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Viper East Demo Team wows Caribbean crowds

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
The F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team performed over the deep blue Caribbean waters of Curacao this weekend as crowds lined the docks of the Schottegat harbor in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. The brightly colored buildings proved the perfect backdrop to the performance, marking a series of firsts for the Air Combat Command team. 

"This show is the first time our team has performed overseas this season. It's also the first time our team has performed in the Caribbean and the first demonstration over water this season," said Capt. George Clifford, the demonstration team pilot. "The crowd was lined up on both sides of a bay, perpendicular to the show line; the setup made for a great show." 

The positioning of the audience allowed amateur photographers to capture dozens of different images of the F-16 demonstration over water, Navy ships from four countries, a coastal fort and a characteristically Caribbean neighborhood. Locals were clearly enamored by the F-16 headline demonstration, lining up more than an hour before showtime to get perfect viewing positions, standing on bridges and docks while traffic stopped for miles as the F-16 roared overhead. An estimated 50,000 people watched the demonstration and met Airmen and Sailors from the United States and participating nations during the celebration. 

The Viper East team joined an Air Forces Southern effort to augment "Dutch Navy Days," a celebration put on every three years by the Dutch military to honor their naval heritage and partnership with the people of Curacao. After each of the F-16 demonstrations, a helicopter from the United Kingdom simulated a water rescue -- swooping in low over the crowd and surprising spectators as the chopper flew under a nearby bridge. Later, Dutch Special Forces personnel "re-took" a tugboat during a mock hostage situation, complete with law enforcement, hand-to-hand combat, suspect apprehension and Coast Guard support. 

"Interagency and international cooperation is vital to our mission here in Curacao," said Lt. Col. Charles Olson, the 429th Expeditionary Operations Squadron commander at Forward Operating Location Curacao. "The demonstrations today showcased what goes on everyday across the Air Forces Southern area of responsibility -- agencies and countries working together to make the region safer from illegal drug trafficking and high-seas crimes while providing rescue services to the public." 

Throughout the weekend, the USS Carr, a U.S. Navy Frigate based at the Naval Operations Base Norfolk Va., hosted public tours while Air Force members offered photographs and demonstrations next to an FOL fire truck and fire-fighting equipment. Dutch Navy Days culminated in a 10 kilometer run/walk around the bay by more than 800 local citizens.