'Florida pilots take spotlight for Guard's first Super Bowl flyover

  • Published
  • By MSgt Tom Kielbasa
Four F-15 Eagle fighter jets from the 125th Fighter Wing roared over Sun Life
Stadium at the beginning of Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, Feb. 7, flying in a
perfect formation as singer Carrie Underwood finished her rendition of the
National Anthem.
"It was awesome!" said Lt. Col. John "Homer" Black, lead F-15 pilot for the
Super Bowl flyover. "It was an honor to even be chosen to do this."
This was the first time an Air National Guard unit performed the prestigious
Super Bowl flyover.
Black and his wingmen - Col. Bill "Yogi" Bair, Col. Bob "Squirt" Branyon and
Lt. Col. Mike "Speedo" Rouse - took off from their base at the Jacksonville
International Airport in North Florida about an hour before kickoff and flew
in a holding pattern above Miami until the beginning of the National Anthem.
While keeping in constant radio contact with an Air Guard ground crew at the
stadium, the jets blasted through the South Florida twilight high above the
pre-game show.
"I was the only one looking forward so I'm the only one who had a pretty good
view of what was going on," Black said, describing the approach over the
stadium. "The other guys are just basically looking at me...At about a mile
and a half out I could recognize Carrie Underwood on the big (screen)."
With afterburners glowing orange in the darkening sky, the jets brought a
surge of applause and cheers from the crowd, and even drew a big smile from
Carrie Underwood on the center stage.
"We just wanted to make the formation look perfect," said pilot Bair after
the successful flyover. "Representing the Air National Guard in one of the
biggest venues in the world was awesome! As we were coming across the stadium
we could hear the people screaming and see the flash bulbs going off. It was
something I'll never forget."
After the jets landed safely at nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base, the pilots
were brought back to the stadium by helicopter and invited onto the field to
watch legendary rock band The Who perform the halftime show. Later in the
third quarter the Florida Air National Guard pilots were officially
recognized on the field - again drawing applause and cheers from the
pumped-up football fans.
The Air Guardsmen were again present on the field after the game as Super
Bowl winners the New Orleans Saints received the Vince Lombardi trophy amidst
showers of confetti and shouts of "Who Dat!!" from jubilant Saints' fans.
Following several photo-ops with players and cheerleaders, the Airmen left
the stadium to a peppering of cheers and applause from lingering fans.
"I've had a pretty incredible 20 years between the Florida Air National Guard
and my time in the active duty Air Force," Black said, "And to have this
happen to me toward the twilight of my career is something that I'll carry
with me forever."
While the pilots were joining in the Super Bowl spectacle, other members of
the Florida National Guard were quietly working behind the scenes to keep the
crowd and the event safe: about 40 members of the 44th and 48th Civil Support
Teams (CST) were supporting law enforcement in scanning for chemical,
biological, radiological and explosive materials.
The joint Army and Air Guard civil support teams worked under direction from
the Department of Energy to augment hazardous interdiction teams staged in
strategic locations around Sun Life Stadium. If any dangerous materials were
found Guardsmen would test the samples in their onsite mobile laboratory.
"Our sole purpose is to lend our technical expertise on the ground for an
event should it happen," said 1st Lt. Brian Thomas, operations officer with
44th CST. "It's one less thing for the patrons to worry about. They can sit,
relax and enjoy the game. The (Weapons of Mass Destruction) response package
- with civil, federal and state assets - should make everyone feel safe here
in the state of Florida."
This was the fourth Super Bowl in Florida that the 44th CST has participated
in, and after the Miami-event the Guardsmen hit the road north to support the
Daytona 500 NASCAR race on February 14.
"We were poised to respond from February 3 to the Monday morning after the
Super Bowl," Thomas said of his team's Super Bowl operations. "Everything
went well and we feel confident in our mission and what we contributed to the
entire operation. And we'll continue success in Daytona later this week."