Hometown pilots participate in Stadium of Fire flyover
By Senior Airman Stefanie Torres, 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 11, 2007
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Before they were even old enough to drive, the three boys used to look to the skies during the Stadium of Fire 4th of July celebration when the formation of jets would zoom above the Lavell Edwards stadium, in Provo, Utah.
Now all three pilots were given a chance to look down at that same event flying overhead in their F-16 Fighting Falcons in a four-ship flyover.
For Capt. Robert Shallenberger, his brother Capt. Steven Shallenberger, and Capt. Julio Rodriguez, this event marked a great opportunity to pay tribute to their hometowns.
"My family and friends will be at Stadium of Fire and this is a perfect way to pay tribute to them," said Capt. R. Shallenberger, who works as an F-16 instructor pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
"Both my brother and I were born and raised in Orem, Utah," he said. "This is so meaningful because my family and I have been watching flybys since I was a kid. Now we get to perform in them."
Flying has always been apart of the captain's life. "I got my private pilot's license when I was in 11th grade," he said. "Then down the road I wanted to be a fighter pilot. That is where the action is, and the Air Force was the place to do that," he said.
The Shallenbergers' grandfather also flew in the Army Air Corp toward the end of WWII, and now the captains continue with the family military legacy. "Also, both of my uncles were pilots in the Air Force. Following in their footsteps, I did ROTC at Utah State," said Capt. R. Shallenberger.
Although the Shallenberger brothers grew up in a family tree of pilots, they never discussed with each other about being fighter pilots until college. "There was never any discussion between us about being pilots. My brother first told me he wanted to fly an F-16 after I joined the Air Force," said Capt. R. Shallenberger.
For Capt. Julio Rodriguez, flying was not an option for him when he was younger. "I never thought I would be able to fly because my vision disqualified me. But then I went on a church mission, and after I got back, the waivers changed, and I was able to do it," he said.
Capt. Rodriguez sought to be a part of Stadium of Fire after he found out his squadron would fly in the formation.
"I wanted to volunteer because this is my home."
"My family is out here, and I have been to Stadium of Fire as a kid a couple of times. I think it's an honor to do it for the local populace," said the captain.
He has lived in Utah his whole life and went to the Air Force Academy only to return later.
"It was a desire to come back. Brigham Young University is a big part of our life. Lavell Edwards was the head coach for BYU football for many years and he is also my great uncle."
"Flying in the Air Force just seemed like one of those cool things to do in life," said Capt. Rodriguez.