F-16 VDT completes 2018 season at BIAS
By Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves, 20th Fighter Wing
/ Published November 26, 2018
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- U.S. Airmen assigned to the Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team completed the 2018 air show season by participating in the Bahrain International Airshow at Sakhir Airbase, Kingdom of Bahrain, Nov. 14-16.
The event, advertised as “the fastest growing air show in the middle east,” highlighted the capabilities of aircraft and aviators from across the world, including Russia, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.
Maj. John “Rain” Waters, F-16 VDT commander and pilot, presented an F-16CM Fighting Falcon demonstration each day with the support of his crew.
While the team met a given tasking by participating in BIAS, they were also demonstrating the Air Force’s ability to work with partners from around the world.
“Everything we do in today’s world we do in a combined effort,” said Waters. “We join with our coalition partners to operate in contingency operations all across the globe. It’s really important for us to come out to an air show and work together just like it’s very important for us to go out and work together to engage in contingency operations.”
Working with international performance groups was a unique experience for the team.
“Being able to see some of the other aircraft that we don’t ever get to see in the U.S. fly and do their demonstrations and seeing the way their aircraft maneuver in the air was great,” said Master Sgt. Chris Schneider, F-16 VDT superintendent.
Tech. Sgt. Kam Glowacki, F-16 VDT noncommissioned officer in charge, said it was awesome to integrate with and talk to people on the ground as well as be part of a network capable of putting aircraft in the sky.
Throughout the 2018 season, Waters completed 158 sorties with over 143 hours of flight time and covered 51,750 miles while at home at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and participating in 23 air shows around the world.
To make those missions possible, the team’s maintenance crew completed countless hours of maintenance, safety observers relayed information from the ground and public affairs coordinators organized outreach through community engagement and media operations.
Between time dedicated to preparation, travel and performance, some team members may have felt as though they were always on the move.
Having to travel from one show to the next without a break was one of the biggest challenges of the season, said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Mullins, F-16 VDT avionics specialist. Although members missed things by being gone up to 280 days of the year, they put things into perspective by thinking of the mission.
By relying on each other to tackle every issue head on, the team was able to reach a worldwide audience.
“In the end, it’s about sharing our love of our country and aviation and, hopefully, inspiring that next generation to join and serve,” said Waters. “The demo team has an incredibly important role to be able to connect the populace with their Department of Defense and it is an incredibly vital job.”
While most team members are scheduled to transition back to their normal duties on the flight line, the connections they made as part of the F-16 VDT will not be forgotten.
“The whole team concept has changed and become a family concept,” said Mullins. “When I think of my brothers and sisters, I definitely incorporate the guys and girls I’ve served with on the Viper Demo Team. We’ve experienced so much together that it’s going to be hard to say goodbye and move on to the next chapter of our lives.”
Although the pilot for the 2019 season will not be confirmed until he or she is certificated by Air Force leaders, Waters said he believes the team will be in good hands and he hopes it will continue growing and getting better.
“The 2018 season, for me, has been a whirlwind,” said Waters. “It seemed like it just started, but now it’s over and coming to a conclusion. It’s really bittersweet because I really have enjoyed my job as the demo pilot and as team commander. The people have been great, the flying has been awesome and to be able to go and experience so many different countries and cultures has been something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
In preparation for the next season, the team is scheduled to participate in the 2018 International Council of Air Shows Convention at Las Vegas, Nevada, Dec. 3-6.