Blue skies and tail winds

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Meyers
Rays of the sun beat down on the ramp. It was high noon and time for the gray bird to take center stage.

I cannot recall the crowd, but I can still vividly picture the Cuban Eight at takeoff and the jet piercing through the sun with the roar of the engine and the fire of the afterburners. It was the day my dream soared, and hopes were instilled.

I wanted to be a part of the team, I wanted to work on F-16s, I wanted to travel with the demonstration team, and I even wanted to be stationed at Hill Air Force Base.

It all started as the microphone was handed over to the narrator……

“Good afternoon and welcome once again to the 1994 Yakima International Airshow. As a member of Air Combat Commands 12th Air Force West Coast F-16 demonstration team, it is my privilege to narrate the combat capabilities of the world’s most premier multi-role fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The pilot for today’s demonstration is Capt. Kurt “Huevos” Gallegos from Layton, Utah. Capt. Gallegos is a combat ready fighter pilot and with over 2,000 hours in various aircraft including multiple combat sorties.”

This year we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. As we reflect on the theme of breaking barriers there is one hero that stands out in my mind who embodied that. He aimed high, went above and beyond. No one came close and he breaks barriers daily as a born leader.

Col. Kurt Gallegos, (Ret.) commander and F-16 pilot, is one who has instilled the dream in others, and faithfully served the office set before him. His distinguished career spans decades of change, combat sorties, and character building.

As the time comes to a close for his Air Force career, I had the honor of sharing some memories and closing remarks from this one of a kind pilot and person. This is his story, his lasting legacy and I hope, like me, it instills the dream in you to break whatever barriers you face and soar farther, and higher than you ever thought possible.

Your career spans over 30 years, what are some of your highlights?

“I have been in the Air Force 32 years and 13 days,” said Gallegos. “My career has been phenomenal and luckily I have been able to fly since I started training up until the day before I retire. I have 462 combat hours in the skies over Iraq, Afghanistan and even Bosnia. I was the first F-16 pilot to drop bombs in Afghanistan following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.”

Col. Gallegos logged 4,400 hours in the F-16 alone and 1200 plus in the T-37 and has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 2007, I had the chance to be Col. Gallegos crew chief for the day. It was a routine mission out of Hill AFB but we talked about the airshow all those years back in Yakima.

I asked Col. Gallegos what legacy Viper West left him and what legacy he aspires to leave behind as he retires.

“My legacy was to be the best F-16 aerial demonstration pilot during my two years as a West Coast Demo pilot,” Gallegos said. “I also wanted to be as humble and approachable to all the fans and supporters of the military. Lastly, I wanted to be an ambassador of the United States Air Force and make my family proud.”

When asked about his favorite maneuver, Gallegos responded, “it was the High G turn but all of them over the 12 minute demonstration was awesome.”

As mentioned before, it is the 70th Anniversary of the USAF, in an age of increasing resiliency awareness and team building, I asked Col. Gallegos what the greatest barrier he faced was and what his tips were for cultivating resiliency.

“My greatest barrier was always being told I was too small to accomplish my goals,” said Gallegos. “I continued to work hard, persevere and press on to make it happen. Never giving up, never quitting and having faith provided me the resiliency to continue to move on.”

During the brief meaningful meetings I have had with Col. Gallegos you can tell he is a people person and a man of his word, and I never left without a smile on my face from the energy he brings.

My final question for him was if he had any parting thoughts or words of wisdom.

“Always be yourself, there is nothing you can’t accomplish, give 200 percent to everything you set your sights,” Gallegos said. “Be a humble servant and remember that nothing comes easy without sacrifices.”

As the sun sets on his career, let us, remember the many sacrifices Col. Gallegos has made, his accomplishments, his energetic spirit and ability to defy the odds. Blue skies and tail winds to you sir in your next endeavors!!