirds perform this weekend. The gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for Moody's free Open House. The Thunderbirds show starts at 11.
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