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FROM THE EDITOR Gotta love Laughlin!

PUBLISHER David Rupkalvis EDITOR Karen Gleason WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS Brian Argabright John Crawford Mahalia Frost Karen Gleason Marco A. Gomez Amber Martinez JT May III Anne McCready Atzimba Morales Rachael Parks Benjamin N. Valmoja ADVERTISING Xochitl Arteaga Keelan Hathaway Ana Ramirez PRODUCTION Miguel Campos Roland Cardenas EDITORIAL karen.gleason@delrionewsherald.com 830-775-1551, Ext. 247 ADVERTISING xochitl.arteaga@delrionewsherald.com 830-775-1551, Ext. 250 STORY IDEAS karen.gleason@delrionewsherald.com

2205 North Bedell Avenue • Del Rio, TX 78840 delrionewsherald.com Del Rio Grande is published by the Del Rio News-Herald. No portion may be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, including electronic retrieval systems, without written permission of the publisher. Editorial content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of this magazine. Editorial and advertising does not constitute advice but is considered informative.

This month, we’re excited to bring you another issue featuring stories and photos from our most excellent neighbor, Laughlin Air Force Base, in celebration of the 2020 Fiesta of Flight Air & Space Expo. The air show and open house, set for Saturday, March 14, is a great way for Del Rioans to visit the base, look at some amazing aircraft, visit informative exhibits, eat some great food and watch an awe-inspiring performance by the USAF Thunderbirds. Del Rio and Laughlin AFB have always been partners, and that mutually-beneficial relationship is exemplified by our main story this month, the tale of Air Force pilot Jesus Beltran. For some time now, we have talked about featuring Del Rioans who are active-duty members of the Air Force at Laughlin. When we first talked about this, we assumed there would be a number of pilots, as well as enlisted members, who had grown up in the local area, joined the military and been stationed here. However, we found only two pilots fitting those parameters: Capt. Jesus Beltran and Capt. Chantal Mortezaee. What’s also interesting about these two is that they were both born outside the United States, Beltran in Mexico and Mortezaee in England. They spent their formative years in Del Rio and both graduated from Del Rio High School before joining the Air Force. Mortazaee was in Oklahoma training to fly KC-135s while we were working on this issue of the magazine, but our Brian Argabright got to sit down and talk with Beltran at length. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the story. The working partnership between Laughlin and Del Rio was also writ small in the work we did for this issue. We could not have created it without the hard work of Laughlin’s Public Affairs team: Thank you Joel Langton, Capt. Mahalia Frost, Lt. Rachael Parks and Master Sgt. JT May III. A truly professional crew! We also want to thank the wing historian, Robert Marcell, for his input on several of our stories, especially the piece on the air show posters from years gone by, and Maj. Zachary “Samson” Miller, the director of this year’s open house and air show, for the assistance he gave our staff. We know you’ll enjoy this issue, and please mark March 14 on your calendar to visit Laughlin during the show. Aim High! Karen Gleason Del Rio Grande Editor


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CONTENTS 8

CALENDAR Keep busy this month at these local events.

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HOMETOWN HERO JESUS BELTRAN Laughlin instructor brings three worlds together.

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FIESTA OF FLIGHT AIR & SPACE EXPO Laughlin AFB opens its gates for a celebration of flight.

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LAUGHLIN THUNDER

Thunderbird pilot earned his wings at Laughlin AFB.

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A TRIP THROUGH TIME

Posters from past air shows are works of art.

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CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Challenge coins embody military, Air Force history.

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AIR WEAR

Laughlin personnel model uniforms from bygone eras.

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SOUVENIR PICKS

Some classy items to remind you of your time in Del Rio.

38 B-52 PANINI You won’t bomb out with this hearty sandwich.

40 LAUGHLIN TEA Try a taste of the base with these kickin’ cocktails.

42 LAUGHLIN FIRSTS These fearless females led the way.

46 LAST LOOK Writer/photographer Atzimba Morales wraps up this issue.

ON THE COVER: Capt. Jesus Beltran, an instructor pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base who was born in Mexico and raised in Del Rio, stands in front of the T-6 Texan in which he teaches. Beltran said he likes the aircraft because of its “old-school feel.” • Photo by Karen Gleason

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Keep busy this month at these fun local events 6&7

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3rd ANNUAL CULTURE CHALK 11 A.M. – 3 P.M. • CASA DE LA CULTURA • 302 Cantu St. Bring your family and friends to create sidewalk art murals with chalk. Chalk will be provided, but participants may bring their own colors as well. Up to 10 people are allowed per team and will be given an 8 x 10-foot space. There is a fee for registration, and registration can done online on the Casa De La Cultura’s web page or by visiting the Casa. This year’s theme is “Local Inspiration,” and the top three murals will receive a cash prize.

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BFCU 8th ANNUAL GOLF TOURNAMENT 7 A.M. • SAN FELIPE SPRINGS GOLF COURSE Join the Border Federal Credit Union for its 8th annual golf tournament, with more than $2,500 in prizes. All proceeds will benefit the BFCU scholarship fund, which has given out more than $120,000 in scholarships to local students. For more information, call tournament organizer Abram Rodriguez at (830) 778-7509 or email him at arodriguez@ borderfcu.com

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DEL RIO COMIC-CON MINI-CON TOY SHOW 10 A.M. – 6 P.M. • CASA DE LA CULTURA • 302 Cantu St. If you love toys, comics, artists, video games, this mini-con is for you. Join organizer Paul Mancha for this 80s throwback con featuring artists and vendors from Del Rio, San Antonio and Austin in Texas and from Ciudad Acuña and Piedras Negras from the Mexico state of Coahuila. No entry fee. For vendor information, contact Mancha at (830) 719-5430.


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WE ARE LOOKING FOR MEN AND WOMEN TO MODEL IN FUTURE ISSUES OF THE MAGAZINE. If you are interested, send photos and contact information to David Rupkalvis at the following email: david.rupkalvis@delrionewsherald.com or call 830-775-1551. For story and photo ideas, email Karen Gleason at the following: karen.gleason@delrionewsherald.com

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BORN on the

BORDER Laughlin instructor molded by three communities Story by BRIAN ARGABRIGHT

HOMETOWN HERO

G

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rowing up here, it’s easy to see the three unique parts that make up the area — Del Rio, Ciudad Acuña, Coah., Mexico, and Laughlin Air Force Base. Jesus Beltran is the rare person who truly has roots in all three. A captain in the United States Air Force, Beltran was born in Ciudad Acuña, raised in Del Rio and graduated from Del Rio High School in 2006 and is now a student class commander at Laughlin Air Force Base. He instructs student pilots in the T-6 Texan, a plane he has come to love because of its old-school feel. “I am administratively in charge of a class of students. I take them from when they start T-6 training in phase one all the way to the completion of phase two, right before they transition to helicopters, T-1s or T-38s,” Beltran explained. Beltran led a regular life growing up. He played football for Del Rio High School his freshman and senior years, playing at the cornerback position under former head coach Jesus “Jesse” Treviño, and serving in the Air Force Junior ROTC program at the school all four years under retired Air Force Lt Col. John Wurmstein and retired Air Force Col. Eddie Stanfield, whom he credits for his place in the Air Force today along with retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jesse Davila. Growing up under the bright blue Texas sky, Beltran didn’t decide on a life in the military until his older brothers joined the armed services. When he was a junior, he said he leaned toward enlisting in the Air Force, but during his senior year, he said Stanfield was asking for advice on how to improve the JROTC program. One of those questions revolved around the last cadet to be sent to a service academy. Beltran and fellow Junior ROTC senior cadet Chantal Mortezaee became the prime focus for the instructors. Mortezaee was accepted to the Air Force Academy but chose instead to take a full ride to Embry Riddle University. Beltran, who said he

worked on his acceptance packet to the academy along with Mortezaee, wound up being accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, a precursor to the academy itself. “I had no idea I was going to go to college, very honestly. I had the grades to, but it wasn’t in my mind,” Beltran said. “Neither one of my parents finished high school. My mom unfortunately wasn’t even able to finish middle school. For me, I figured I’ll just finish high school and then enlist like my brothers did and go from there. But (Stanfield) was like ‘you can do it,’ and he was real pushy about it. He really encouraged me to do what I needed to do and lo and behold, I got accepted, and I was like well, I’ll either enlist or go to free college. That’s why I sort of went that route. It took somebody who knew the system for me to understand that it was for someone like me.” In a strange coincidence, Beltran and Mortezaee both eventually returned to Del Rio and were assigned to Laughlin. Mortezaee is also a captain and is an 86th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot. Beltran’s family is close, and his leaving to college was going to be a life-changing event for every member of his family, especially his mother. He said his brothers leaving for the military, and eventually being deployed, helped lessen the blow for his parents. Beltran said his family believed that despite being separated from each other for so long, especially his mother, was a small price to pay for his future. “She understood the military and what it does, but she was always very appreciative of education. Part of the reason why I’m here today is because she was always appreciative of school early on in life. She was always involved in school, helping me out, because she knew academics were very important. She didn’t get the chance to, so she wanted to make sure her kids definitely had the chance to focus on school,” Beltran said. Like many young people who go off to seek an


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Courtesy photo - Capt. Jesus Beltran and his wife Sabrina are both native Del Rioans and are the parents of three daughters. Beltran said being a parent has changed on outlook on life and his priorities.

As soon as I got a pilot slot I put down Laughlin because if I was going to go to a small town it might as well be the one where I can get a home-cooked meal.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anne McCready - Capt. Jesus Beltran, 47th Student Squadron instructor pilot, instructs the Devil Dash racers on how to complete the 5K or 10K at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, on May 4, 2019. More than 200 people signed up to run and earned $3,500 for the Air Warrior Courage Foundation. Beltran said community involvement between Laughlin and Del Rio is one of the reasons he returned to his hometown.

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education, there were times when Beltran wondered if he was doing the right thing. He was far from home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the first time in his life. The flight there was the first time he’d ever been on an airplane, and he made the trip solo because his family couldn’t afford to travel with him. They saw him only twice before his graduation day in 2011. He missed his family, and they missed him. Being the younger brother, Beltran said his departure was his parents “sending their baby boy” out into the world. Despite being homesick, Beltran saw the bigger picture of being part of the Air Force. It meant a more stable future for him. “I had no idea what else I would do. They’re setting me on a path for success. Being a Hispanic male, I feel almost indoctrinated that we’re providers, and we have to get a job, and this is the way. The way other people see (the military) is ‘it’s a five-year commitment.’ No, this is five years I have a guaranteed job. So for me, it’s was kind of that mindset: This is five years I have some financial security and stability. By the time I was there is when the recession hit in ’08 and then I was like, I have to do this because I hear some of my peers looking ahead and people graduating and not finding jobs with a lot of debt. I didn’t want to have to worry about that kind of stuff,” Beltran said. When Beltran was a junior, he received his assignment in regards to what his career would be in the Air Force. When he was a senior, he got his location. His first choice was Laughlin. For him, it was an easy choice. “As soon as I got a pilot slot, I put down Laughlin because if I was going to go to a small town it might as well be the one where I can get a home-cooked meal,” Beltran joked. “People ask me all the time where’s the best Mexican food in town and I’m like, ‘my mom’s house,’ and it’s cheap for me!” Returning home meant the world to Beltran and his family. His familiarity with Laughlin was originally limited to his interaction with the base and its personnel through the high school’s ROTC program, but being stationed at Laughlin meant being back home, even if it was only for pilot training. He graduated pilot training in April 2013. “You know you always leave with these aspirations like, ‘I’m going to see the world and travel,’ but you always kind of want to come closer to home for some reason. After being gone for five years, it was nice to come home for the year-and-a-half I was here,” Beltran said. Beltran completed his pilot training and then left Del Rio again to pursue more specialized training with the KC135 Stratotanker at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. He returned to Del Rio in January 2018 and has been in his current role since December 2018. Beltran’s return to Laughlin brought its own set of challenges and reliefs, but he explained that he’s comfortable being able to transition from pilot instructor at Laughlin Air Force Base to area native, and it’s been as


Photo by Brian Argabright - Capt. Jesus Beltran poses for a photo in front of T-6 at Laughlin Air Force Base. Beltran did his undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin, graduating in 2013. He returned to Laughlin in January 2018, and became a student class commander for the T-6 in December of that year.

easy as just stepping off base property. “I’m very comfortable here. It’s my hometown, right, but it’s definitely nice when I leave work, and it’s weird because it’s almost like there’s a force field there … I go home and I’m, like, I’m just home now. It’s very strange when people are, like, my parents are coming into town or I have to fly to see my parents for the holidays. I’m, like, I’m going to my mom’s house and I’ll be there in 20 minutes,” Beltran said. “It’s very cool because I can just turn it off. When I’m home, I’m home. I don’t feel like I work here. I feel that the stress getting on people because sometimes people feel like I’m away from home, so this whole town is like my base … it just goes away for me. I definitely get super comfortable.” Being in Beltran’s shoes presents its own set of benefits and rewards, but for him, the greatest thing he can contribute is serving as a bridge that connects the three parts of this area. He said his familiarity with the area helps him share advice with others about what’s good, what’s bad, what to avoid and what to embrace about the community. When it comes to selling Del Rio, Beltran makes sure to emphasize Lake Amistad and the food, especially the rise of the various food trucks and different dishes they serve. He also points out how the base and the community have begun to merge with community projects like the Community

Garden in South Del Rio or the various groups Laughlin’s personnel help out with, such as Loaves and Fishes and local animal rescue groups. That kind of community involvement was another reason Beltran wanted to return to Del Rio. Now Beltran is married and the father of three young girls. As his military career continues, Beltran admits that being a father and a husband means priorities may change for him and the future may not always include the Air Force, but as long as he wears that uniform, he is proud to be an ambassador for his homes – Laughlin and Del Rio. “People have a lot of questions about why we do the things we do around here, and I probably have the best perspective of anybody wearing this here to try and answer that. It’s also kind of fun for me because I can also see Del Rio from a different light because I’ve been gone for so long. I’m definitely appreciative of how this community is. I know a lot of people, especially the wing commander, are always mentioning how this town really loves this base. They really do. So it’s awesome for me to be a part of that,” Beltran said. “It’s weird. I thought about this the other day … I’m the guy – I work at the base, grew up in Del Rio but I was born in Acuña. These are the three communities here, and I got to be a part of all three of them,” he added. •

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Crowds wait to get a tour of the cavernous fuselage of a C-130 transport aircraft on the flight line at the Laughlin Air Force Base Fiesta of Flight Open House in April 2018.

FIESTA OF

Flight

RETURNS

Story by ATZIMBA MORALES; Photos by KAREN GLEASON

L

aughlin Air Force Base will throw open its gates on March 14 to welcome residents of Del Rio, Ciudad Acuña and the surrounding region for a day-long open house and air show featuring the United States Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, commonly known as the Thunderbirds. Laughlin Air Force Base has been hosting air shows going as far back as the 1950s, according to Robert Marcell, Laughlin AFB historian. In fact, Laughlin was a part of the Thunderbirds’ inaugural air show lineup in 1953. “The unit adopted the name ‘Thunderbirds,’ influenced in part by the strong Native American culture and folklore from the southwestern United States where (its home base) Luke Air Force Base is located,” according to the Thunderbirds’ web page. The Laughlin air show in 1953 was recorded as the

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Thunderbirds’ fifth show that year in a total of 26 shows. Since then, Laughlin has brought the Thunderbirds to each air show, minus the air show in 2018, Marcell said. “There have been dozens of shows throughout the years. They (the Thunderbirds) have been down to us nearly every time,” Marcell said. The show and open house require months of planning and preparation. This year’s air show is no different: Almost 15 months went into planning and prepping the event. Audience members won’t just see the Thunderbirds, though. Planners have lined up a spectacular array of aircraft and exhibits exemplifying the Air Force’s domination of the sky. “Air shows are a great way to share with the general public this is what we do. It’s just a great way to bring


Del Rioan Kitt Trai holds four-year-old Kris Trai so the little one can get close to an F-16 “Fighting Falcon” fighter jet on display at the Laughlin Air Force Base Fiesta of Flight Open House and Air Show in 2018.

entertainment to the community, too. Nothing’s cooler than sitting in the stands and having all these huge planes flying over, shaking into your bones,” Marcell said. “Air shows are also a great way to integrate with the community and show the Air Force story. A lot of people, a lot of civilians, don’t connect with the military unless there is some inborn connection, like a family member who is in the service,” Marcell added. But the open house will also feature displays that allow visitors to envision the possibilities and career opportunities available in the Air Force, with many jobs outside the aviation field. This year the air show will take place on March 14 and wraps up Spring Break for local students and school district staff. It will also include the appearance of the Red Bull Air Force, a team that will sky dive straight into Laughlin during midday. The fun starts with a kickoff party set for Friday, March 13, in the downtown Main Street area. Compared to the 2018 air show and open house, there will be a few changes. “We’re not going to have a tailgate area, it detracted from people really seeing everything. One of our main things is to allow the local population to see what the Air Force does; to see the strength,” Fiesta of Flight Air Show

A member of the RE/ MAX Jump Team carries the U.S. flag in the opening act at the Laughlin Air Force Base open house.

Visitors to the 2018 open house at Laughlin Air Force Base were able to get close looks at an F-16 fighter jet attached to the Arizona National Guard.

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An RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft from Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb., draws crowds on the flight line at Laughlin Air Force Base during the base’s open house and air show.

Director Maj. Zachary Miller said. This year, everyone is encouraged to view the show from the same area, while viewing everything being offered to the public. Including the Thunderbirds, some unique additions to the lineup include the Red Bull Air Force, Miller said. The Red Bull Air Force is a compilation of some of the most talented parachute jumpers, aerobatic champions and an aerobatic helicopter, Miller said. The jumpers have over 10,000 jumps, compared to the average 1,000-2,000 for most jumpers in the world, according to Miller. Air show goers will see a variety of aircraft in flight, including the current T-1, T-36, T-6 with older aircraft such as a T-37, a World War II-era T-6, T-47 and a Soviet fighter, the MiG-17. “It’s going to give a really cool contrast of the past with present day,” Miller said. “There are only two civilian T-37s in the entire country, and Laughlin is bringing one back … Then an old T-6, from World War II, will also fly in formation with the T-6 … You’re going to see a lot of old and new,” he said. Some of the static displays on the flight line will include a C-5, the largest U.S. military cargo aircraft; an E-3, an airborne early warning and control aircraft; a KC-46, the newest military aerial refueling aircraft; and two F-35s, the

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newest and fifth generation fighter aircraft in the Air Force, Miller said. “One unique thing that we’re doing this year is a STEM area. We’re going to have a lot of displays, interactive things to motivate youngsters attending the show to consider going to college and discover the possibilities within STEM,” Miller said. Next to the STEM area will be a kids’ zone, with a bouncy house, he added. Other presentations will include demonstrations on pilot gear, military working dogs and chemical warfare protection. “The Air Force isn’t just about airplanes, there’s a lot of mission sets that work together to defend our country,” Miller said. People will enter the air show through the north gate (the former main gate), located off U.S. Highway 90, with gates opening at 10 a.m. and the air show beginning at noon. Another thing to keep in mind is the availability of ADAparking and buses. Buses will help people arrive to the air show location quicker, as well as those with physical handicaps. Local vendors and organizations supporting Laughlin will be on site selling food, shirts and patches. Six ATMs will be placed throughout the area, according to Miller. Laughlin employees don’t need to worry about traffic, as they will be designated to enter through the west gate.


Del Rioan Lauren Montello shows her two-year-old son Charlie Montello the nose art on an A-10, one of many warplanes on display at Laughlin Air Force Base during the base’s open house and air show event in 2018.

A bi-plane performs a death-defying stunt loop at the beginning of the 2018 open house event at Laughlin Air Force Base. The performance was one of several throughout the open house event.

An A-26 christened “Lady Liberty, a member of the Commemorative Air Force, gets ready to wow the crowds at the Laughlin Air Force Base Open House in 2018. This World War II aircraft made several passes over the air field.

As the day approaches, a few house rules are to be kept in mind. Bags will be checked prior to entry onto Laughlin; diaper bags and small purses, and only sealed plastic water bottles are okay. The gates open at 10 a.m. and the show doesn’t begin until noon, thus those looking to get a prime seat should arrive early. Loud sounds will be taking place throughout the day, thus protective earwear is advised, according to Miller. “The closer you are to the runway, the louder it will be,” Miller said. •

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LAUGHLIN

THUNDER Thunderbird #8 earned his wings at Laughlin AFB Story by KAREN GLEASON; photos by KAREN GLEASON & BRIAN ARGABRIGHT

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hen the wheels of Maj. Jason Markzon’s F-16 touched down on the runway at Laughlin Air Force Base on a bright January morning, it was a homecoming of sorts for the Thunderbird

pilot. Markzon is a member of the famed United States Aerial Demonstration Squadron – the Thunderbirds. Markzon is Thunderbird #8 and the advance pilot narrator for the squadron, and he had flown to Laughlin to announce the Thunderbirds’ participation in Laughlin’s 2020 Fiesta of Flight Air & Space Expo on March 14. But Markzon’s flight here also marked a return to the base where he earned his pilot wings and where he served three-and-a-half years as an instructor pilot. Markzon is a native of Tucson, Arizona, and attended Arizona State University, where he was a member of the university’s Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps). “From there, I went to Luke Air Force Base, waiting to go to pilot training, came here to Laughlin for undergraduate pilot training and got my wings here. Then I went to San Antonio for pilot instructor training at Randolph Air Force Base before I came back to Laughlin to be a FAIP, a first assignment instructor pilot,” Markzon said. He graduated from pilot training as a member of Class 09-14 in September 2014, and when he was assigned to Laughlin as a FAIP, he spent the next three-and-a-half years here training future Air Force fliers. He admits the geography around Del Rio is much like that around Tucson, so the area presented less of a change of scenery than it does for many student pilots. “It’s a little bit lower in elevation, and there’s fewer people, but it had a nice, small-town feel,” Markzon said. But Markzon admitted he had little time to immerse himself in the local area while he was here as a student. “I was so overwhelmed with doing pilot training, because when I was a student, I lived on base, so I was just overwhelmed with training and really focusing on that, but once I became a FAIP, I was able to experience more of the city,” Markzon said. “There wasn’t much here, it’s true. There wasn’t a Starbucks, like there

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Maj. Jason Markzon, a native of Tucson, Arizona, sits in the cockpit of the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” he flies as Thunderbird #8. Markzon, who earned his pilot’s wings at Laughlin Air Force Base, will be back at Laughlin on March 14 as part of the Fiesta of Flight Air & Space Expo.


It’s like the best roller coaster you’ve ever been on, times 10. It’s incredible.

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Maj. Jason Markzon, who graduated from student pilot training at Laughlin and served as an instructor pilot here for three-and-a-half years, in the front seat of the F-16 he flies as “Thunderbird #8,” a member of the USAF Thunderbirds.

is now. There was definitely no Chick-fil-A, but it was nice because the people here were so welcoming, and the community was very friendly,” Markzon said. That welcoming and friendly demeanor was what he liked best about the area, Markzon said. “That’s what made it. I met a lot of leaders in the community during my time here,” he said. He said he and his FAIP “brothers” also tried to go to events around town, such as Rams football games. Markzon said he still keeps in touch with members of his undergraduate pilot training class. “I couldn’t attend, but they have a yearly reunion sort of thing, and it was in Vegas,” he said. Markzon served as an instructor pilot at Laughlin from 2010 until 2013. After his Laughlin tour of duty, Markzon went to F-16B training on his home turf at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona. “Going back there was a lot of fun, learning how to fly the F-16. My first official F-16 assignment was Osan Air Base, 36th Fighter Squadron in South Korea. Harrumph to the Fiends! I spent 18 months there, then I went to Misawa Air Base in Japan and was in the 13th Fighter Squadron, the Panthers – Cave Putorium! – and I was there for three years,” Markzon said. It was then in his flying career that he crossed paths with the Thunderbirds. “Everybody who is on the team applies. An email goes out to everybody, and you can apply to the team. There’s

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a whole bunch of requirements: You need 750 fighter hours. You need to be fighter qualified. You need letters of recommendation, personal letters, all of your performance reports from your career, your flying records, and you have to send a picture of yourself. And you send everything in, and they sift through it. “If they get 15 applicants, they’ll cut three and maybe 12 will be sort of the semi-finalists and will be brought out to the base for an air show weekend, and it’s sort of a ‘dayin-the-life,’ you go around, see what it’s like, and then the boss will interview you, the director of operations will interview you and usually, our wing commander, a one-star general, will interview you, and it’s also about the applicant interviewing us, so you can decide if this is something you like and want to do,” Markzon said. “If you get lucky enough, as I did, to get selected to the finalists, you’ll be brought out again, maybe six finalists for three available slots, and you’ll come out again for another air show weekend. This time you’ll be interviewed by the wing commander, our two-star, our air warfare center commander, and then we’ll do a panel interview with all of the officers,” he said. Eventually, you get the phone call. Markzon said his own journey to becoming a member of the Thunderbird team began with an email. “So, as I was sitting there at my desk at Misawa, and kind of thinking about what I could do after this assignment, and I started thinking about this Thunderbird email that came across my desk. Usually I would delete those, but this


time I didn’t. I gave it about a week, and I went back to it and decided to look at the requirements, so I looked at them and said, ‘Huh, I meet the requirements.’ At the time, I had a couple of friends on the team, and I contacted them and asked them what it was like. They told me it was the best time they’d ever had and urged me, if I was even slightly interested in applying, to apply, so I got the application together,” he said. He said as he began writing the personal letter, he asked thought even more deeply about his motivations. “I asked myself, ‘Why do I want to do this?’ I thought about everybody that helped me get to where I was at today, because I needed a lot of help. My college GPA wasn’t the best. I’m not the best pilot. I wasn’t the best student, but I was pretty good. I studied aerospace engineering at school. But I had a lot of good friends and good people around me that helped me study, helped me continue to reach my dreams and told me to keep going, and I feel like I needed to give back in some Maj. Jason Markzon, lefts, speaks with Lt. Rachael Parks, a member of the Laughlin Air Force Base way, and if I can help even one person Public Affairs staff, during a visit to the base to promote the Fiesta of Flight Air & Space Expo. The do that, this would be a fantastic way Thunderbirds will be featured performers during the event. to do it, so that’s what I said,” Markzon remembered. Markzon recalled seeing the big fighters land at Laughlin Around the same time, he said, he when he was a student. was visiting his home town of Tucson and his mother, a special “I remember being a student at Laughlin, and when an F-16 education teacher, asked him to come speak to her fourth-grade would show up. You’re like, ‘Wow! That’s the biggest plane I’ve students. ever seen!’ You think the T-1 and the T-38 are big airplanes, “So I’m in there talking to these kids about flying airplanes, and then you see the F-16, which is a relatively small fighter jet, and when I asked if they had questions, they were asking me comparatively, and you say, ‘That’s so much bigger than any of all these questions about what kind of food I ate and what my these other planes,’ but you see the Thunderbird jets, and they’re favorite color was, so that was my first experience talking to freshly painted, they look really nice, and it’s just amazing to kids, and I loved it. At the end, a little girl came up and asked me have it there, and I remember being this bright-eyed student for my autograph and I was taken aback. I said sure, and then going, ‘Wow, I really want to fly that one day,’ so it’s awesome to they all started lining up, so that was pretty inspirational to me,” be able to bring that all back to Del Rio and Laughlin. It’s very he added. exciting,” he said. How did his time at Laughlin prepare him for his part on the Markzon also thanked his crew chief, SSgt. Dylan Gagne, who Thunderbird team? had flown to Laughlin with him. “When I was a FAIP, most of the flying that we did, other “There’s only two crew chiefs in the Air Force that get to fly in than the aerobatics, were out-and-backs, cross-countries, so the back seat of an F-16. It’s a coveted position on the team, and that was a lot of instrument flying, and that’s all I do as the they’re both on the Thunderbirds. It’s pretty cool having my own Number 8 is travel across the country, doing cross-counties, so crew chief, and it’s a little bit of a throwback to the history of the all that instrument flying, that entire foundation, started here Air Force, when crew chiefs and pilots were both assigned to a at Laughlin. You don’t learn the basics of instrument flying plane,” Markzon said. anywhere else other than pilot training and that prepared me “It’s really his plane. I just get to fly it,” Markzon joked. extremely well for the job I’m in now,” he said. He said anyone with questions about the Thunderbirds Markzon said he also loves the F-16. should look at the group’s web site, af.thunderbirds.com and the “It’s like the best roller coaster you’ve ever been on, times 10. group’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is @afthunderbirds. • It’s incredible,” he said.

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A Trip Through Time Story by ATZIMBA MORALES

1968

L

1972

aughlin’s air show has a history that continues to develop each year. Posters for each air show are an indicator of the passage of time. Through history, the posters began as hand-painted works of art and now are done via computer graphics. Laughlin Air Force Base Historian Robert Marcell, said each one encompassing the spirit of a specific air show. “Some of them have an artist’s signature on them, and you can see who made the poster,” Marcell said. The posters also show the progression of the aircraft flown by the Thunderbirds, from the F-100C shown flying in formation in the earliest air show poster Laughlin was able to find, from 1968, to the McDonnell-

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1978

Douglas F-4E Phantom IIs of the 1970s to Northrop’s sturdy little T-38 Talons and the modern-day F-16 “Fighting Falcons,” the aircraft flown by the team today. Current posters are designed by members of Laughlin’s Force Support Squadron and the marketing department on base. The older posters could’ve come from Laughlin’s marketing department or from the Thunderbird’s own graphic design team, according to Lt. Rachael Parks, a member of Laughlin’s public information office. No matter what year they are from, the posters, each with bright colors and prominently featuring the famed Thunderbirds, are collectors’ items. •


1980

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1984

1986

1990 1988 24

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1994

2000

1992

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A

Challenge coins represent different moments in time for service men and women. From the moment they finish basic training to their most recent deployment, each holds a significant value for the owner.

Challenge

coin means currency and the ability to purchase something, but a challenge coin means more to the men and women that serve our nation. The origins of the challenge coin are a bit muddled from history, but the lore and meaning still stay true to the military. “It’s a tradition that’s been carried around for quite a long time now,” Laughlin Air Force Base Historian Robert Marcell said. There are many theories as to the origins of challenge coins, and Marcell believes they date back to the early 20th Century. “Like many military traditions, whether it’s the salute or why do our service members wear the flag backwards on their sleeves; it’s got these stories that are steeped, sometimes in mystery, because there are conflicting sources and conflicting stories about where they originate from,” Marcell said. Two common origin stories for the coins that Marcell said are widely known include the Vietnam War and World War II. According to the World War II story, a wealthy lieutenant wanted to give each member of his unit a memento, so he ordered coinsized bronze medallions to be made, featuring his unit’s insignia. The lieutenant carried his coin in a pouch around his neck.

ACCEPTED

Story and photos by ATZIMBA MORALES

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The lieutenant was later shot down behind enemy lines and had to hide from the Germans as he made his way back to friendly territory. Once he reached France, the French troops didn’t believe he was an American soldier, but rather a spy or saboteur. The pilot’s saving grace was the coin he carried, because the French troops recognized the insignia of his unit. So the story goes, according to the historian. After that, it became a tradition for military members to carry a challenge coin as a form of security in case they fell behind enemy lines, Marcell said. Yet not everyone believes that story, as some believe the coin dates back to the Vietnam War, according to Marcell. The Vietnam version states an Army infantry-run bar tried to keep non-infantrymen away by forcing “outsiders” to buy drinks for the whole bar if they couldn’t prove they had been in combat, according to Marcell. The “proof” began as enemy bullets, which got out of control with people bringing in grenades, rockets and unexploded ordnance. This was later changed to coin-sized items with the unit’s insignia as a form of proof, Marcell said. Yet from this the tradition, a “coin check” could have been created. Civilians, non-military people, may be aware of this tradition, as the media portrays it in movies and television. The check means one person takes out a challenge coin, specifically at a bar, and “checks” if every other military member present has a coin on them. The person that does not have a coin winds up buying everybody else a round of drinks. The lore of the challenge coin originating during the Vietnam War can be debated, as Marcell mentioned the oldest challenge coin he has seen was dated as far back as 1952. “Like many rituals, challenge coins exist to connect people … these rituals are really important to instill a sense of community,” Marcell said.

Col. Ted Glasco holds one of his favorite challenge coins, representing the 552d Control Wing.

The coin Col. Ted Glasco holds represents is one of the most current coins in his collection, representing the 47th Mission Support Group at Laughlin Air Force Base.

Col. Ted Glasco designed the challenge coin he holds in his hand and it is the current coin he distributes to service men and women at Laughlin Air Force Base.

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Col. Ted Glasco estimates his coin collection is over 100-plus, with many of them displayed on a coffee table and others throughout the walls of his office.

There is another version of the coin check, which Marcell said is less popular. This version takes place post-World War II, and the German economy was in tatters, with a finney coin worth practically nothing, according to Marcell. “The idea was, in bars and so on, uniformed service men in the U.S. Army would pull out finnies and say ‘finney check,’” Marcell said. Those that pulled out a finney were considered too poor to buy drinks for everyone. “That person that didn’t have the finney was obviously rich enough to not bother with the finney and was also rich enough to buy everyone drinks,” Marcell said. Every challenge coin has a different meaning and will hold different value to its owner. “These coins are all over the place, and every one of them has a story and every one of them was given for slightly different reasons. They’re like a badge of honor or badge of membership and tell where the person has been in their career,” Marcell said. Col. Ted Glasco, who is stationed at Laughlin Air Force

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Base, is one of the many people who continues to serve this nation, and his office is a tribute to the amount of coins he has received throughout his service. Glasco couldn’t recall the exact number of coins he has, but estimated his collection is over 100, with a few lost here and there to his little girls. Yet there were two that stood out to him; the first coin he received and the one he handed out during deployment. The second coin symbolized the strength military bonds carry over time, as he met one of his recipients nearly 20 years later. Glasco said he almost didn’t recognize the soldier, but he felt a sense of pride and joy knowing the soldier had carried that specific coin in his wallet, because it had been “one of the best deployments of his life.” Challenge coins are not exclusive to the military; even civilians can receive or hand them out. One of the most recognizable coins given by non-military staff is the presidential coin. There are some that are harder to receive, and Marcell explained it’s sometimes a matter of being in the right place at the right time. •


UNITED MEDICAL CENTERS

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UMC proporciona servicios médicos integrates que incluyen; Medicina Familiar; Pedratría, Podiatría, Obstetricia Dental, Ginecología, Planificacíon Familiar, Salud de la mujer, Laboratorio, Farmacia y Radiología. Llame para su cita o para obtener más informacíon en cualquier de las cuatro clinicas en Del Rio para servirle. Clinicas de noche y Sábados disponibles. Cada Clinica brinda: El Programa Healthy Texas Woman, Pruebas de Embarazos Gratuitas y Planificación Familiar (M-F 8am - 5pm)

Visit our website at/visite nuestra pagina www.umchealth.

Dr. Keenen, D.P.M. Podiatry

United Medical Centers 913 S. Main St. • Del Rio, TX • (830) 774-5534 Medical

Dr. Martinez, Family Medicine

jaime solis, Licensed Clinical social worker

Servicios Adicionales: Radiografía Farmacia Labortorio

Additional On-Site Services: X-Ray Pharmacy Laboratory

Ms. Meza, WHNP Women’s Health

Dr. Salama, OB/GYN

Bedell Avenue Clinic

Dr. Eyestone, General Practice

Dr. Mani, General Practice

2209 N. Bedell Avenue • Del Rio, TX 78840 (830) 775-1272 or (830)488-6950 OB/GYN DEPT

Dr. Astudillo, OB/GYN

San Felipe Health Center

1117 W. De La Rosa St. • Del Rio, TX 78840 (830) 768-4800

DENTAL

Dr. Paul C. Hessler, Pediatrician

Hardev Patel, DDS Dental Director

Edith Valdez, RDH

For a dental appointment Call / Para Cita dental (830) 774-1700.

Ms. Fernandez, APRN, FNP-C

East Academy Clinic

Moira Graham, RN, MSN, CPNP

Family Medicine

Ms. Delgado, APRN, FNP-BC, Family Medicine

Mrs. Mayté FernandezPatterson, APRN, FNP-C Family Medicine

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APRN, FNP-C

Family Medicine

119 East Academy St • Del Rio, TX • (830) 422-3305 Please call for after-hours service/ Por favor llame para servicio fuera de horario (830) 774-5534 Press 1. Dial 911 for an emergency/Para emergencias llamar al 911.

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Fashion Shoot Historical

AIR WEAR

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PHOTOS BY:

WARDROBE:

LOGISTICS:

Master Sgt. JT May III Staff Sgt. Benjamin Valmoja Senior Airman John Crawford Senior Airman Marco A. Gomez Senior Airman Anne McCready

Uniforms were provided by Retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Schultz, Airmen Heritage Foundation, Lackland Air Force Base, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas

Capt. Mahalia Frost, 47th Flying Training Wing, Chief of Public Affairs • 2nd Lt. Rachael Parks, 47th Flying Training Wing, Public Affairs Officer

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Opposite: Senior Airman Sanghoon Woo, a 47th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering technician, wears a U.S. Air Force shade 1505 summer uniform in service from 1956-1978. It was simply referred to as “the Fifteen-OhFives.” Woo is a native of Austin, Texas. This page, clockwise from top: Second Lt. Allison Chinnery, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron project manager, poses in a Women in the Air Force initial enlisted summer service uniform. Chinnery is a native of Wilmington, Delaware. • Senior Airman Morgan Davis, 47th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron aerospace physiology technician, in the Air Force Nurse Corps summer flight uniform. This uniform was in service from 19521972. Davis is a native of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. • Airman 1st Class Mya Winder, 47th Medical Operational Readiness Squadron Aerospace and Operational Physiology Unit technician, sports a Women in the Air Force optional enlisted service uniform, worn between 1948-1955. Winder is a native of Laland, Mississippi.

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Left: Capt. Jessica Tagatac, 47th Force Support Squadron operations officer, poses in the Women in the Air Force blue-and-white pinstripe summer service uniform. This uniform was in service from 1963-1977. Tagatac is a native of Chino Hills, California. • Below: Pictured from left: Tech Sgt. Peter Shutes, Capt. Jessica Tagatac, Tech Sgt. Rafael Franjul, Capt. Tyler Todd and Senior Airman Sanghoon Woo model uniforms from the Air Force’s history.

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Clockwise from top: Second Lt. Anne Conley, 47th Force Support Squadron deputy personnel flight commander, models the tropical olive drab jungle fatigues worn by U.S. Air Force flight nurses for use only in the Southeast Asia theater of operation in forward locations. Conley is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska. • Senior Airman Rachel Fullerton, an aerospace and operational physiology technician with the 47th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, models the corded summer service uniform. This uniform was in service from 1951-1969. Fullerton is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. • Tech. Sgt. Peter Shutes, 47th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight non-commissioned officer (NCO) in charge of weather operations, poses with the tan shade 1505 summer service uniform. This uniform was in service from 1956-1978.

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Above: Capt. Tyler Todd, 47th Student Squadron class commander, poses with the Class B winter service uniform. This uniform was in service from 1951-1988. Todd is a native of Quitman, Mississippi. • Right: Second Lt. Rie Stevens, 47th Comptroller Squadron, poses in a Women in the Air Force exercise uniform. This uniform was popular during the 1952-1972 timeframe. Stevens is native of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Left: Airman 1st Class Mya Winder, Senior Airman Rachel Fullerton, Senior Airman Morgan Davis, Senior Airman Sanghoon Woo, 2nd Lt. Allison Chinnery and 2nd Lt. Rie Stevens show off Air Force uniforms from past eras of the service. • Below: First Lt. Qawi Carmack, 47th Communications Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation, represents the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII-era U.S. Army Air Corps enlisted summer service uniform, worn between 1937 to 1955. Carmack is a native of Neptune, New Jersey.

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E V U O S Del Rio

SOUVENIRS All that hard work has paid off! Gift the new pilot in your life with a set of these sterling silver wings, $140.00 at Robert’s Jewelers.

Show off your Air Force pride with this sterling silver Air Force emblem necklace featuring a sparkling, one-carat cubic zirconia, $145.00 at Robert’s Jewelers. Remember your new “hometown” with this comfy tee from Del Rio Feed & Supply. The soft shirts come in a rainbow of colors and are available in short sleeves, $15, and long sleeves, $20.

When you leave Del Rio, sip your coffee or tea from one of these vintage-inspired mugs. Buy one or all three, $14.99 each at Russell’s True Value.

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S R E I N E Show off your Del Rio pride and keep the inside of your vehicle’s cupholder clean and dry with these Del Rio, Texas, clay car coasters, $2.59 each at Russell’s True Value.

Show ’em exactly where Del Rio is on this super absorbent and stain resistant multi-use towel by Fish Kiss, great for use as a kitchen or bar towel, $14.99 each at Russell’s True Value.

Take a little bit of Del Rio with you wherever you go with this stylish ball cap emblazoned with the Del Rio Feed & Supply logo. Available in a variety of colors, the caps are $12.95 or two for $20, at Del Rio Feed & Supply.

You’ll never feel underdressed while line dancing in a pair of these handcrafted Corral cowgirl boots, $269.95 from Del Rio Feed & Supply.

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B-52

PANINI BOMBER Recipe by ELVIA KOHLER and BRUCE FORESTER; Photo by MASTER SGT. JT MAY III

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hen you’re looking for a sandwich that’s on target and destroys your hunger, look no further than the B-52 Panini Bomber. A meat-lovers’ dream, the sandwich contains five different types of meat, some vegetables for those folks trying to look healthy, and a little spice in the pepper jack cheese. While the word panini is part of the sandwich’s title, it doesn’t need the traditional panini press treatment. However, this mighty mouthful is best served hot, so keep that in mind when preparing it. Del Rio GRANDE wishes to thank Elvia Kohler, lead waitress and cashier, and Bruce Forester, cook, at the Silver Wings Snack Bar on Laughlin Air Force Base for providing this recipe.

Ingredients • • • • • • • • • •

Sliced Beef Pastrami Ham Bacon Turkey Pepper Jack Cheese Mixed Greens Tomatoes Panini Bread Mustard (optional)

Method • If you choose to use mustard for this sandwich, spread a light coat of mustard on two slices of panini bread. If you’re opting out of mustard, lay a slice or two of pepper jack cheese on the bottom part of your bread. • Stack slices of turkey, ham, sliced beef, pastrami and bacon one on top of the other and on top of the cheese. • Stack tomatoes, lettuce, and mixed greens on the stack of meat slices. • You can add another slice of pepper jack atop the vegetables before laying the top piece of bread on the stack. • Apply heat to the top and bottom of the sandwich until the cheese melts and the bread is toasted. • Garnish with your choice of chips or a dill pickle spear, if so inclined.

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A TOAST To

LAUGHLIN Recipe by CLUB XL STAFF; Photo by MASTER SGT. JT MAY III

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hether it’s celebrating another successful flight or readying for a well-deserved weekend break, the folks at Laughlin Air Force Base know a thing or two about how to unwind. When the staff at Del Rio Grande asked for a drink that symbolizes what Laughlin is all about, the staff at Laughlin AFB’s Club XL came up with two – the Laughlin Fashion and Laughlin Tea. The interesting thing about these two drinks is they are made with Laughlin Bourbon Whiskey, a bourbon that is only sold at the Laughlin Exchange. Keep it classy, or keep it lively, just remember to be safe when imbibing.

LAUGHLIN

FASHION

LAUGHLIN

TEA

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Ingredients

Method

• 2 units of Laughlin Bourbon Whiskey (roughly two shots) • 1.5-ounces of blueberry syrup • 1 ounce of lime juice • Blueberries • Ice • 1 old fashioned glass (holds roughly 300 milliliters of liquid)

• Fill an old fashioned glass with ice. • Pour the Laughlin Bourbon Whiskey, blueberry syrup and lime juice over the ice. • Give the ingredients a light stir. • Garnish with fresh blueberries. The number varies on how sweet you want your beverage.

Ingredients

Method

• 2 units of Laughlin Bourbon Whiskey (roughly two shots) • 4 large fresh strawberries (2 sliced to small piece and 2 sliced in quarters) • 1 ounce of fresh lime juice • ¾ of an ounce of rich simple syrup • Topped with sweet or unsweet tea • Garnished rim with strawberries • Ice • 1 cocktail shaker • 1 highball glass

• Add the sliced strawberries and lime juice into a cocktail shaker and gently muddle. • Add simple syrup, Laughlin Bourbon Whiskey and ice to the shaker. • Shake until chilled. • Strain the contents into a highball glass over fresh ice. • Top off with sweet or unsweet tea.


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LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE

U.S. AIR FORCE

I

FIRSTS

t’s a new decade and with it comes the opportunity to make an impact for the future. Laughlin Air Force Base has been home to service men and women who broke boundaries and were the trailblazers for today’s youth. “Laughlin’s Firsts” are just that, the first to establish a new sense of determination and opportunity while encouraging others to do the same. These women far exceeded the expectations set for them by others. Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt went higher, further and faster as she became the Air Force’s

first female fighter pilot. Retired Maj. Theresa Claiborne was the Air Force’s first black female pilot after becoming Laughlin’s first black female student pilot graduate. Col. Michelle Pryor was the first female vice wing commander at Laughlin Air Force Base. Their careers are examples of the possibilities available when chances are taken. Nothing held these women back from working toward their full potential, and their stories are a reminder to younger generations there is more – much more – to accomplish.

First Female Air Force Fighter Pilot

MAJ. GEN. JEANNIE LEAVITT Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot and role model for the filmmakers of “Captain Marvel,” earned her pilot wings at Laughlin Air Force Base in 1993. “Laughlin AFB was my first base of assignment in the USAF, and I have so many wonderful memories. Most memorable experiences include my first flights and first solo flights in both the T-37 and T-38,” Leavitt recently told Grande magazine. Leavitt graduated at the top of her pilot training class and went on to fly the F-15E “Strike Eagle.” Currently, she has more than 3,000 flying hours, including 300 combat flight hours in combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq. Leavitt, who was also the first woman in the Air Force to command a fighter squadron, the 57th at Nellis Air Force Base, currently is the commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. She said her biggest challenges have been the days when things did not go the way she would like. “I learned the importance to not dwell on a mistake, but rather, to learn from the mistake, make appropriate corrections and improve performance,” Leavitt said. Asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Leavitt said, “Chase your dreams, work hard and be persistent, bring a positive attitude every day, and believe in yourself.” •

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Air Force’s first African-American female pilot and LAFB’s first African-American female student pilot graduate

RETIRED MAJ. THERESA CLAIBORNE

Retired Maj. Theresa Claiborne is the Air Force’s first black female pilot and the first black female student pilot graduate at Laughlin Air Force Base. “Personally, the most critical element of success is the attainment of goals. Achieving my goals has been my measuring tool. Success is a word that means different things to different people. Not every endeavor has been positive, yet there is still a lot of knowledge and wisdom to gain from each experience. It is undeniable that failures can make us stronger,” Claiborne told Grande recently. Claiborne attributes at least part of her own personal success to the support of her “biggest fan,” her mother, and her unshakable faith in God. She called pilot training “the most challenging time in her life,” mainly because, she said, in college she only did what was required, and didn’t truly test herself with other than the required math and science courses. While training to become a pilot, Claiborne said, she made up for lost time and “was determined to succeed.” Her most memorable Laughlin experiences included earning her silver pilot wings and driving into the base’s front gate with a high school friend who “reminded me of my ability to succeed.” Asked what advice she would give her younger self, Claiborne said, “As the president of a non-profit called Sisters of the Skies, an organization whose purpose is to inspire, nurture and promote women of color in professional pilot careers, I continually search for words to encourage my younger self. After personal reflection, the same advice surfaces, ‘Maximize your potential by preparation. . . It’s imperative to challenge yourself. You can be what you want to be. Set your sights on it and make it happen.” •

First 47th Flying Training Wing Vice Commander

COL. MICHELLE PRYOR

Col. Michelle Pryor is the first female vice wing commander at Laughlin Air Force Base. “My inner drive and desire to do the best I could at whatever I was presently doing kept me motivated each day. I never really dwelled upon being in a career field without many female role models. I took many lessons – both positive and negative – from all the people I worked for, with and supervised. The best career advice I received just before taking on my first flight commander role was to ‘be youself.’ That advice helped keep me grounded throughout my career,” Pryor told Grande recently. Pryor said one of her most challenging experiences came when she was going through pilot training at Laughlin. Her heart was set on a career flying a fighter jet, and when she was given the opportunity to fly a T-1 instead, she admits she “didn’t handle the transition well.” The support of her husband and classmates and her mother reminding her that things happen for a reason got her back on track. “Sometimes life events don’t fit with our current plan, but how we react to those events can have an even greater effect on the outcome for the future. That fateful day at track select truly put me on the path I was meant to take, giving me the chance to teach our future pilots as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot and ultimately providing me with the opportunity to return to Laughlin in a leadership role,” she said. Asked what advice she would give her younger self, Pryor said, “Step back and take a look at the big picture rather than getting caught up with the little things. . .Remember to enjoy the present and make the most out of every day.” •

GRANDE / MARCH 2020

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Last Look It’s been two years, but it’s back. This time around, staff focused on Laughlin Air Force Base, local ties to the community and the history behind the base. A huge shout out to Laughlin’s public affairs staff, as we couldn’t have completed this without them. There’s more to Laughlin than meets the eye, and sometimes it takes a little more effort to learn the ins and outs of the military. Military uniforms are unique, and GRANDE readers get a chance to see the changes in Air Force uniforms through the years in this month’s fashion shoot. I admit the only uniform design I can name off the top of my head is the “pinks and greens.” This year’s airshow is something to look forward to. I grew up going to the air shows here, so I was elated when it was brought back in 2018; it’s a day of sun, loud noises and crowds, but it’s a memory that sticks out from my youth. Whether you live on base or within the city limits, the friendship between both places creates a bond that unites and strengthens. A member of Laughlin once asked me, “What does it take to become a Del Rioan?” At that moment, I couldn’t give him a clear-cut answer, and truth be told, there isn’t one. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is, and there are a variety of items Laughlin personnel can take with them to remember their good times here. Some of those items are featured in this month’s picks. Make sure to like and stay up to date with our Facebook page and Instagram, @del_rio_grande. We’re always looking to hear from the community. Until next month, Atzimba Morales GRANDE writer and photographer

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• Del Rio GRANDE Publisher David Rupkalvis, right, discusses ideas with Robert Marcell, wing historian, left, and Capt. Mahalia Frost, chief of Laughlin Public Affairs. • GRANDE writer and photographer Brian Argabright, left, interviews Laughlin instructor pilot Capt. Jesus Beltran, whose story is featured in this issue. • GRANDE Editor Karen Gleason, right, talks with Capt. Jesus Beltran about perfect angles, before shooting the cover for the March issue of GRANDE magazine. • GRANDE Editor Karen Gleason, right, listens to Thunderbird pilot Maj. Jason Markzon, left, as he talks about flying the F-16, as Markzon’s crew chief, Staff Sgt. Dylan Gagne, looks on.


GRANDE / MARCH 2020

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