Teacher Honored as Thunderbird Hometown Hero Goes on Ride of a Lifetime

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- Thousands of people in the air force are making a difference in our country every day, but there are also everyday Americans who are doing amazing things in their own communities. So when the thunderbirds travel the country, they make sure those people are recognized. Thursday it was a Sioux Falls teacher.

Brad Brockmueller suited up for the ride of a lifetime. He got to fly in a F-16 Fighter Jet as an honorary VIP. A title he earned after being nominated by the Sioux Falls School District to be a “Thunderbird Hometown Hero.”

“I really appreciate the fact that they took the time to recognize me for it and give me this chance,” said Brockmueller. 

It’s a program the Thunderbirds started around a year and a half ago to recognize people doing great things in their community.

“We get to find out where our paths cross with a lot of people in local communities. So in this case, Brad who does an awesome job on a daily basis getting kids excited about STEM, excited about the future. And that’s what we’re trying to do here this weekend, show the kdis what they can do if they put their minds to it and when they figure out what their dream and what their passion is and start working for it, they can make it happen,” said Lt. Colonel Eric Gorney, Thunderbird Team Operations Officer. 

Brockmueller has been a computer teacher at CTE Academy for eight years. He teaches with a big emphasis on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.  And he’s helping to pave the way for students who want to get into cyber security at Dakota State after graduation. 

Brockmueller got the full experience.

“We got to show him the inside and outside of the F-16 and exactly what it can do airborne,” said Lt. Colonel Gorney. 

They flew all the way to Brookings.

“At one point he took us right through the clouds and I felt like I was actually touching the clouds and we were carving in between a couple clouds,” said Brockmueller. 

He also got to experience a couple of G’s.

“It’s like the heaviest animal you can think of sitting on your chest and not being able to breathe and then the equipment they have squeezing your lower body to make sure that you don’t pass out, it’s so much fun,” said Brockmueller. 

It’s an experience he says he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

“it was just like the best roller coaster you’ve ever been on. It was so much fun and Eric did a great job and took me around and made sure that I was comfortable with everything we were doing the whole time,” said Brockmueller.

“All the visuals, the sound, the feeling of being under G and of course doing all the maneuvers can be a lot, but Brad did and awesome job,” said  Lt. Colonel Gorney. 

Brockmeuller says it was a great way to celebrate all his hard work.

While in town the Thunderbirds also participate in different activities in the community. They visit places like high schools and hospitals.

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