A show before the show.

If you live in Billings, you have most likely seen or heard the Blue Angels practicing this afternoon. It’s awe-inspiring, to say the least. If you haven’t gotten your tickets for this weekend, I believe a few are still available for the Sunday show.

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Morning pleasantries with the Blue Angels.

This morning, I had the distinct honor of meeting Lieutenant Commander Griffin Stangel and Navy Aviation Adminstrationman Baylee O’Donnell.

Credit: Jaci Bjorne, TSM
Credit: Jaci Bjorne, TSM
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Full disclosure. I was freaking out before this interview. It was sort of last minute that none of our on-air hosts could make it. I had no idea what to ask the Blue Angels team members, so I took to social media. Great choice, because there were some incredible inquiries.

What if my child wants to become a Blue Angel?

We wanted to know what these inspirational individuals would say to kids who aspire to become a Blue Angel.

“I’d say, go to school, and then anything is possible as long as they have that desire and drive to do it,” O’Donnell said. “Just keep focusing on what they want to do. This is a great team and a great place to be. They can easily do it.”

Stangel added on by saying, “Find something you are passionate about. Get a little bit better at that thing every day. We all get knocked down, one step forward two steps back, whatever you want to call it…but if you find something you’re passionate about, you just work a little bit at it every day. It takes time, but you’ll get there.”

Motivating children is nothing new to the team, the day before each show they typically spend some time visiting schools or youth groups and hospitals.

Humility and aviation.

These men and women are looked up to by many as heroes. I wanted to know how, with all of the adoration, they are able to keep their egos in check and be good teammates.

“People love the blue suit,” Stangel said. “But as soon as you take the blue suit off, you’re just a normal person. You can blend in with no problem. That’s the thing, you’ve got to be humble, you’ve got to recognize that we all make mistakes. That’s the first thing we do when we debrief, we call out our own mistakes prior to even watching any of the tape because we know what we did wrong, we want everybody else to know what we did wrong, and know that we’re going to try to fix it for the next day.”

Credit: Jaci Bjorne, TSM
Credit: Jaci Bjorne, TSM
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A pleasant surprise.

If I’m being honest, I went into today’s interview fully expecting Top Gun Maverick-esque cocky show-offs. Instead, Lieutenant Stangel struck me as a genuinely humble and kind individual, and AZ1 O’Donnell came across as hardworking and formidable.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the only time Stangel has been airsick was when he ate a little too much ice cream prior to a flight when he was on deployment. Mistakes were made.

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