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Blue Angels Welcome New Boss

Fresh off their season-ending performance over NAS Pensacola, the Blue Angels welcomed a new boss on Sunday at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

The hour-long ceremony, filled with Navy traditions, said goodbye to Captain Tom Frosch and greeted Commander Ryan Bernacchi, who takes over for the next two seasons. Rear Admiral Michael White told the packed atrium that these days, there are a number of debates over the Blues’ return on investment, especially if recruiting is up after a show.

“We put millions of dollars into airplanes [and] extremely talented maintenance technicians and gifted aviators to every air show,” said White. “Every time we go out to our citizens, fewer and fewer are coming to sign up and wear the cloth of their nation. The divide between the military and civilians in the United States is growing.”

In a sometimes emotional address, Capt. Tom Frosh expressed his gratitude to family and friends, for helping get him into the cockpit of the Number 1 jet. Then Frosch reflected on leading the Blues since 2012, echoing one predecessor who called the team a “national treasure.”

“When you come here, I don’t think you appreciate it as much until you’re on the team for a while and you see how special it is to so many people,” Frosch said. “We don’t own the Blue Angels; the people do, America does. We’re stewards of the treasure.”

Frosch also had praise for his successor, and the priorities that Ryan Bernacchi brought to the application process.

“He didn’t ask about the demo (performance), he didn’t ask about the flying. He asked about the people,” said Frosch. “He was the only guy that asked if ‘I could go out and see some of the guys.’ He wanted to go meet the Command Master Chief; he wanted to meet sailors who were working on jets. That just spoke volumes to me.”

After the official change of command orders were read, the new boss took the podium, and welcomed everyone to the 2016 edition of the Blues – after working with the team for the past few months.

“We have a massive task ahead of us, just as every team has had as it commences a new season,” said Bernacchi. “This process began its 70th cycle [Saturday] night, and has always been accomplished through a pledge every Blue Angel makes: ‘As a Blue Angel, I will dedicate my efforts to pride, professionalism, and perfection.’”

Bernacchi comes from serving a strategy and national security fellowship at MIT in Boston, and has the requisite 3,000 flight hours and 600 arrested carrier landings. He told those attending Sunday that through their F/A-18 Hornets, the Blue Angels are truly about people.

“The people that are here today; the teams that have gone before us, this team, this family, this community,” said Bernacchi. “And the countless people, but especially the young ones, that we will get a chance to interact with and perhaps inspire in the coming years.”

And now it’s on to El Centro, California to train for 2016. The 68-performance season kicks off March 12 over El Centro. The Blues are scheduled to fly over Pensacola Beach July 16, and over NAS Pensacola November 11-12.