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Wed, Nov 29, 2017

USAF Removes Lt. Col. Jason Heard As Thunderbirds Commander

Top Brass Lost Confidence In His Leadership And Risk Management Style

The U.S. Air Force has removed Lt. Col. Jason Heard as the commander of the Thunderbirds demonstration team.

Stars and Stripes reports that Heard was dismissed on November 20th, but the official announcement came Wednesday. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the service’s 57th Wing, cited a lost of confidence in Lt. Col. Heard's “leadership and risk management style" in announcing the move.

In a statement, Leavitt said that the decision was incredibly difficult "but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason's dedication to the 2017 season.”

The team completed its 2017 demonstration season on November 4. The season was marred by an accident just prior to the Dayton Air Show in Ohio which an Air Force investigation said was "avoidable". One of the team's jets skidded off a wet runway, destroying the aircraft. The pilot suffered only minor injuries.

But Thunderbirds spokesman Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz said that the accident was not the reason for Heard's dismissal. Boitz said that Heard's Leavitt was concerned about Heard's leadership style that resulted in unnecessary risks within the team's performances, which "eroded the team dynamic.

“We are on the road together more than 200 days per year, executing flying operations with absolutely no margin for error,” Boitz said. “As a result, absolute trust and teamwork in both our professional and personal dynamics are foundational to our mission.”

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh was named as the team's temporary commander until a permanent replacement is selected.

(Image from file)

FMI: Original Story

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