Top Air Force gen.: Too many elite pilots are white

By Douglas Ernst

(Photo: YouTube, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds)
(Photo: YouTube, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds)

A top U.S. Air Force general is upset that “America’s Ambassadors in Blue” are overwhelmingly white.

Brig. Gen. Christopher M. Short, commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said last month in an email obtained by the website John Q. Public that pilots with the famous “Thunderbirds” should work harder to find women and minorities to helm the F-16 Flying Falcon.

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“I am asking for your help in finding the right pilots for next year’s Thunderbirds team,” Short said. “While we have several qualified candidates that many of you submitted, I am lacking the depth in talent we’ve seen in previous years and I am lacking in diversity of gender, ethnicity and [aircraft] background.”

The officer went on to say he needed pilots who “don’t necessarily look like each of you.”

All current Thunderbird pilots are white males, and 14 out of 15 applicants for next year’s openings are white. The group’s official website says each officer serves a two-year tour of duty and must submit comprehensive career records and letters of recommendation in their applications during the selection process.

“I don’t expect a huge push of diverse applicants, primarily because our pool isn’t very diverse,” Short continued. “But I need talent on the team as well, and some of the 15 applicants just don’t have the depth of record of our typical competitive applicant. I am hoping you have one or two you can engage and discuss the impact they could have on our Air Force by becoming a Thunderbird pilot. If you have insights on why we are not getting the number of traditional applicants, I’d love to hear.”

The Washington Times asked the Air Force on Thursday if it has made any progress since the email was sent.

“Unfortunately, it is too early to discuss applicants or the composition of next season’s team,” said Maj. Sheila Johnston, a Nellis spokeswoman.

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Lt. Col. Christopher Karns, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, added, “Ensuring a diverse Air Force is critically important. The Thunderbirds are key to recruiting. Having a diverse team can only help the Air Force reflect the nation and the people it serves.”

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