Team Carl Vinson: Angels among Eagles

Story Number: NNS150120-05Release Date: 1/20/2015 8:59:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Curtis D. Spencer, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Public Affairs

USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), At sea (NNS) -- A recent Navy message announced that the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, known as the Blue Angels, is hiring. As everyone knows, it usually helps to know someone at the company where you are applying for a job to give you a leg up with the application process and to let you know what to expect. Who knows, they might even agree to put in a good word for you.

Well, if you're interested in applying for duty with the Blue Angels, you're in luck. Currently there are three Team Vinson crew members who are former Blue Angels and are willing to talk to you about the process of applying for and becoming a Blue Angel.

Working with the Blue Angels is a special duty program and is unlike duty anywhere else, requiring some unique job qualifications.

"Positions within the Blue Angels are personality driven," said Lt. Holly Taylor, former administration officer for the Blue Angels from Sept. 2011 to Nov. 2013 and currently Carl Vinson's personnel officer. "You must be patient and open to learning new things."

And by learning new things, Taylor isn't talking about learning a new rating. She's talking about
becoming a Blue Angel as another Team Vinson crew member explains.

"Being selected to the Blue Angels is a unique opportunity in the Navy, like no other I've experienced my entire career," stated Chief Mass Communication Specialist Russ Tafuri, former Blue Angels public affairs chief from Nov. 2010 to Aug. 2014, and current Carl Vinson Media department leading chief petty officer.

"The Blue Angels hire Sailors and make them Blue Angels. Those selected for duty with the Blues are active duty men and women from the Navy and Marine Corps just like any of us on board the Carl Vinson. But as a Blue Angel, you are trained to represent the pride and professionalism of more than 500,000 active duty Sailors and Marines in the fleet doing the tough jobs every day - like everyone on this ship. Waking up each morning with that responsibility was an honor - every day of my four years on the team."

While proficiency in your job is always expected at a new command, the Blue Angels have a unique perspective on the type of Sailor they are looking for.

"They train people to be a Blue Angel, not just a Sailor who can do his/her job of their rating," said Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class Garrett Unruh, who served as an engine mechanic for the Blue Angels from Nov. 2010 to Nov. 2013, and currently a quality assurance representative for Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113. "They are looking for specific personalities. We went on the road a lot, traveling to air shows. You have to be able to communicate and get along with people from all walks of life. I wouldn't say they are looking for someone with a particular qualification, they are looking for someone with motivation."

Similar to other Navy commands, the Blue Angels are a mix of rates and ranks working together toward a common goal. The camaraderie is shared on all levels, explained Unruh. The chain of command and leadership were extremely supportive during his tenure.

"It's like no other command I have been a part of before," Unruh said. "Everyone really becomes an extremely tight-knit group. They say, 'Once a Blue Angel, always a Blue Angel.' To me that really rings true. Because you were a Blue Angel, no matter where you are for the rest of your life, you will have a group you can share that bond with and reach out to if you need anything."

Serving with the Blue Angels can be career-enhancing but also quite a challenge. Those selected for this special duty assignment may be required to adapt to new situations and locations and maybe even learn a few new things. And there is time away from home that is just part of the job; much like being part of Team Vinson.

"We were busiest from March to November each year, traveling across the United States to airshows," said Taylor. "I really had to step outside my comfort zone. I was doing a job that no amount of Navy administrative officer training could completely prepare me for. I had to learn quickly."

There is also an inherent public relations part of the job for Sailors selected to duty as a Blue Angel, in addition to their usual responsibilities.

"You get to go into a person's 'back yard' and show them what the Navy is all about," Taylor said. "You get to interact with them and hear their stories and share yours, while reinforcing the Navy's mission."

While the duty is challenging and the travel frequent, there are also some benefits to being selected for the team that are unique to duty with the Blue Angels.

"Being able to fly in one of the Blue Angel's jets was easily my favorite experience," Taylor said. "I have 22 hours of flight time in their jets. There is nothing like it."

Tafuri echoed Taylor's enthusiasm for flying in the world renowned blue and yellow jets.

"The enlisted Blue Angels Public Affairs department staff are the only ones authorized to shoot the air-to-air photos of the Blue Angels from inside the jet for the squadron. So all of us enlisted in the public affairs shop flew at almost every air show and during many practice demonstrations," said Tafuri.

"That experience is one I will never forget, and is the highlight of my naval career. Pulling almost 8 Gs with no G-suit and getting the photo that's published around the world within hours. Nothing tops that!"
But it's not just about getting to fly in a Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet. This duty means you may also rub shoulders with some very famous people.

"One of the best things during my time there, was being able to meet celebrities," Taylor said. "I met Arnold Palmer and Harrison Ford to name a couple. To them the Blue Angels are the real celebrities."

The Blue Angles are accepting applications until March 15 of this year, seeking enlisted Sailors with a projected rotation date of Sept. 2015 to April 2016.

The Blue Angels are seeking applications this year from: a chief aviation electrician's mate, chief aviation machinist's mate and chief aviation structural mechanic; a first class aviation electrician's mate, first and second class aviation electronics technician, second class aviation ordnanceman, second class aviation machinist's mate, second class aviation maintenance administrationman, first, second and third class aviation structural mechanic, second class aviation structural mechanic (equipment), second class aviation support equipment technician, second class aviation survival equipmentman, second class hospital corpsman, first and second class and seaman logistics specialist, first and second class mass communication specialist and a second class yeoman.

Sailors interested in applying are welcome to explore NAVADMIN 004/15, talk to their career counselor or log on to the Blue Angels website ( for more information on the opportunity to serve the Blue Angel's team. Or you can contact Taylor, Tafuri or Unruh - Carl Vinson shipmates who have been there, done that, and got the Blue Angel T-shirt.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is currently conducting flight operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is currently deployed to the area conducting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, and theater security cooperation efforts.

For more information about USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), log on to the official command Facebook page:\USSVINSON.

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