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Flyovers and Football: DOD Has a Super-Sized Super Bowl Week
Department of Defense | Feb. 16, 2023
About 113 million people around the world watched Super Bowl LVII, which means that nearly that many saw the Navy flyover and presentation of the flags by the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard during the national anthem.
But what you might not know is that the Defense Department has a much broader role in one of the most watched sporting events in the world.
— MDW USARMY (@MDW_USARMY) February 13, 2023
Throughout the week leading up to the big game, service members and veterans from all branches got a chance to meet with the community and partake in various festivities in Glendale, Arizona, at nearby Luke Air Force Base and at local schools.
This year, the flyover celebrated 50 years of women in naval aviation by having an all-female team fly in formation over the stadium in an F-35C Lightning II, two FA-18F Super Hornets and an EA-18G Growler.
"I'm excited to be a part of this team and inspire the next generation of female aviators," said Navy Lt. Naomi Ngalle, an F/A-18F Super Hornet pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 122 out of Lemoore, California.
"I just feel honored to be here, honored to be a part of this exciting moment in history, and I'm really grateful for the opportunity," said Navy Lt. Peggy Dente, an EA-18G Growler pilot with Electronic Attack Squadron 129 out of Oak Harbor, Washington.
Ngalle and Dente were two of the 11 pilots chosen for the mission. Seven flew during the game, while four others served as alternates. Before the big day, though, the aviators spent the week at Luke Air Force Base meeting with their Air Force partners, the Air Force community and civilian leaders for a pre-Super Bowl celebration. Students from local schools also got to check out the aircraft, talk with pilots and aircrew and even meet with some NFL Hall of Famers.
Some lucky folks, including Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, even got to ride in an F/A-18E Super Hornet. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Calli Zimmerman took Hobbs up for about an hour, doing basic maneuvers such as barrel rolls and wingovers. Zimmerman said she almost got up to five G-forces.
"I only threw up twice," Hobbs joked. "It was pretty amazing."
To express appreciation of the Armed Forces & what it means to serve, AZ Governor @katiehobbs participated in an orientation flight with the @USNavy at @LukeAFB. The flight was conducted with pilots from the #SBLVII flyover team. She thanked @LukeAFB for their leadership & trust. pic.twitter.com/QoNFoOU9de
— DATSD Melanie Fonder Kaye (@DOD_Outreach) February 10, 2023
The pilots, their backups and the aircrew—who all helped make the mission successful—were all honored during the game's third quarter.
Thanks to our #servicemembers who participated in #SBLVII. From the @USNavy all-female #flyover pilots to the maintainers on the ground, @MDW_USARMY Color Guard, @LukeAFB team & trailblazers like retired Navy CAPT Joellen Oslund, we salute you every day. #FLYNavy #SaluteToService pic.twitter.com/3vD4UeIurx
— Department of Defense ???????? (@DeptofDefense) February 13, 2023
Another major military event during the national anthem was the presentation of the flags by the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard, which rehearsed all week for the big moment on the field.
You saw them on the field, but #DYK the @MDW_USARMY Color Guard put in lots of practice before the big game? You represented our military services well at #SBLVII. Congrats on a job well done. pic.twitter.com/a5ceb1KzOE
— DATSD Melanie Fonder Kaye (@DOD_Outreach) February 13, 2023
Other history makers were also on hand for the weeklong festivities, including Navy Capt. Joellen Oslund. After entering naval flight training in 1972, she became the service's first female helicopter pilot.
In commemoration of 50 yrs of women flying in the @USNavy, retired Navy CAPT Joellen Oslund; the 1st woman helicopter pilot was honored at #SBLVII. During her 25 yrs of service, she broke many barriers for women in the military & has a special message for her fellow Navy pilots. pic.twitter.com/vx3y6tA7tk
— Department of Defense ???????? (@DeptofDefense) February 13, 2023
And then, of course, there were the four Medal of Honor recipients who took part in a panel discussion at Luke Air Force Base. Retired Navy Lt. Thomas Norris and Navy Lt. Michael Thornton, as well as Army Capt. Gary Rose and Army Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne talked with airmen, their families and others about their experiences.
Later in the week, those Medal of Honor recipients made the rounds at the Super Bowl Experience, even getting to meet with NFL superstar-turned-analyst Rob Gronkowski.
Giving Thanks. @Buccaneers Tight End @RobGronkowski surprised four of our Medal of Honor recipients at the #SBLVII experience event. He thanked each one for their service and protecting freedoms that allows @NFL players the right to play the game they love. #MOH #SalutetoService pic.twitter.com/khr5vOHn04
— DATSD Melanie Fonder Kaye (@DOD_Outreach) February 12, 2023
The Super Bowl wasn't the only championship going on, either. The 2nd annual USA Wheelchair Football League championship took place at Luke Air Force Base early in the week. The league, which was established in 2019 for athletes with disabilities, hosts players who said they do it for the camaraderie, action and competition.
"I went to my first practice, and I was hooked," said Bart Salgado, a Marine who served in Desert Storm and Somalia and has been playing wheelchair football for nearly 22 years.
"My favorite part is the physicality of the game. I get to be competitive, and I get to hit people," said 20-year Army veteran Matthew Scholten, who's been playing in the Kansas City league for two years. "It's a great time."
But…back to the aviators. Before the big game, several of the pilots were asked what their advice would be to young girls watching them and wanting to do what they do someday.
"Resiliency is key. You can't just give up at the first roadblock," said Navy Lt. Caitie Perkowsi, an F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 122. "Keep your head down, keep pushing for what you want, and don't let anyone tell you [that] you can't do it."
"[You need] to be able to take criticism. That was something I struggled with initially just because flight training is very difficult," Ngalle said. "But you have to understand that no one is out to get you. They're just trying to make you the best aviator you can be."
After the big game was over, the Defense Department's military crews got back to their missions across the world. But rest assured that, come this time next year, some of them will be ready to do it all again for Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas!