Thunderbirds History: How It All Began
In 1947, while the jet age was still in its infancy, military aviation was hurtled into the future with the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. Just six years later, the Air Force wanted an air demonstration team.
The job of forming the team fell to Major Smokey Catledge, the unit’s first commander/leader. His immediate task was to find six officers and 22 enlisted to form the first team and get them ready for their first demonstration at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. three weeks later.
The Air Force’s official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th USAF Air Demonstration Unit/Flight, was activated on May 25, 1953. The unit adopted the name “Thunderbirds”, influenced in part by the strong Native American culture and folklore from the southwestern United States where Luke Air Force Base is located. Three months later the name “Thunderbirds” was added to the unit designation.
Welcome to the TBAA Community
“I firmly believe in “Once a Thunderbird, Always a Thunderbird” and as such we should work together to support one another in achieving goals designed to benefit our Thunderbird family.”
In that spirit, we have coordinated with the TBAA board to develop a list of common goals aimed at making our institution stronger. These goals include:
- Clean, catalog, and digitally preserve artifacts in the Thunderbird bunker
- Restructure and formalize the Honorary Thunderbird program with alumni involvement
- Organize and execute the first Commander/Leader forum
- Restructure and formalize the VIP ticket process and availability
- Adjust plans and schedules to maximize Team participation with the alumni reunion
- Create opportunities for alumni to recruit, retain and inspire future Thunderbirds
TBAA Membership Options
The Thunderbirds Alumni Association exists to promote the comradeship of former and current members of the U. S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “The Thunderbirds” and to ensure that “Once A Thunderbird, Always A Thunderbird” is a continued commitment from each member and that excellence remains the benchmark by which we measure all we do. Under the Internal Revenue Code, (IRC) the Thunderbirds Alumni Association is a 501C (19) veterans organization.
TBAA Membership Options
The Thunderbirds Alumni Association has four categories of membership:
Alumni membership is extended to all who served with the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron ” Thunderbirds” in the capacity of officer or enlisted, who wore the patch and have been certified as worthy by their Commander/Leader.
Team membership is extended to current team officers and enlisted who have satisfactorily completed their training period.
Honorary membership is extended to team-selected Honorary Thunderbirds and Honorary Crew Chiefs.
Associate membership may be extended to people who have been assigned to the team, such as Chaplains or Flight Surgeons (prior to 1994). Associate membership may also be extended, by a majority vote of the TBAA Board of Directors, to spouses of deceased alumni members, key personnel or special friends who support the team or association.
67th annual tbaa reunion
Reserve your spot today
The objective of the TBAA board is to ensure that everyone, and more, wants to return in 2021 and continue celebrating our “We are the Thunderbirds!” heritage.
2021 Thunderbird Officers
Below are the officers for the 2021 Thunderbirds. If you’d like to read their full bio, click on the images below to be directed to the full Thunderbird Team.
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