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Viper West season takes off

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January. The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January. The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January.  The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January. The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January.  The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January. The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January.  The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Viper West Airmen perform an F-16 combat capability demonstration for General Ronald E. Keys, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a certification here in January. The team is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC and performed in its first international airshow of the season Feb. 17-18 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Alex Lloyd)

Hill Air Force Base, Utah -- Air Combat Command's West Coast F-16 Demonstration Team, better known as Viper West, began its 2007 season Jan. 31 in Tucson, AZ. The team will perform Feb. 17-18 at the Falcon and Condor Airshow in Lima, Peru.

During Peru's first international airshow, Viper West will provide static displays, aerial demonstrations and orientation flights, exhibiting the power of U.S. military aircraft and furthering relations with allied partners.

Viper West, which stages out of Hill Air Force Base, is one of two, single-ship F-16 demonstration teams in ACC. The team's combat capability performance shows what the F-16 Fighting Falcon and Air Force bring to the war on terror.

"I am particularly impressed with this year's team," said 388th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Robert Beletic. "The demonstration pilot, safety observers and maintainers excelled in their training and have started the season with precision that I normally only see in more developed teams. Our new demonstration pilot, Capt. Russ Piggott, is the leader and will continue to advance the team known for its rich legacy of professionalism and precision."

"While I am naturally partial to Viper West, I would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to see any of Air Combat Command's demonstration teams to go see the incredible display of air combat capability of our U.S. Air Force. The demonstrations makes me proud of our Air Force and of our nation. They make me want to sign up for the Air Force all over again," said Colonel Beletic.

Viper West Airmen are chosen for their two-year terms after a records review and intense interview.

"The men on this team are the 'cream of the crop' and are truly the most professional Airmen serving our Air Force," said Capt. Piggott, Viper West pilot and officer in charge. "I'm inspired by them - the hard work they do to prep the jets and make them shine for the crowd."

In addition to building public trust in the Air Force and promoting recruiting and retention programs, team members also reach out to the local community by visiting schools and hospitals, spreading the message of hard work and achieving goals.

"[Being part of the team] allows me to interact with kids - to let them know there are options to being a productive person in society, and there is an opportunity to go to college and learn a skill or trade," said Sergeant Sullins.

A pilot, two team chiefs and seven maintenance Airmen make up the Viper West team. From February to November, these Airmen perform at approximately 28 airshows, including international shows in South America, Europe and Canada.

The team's first stateside airshows will be held at Davis-Montham AFB, Ariz. and Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif. While large cities on the 2007 schedule, like Louisville, Ky. are rewarding for the team because of the media interest they generate, smaller shows remain the favorite for many team members.

"I must have been told 'thank you' by everyone I talked at the smaller shows like Georgetown, Texas, Lehmington, Ontario and Salinas, Calif. The public was extremely appreciative of the military and all that we do for our country," said Sergeant Sullins.

Additional Viper West 2007 team members include: Master Sgt. Jonathan Veal, Technical Sgts. Daniel May and Dixon Enriquez, Staff Sgts. Ryan Douglass and Jerry Rivers, Senior Airmen Kenneth Umeck, Arthur Greene and Israel Woodmancy.