On most Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Pensacola, there is one sound residents can pretty much set their watches on. The sound of the Blue Angels' flight practice demonstrations over the city and beach. Locals head outside, or flock to local open parking lots, to catch the practice air shows each week.
However, while many feel the Blue Angels are most impressive while demonstrating incredibly difficult flight maneuvers, it is actually what they do at ground level that bring them the most satisfaction – giving back to the community, meeting fans, and helping to inspire the next generation to be the best they can be in all that they do.
Each year, the Blue Angels interact with over 11 million spectators through air show performances and have flown for more than 450 million spectators worldwide. Additionally, the Blue Angels visit multiple schools and hospitals, and attend community outreach events in every city they travel to. While public outreach is part of the mission, the distinct ability to make a meaningful impact on others is written into the Blue Angel creed and into the hearts of members on the team.
The Blue Angels give their teammates an incredible platform to bring about awareness of the awesome power, precision, and teamwork of the military, while also inspiring millions of people to pursue their dreams and become better versions of themselves.
“It would be impossible to quantify the hours this team volunteers their time locally and across the nation each year, and honestly, we aren’t counting,” said Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael Russell, the team’s volunteer coordinator.
From high school engagements to hospital visits, from beach and highway cleanups to reading to children in the library, an Angel in Blue can be found. While community engagement is part of the job, the Blues have let it become their way of life. Cdr. John Fay, the team’s executive officer, who has been with the team for two years, said it is the selfless heart of the team that has stood out and fascinated him. “We occupy a unique position that provides a very special opportunity to interact with people from across the nation,” said Fay. “That fact is not lost on any of us and it is part of the “why” we do what we do.”
Fay said this unique position also provides the necessary motivation to get through the tough days and Lt. Cmdr. Julius Bratton, #5 solo pilot and the team’s operations officer, agrees.
“We are fortunate that volunteering goes hand in hand with this job,” said Bratton. “In being a Blue Angel, our outreach efforts are intertwined into our regular schedule. We are truly blessed to be healthy and able to put a smile on someone else's face.” Both as a team and as individuals, the Blue Angels pride themselves on development and the pursuit of perfection. The team is transparent during the interview stage about what will be expected of each member, and if at any time a member of the team feels like it is not a fit, they can request to be transferred off the team. But this rarely happens. “Glad to be here is a statement of belief that we share on the Blue Angels team,” said Fay. “It reflects gratitude for the unique position we occupy, serving a purpose larger than ourselves.” The team consists of 138 world class, active duty, Sailors, and Marines, each one bringing experience and expertise from their service in the fleet and honored to serve as the representatives of the more than 800,000 active duty reserve and civilian men and women currently serving worldwide in the Navy Marine Corps.
The Blue Angels are truly - Glad To Be Here.
Glad to be here is a statement of belief that we share on the Blue Angels team.