The tougher selection process comes after a former officer at Naval Base Coronado was relieved of duty following allegations that he fostered a hostile work environment while at the helm of the Blue Angels.
Navy Lt. j.g. Amber Lynn Daniel, 33, of Ramona, will continue to be the team’s public affairs officer. A new member from Southern California is supply officer Lt. Gregory Bollinger, Jr., 31, of Carbondale, IL, from the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.
Among the new members of the Blue Angels are an executive officer, five pilots and a surgeon. They are:
- Executive Officer: Cmdr. Bob Flynn, 45, of Moorestown, NJ, a S-3B Viking Naval Flight Officer assigned to the Naval War College. He is a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
- F/A-18 demonstration pilots: Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, 31, of Honolulu, assigned to Training Squadron 22 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, TX; Lt. Andrew Talbott, 31, of Sedan, KS, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA, and Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, 30, of Durango, Colo., assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.
- C-130 demonstration pilots: Marine Maj. Mark Hamilton, 36, of Becker, MN, and Marine Capt. Katie Higgins, 27, of Annapolis, MD. Both are assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC.
- Surgeon: Lt. Joe Schwartz, 34, of Arlington, VA, is currently assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 132 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, Washington.
They join other current members of the team, F/A-18 demonstration pilots Cmdr. Tom Frosch, 44, of Clinton Township, MI, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Barton, 33, of Hummelstown, PA, Lt. Mark Tedrow, 31, of Charleroi, PA, and
Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, 29, of Bloomington, IL and C-130 demonstration pilot Marine Capt. Dusty Cook, 32, of East Bernard, TX.
The Navy also boosted the Blue Angel command structure and added new layers of review to the selection process in the wake of allegations that dogged a former commander of the team and forced his April departure as an executive officer in Coronado, his assignment after he left the flight team.
Capt. Gregory McWherter was found guilty last month of not stopping “obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment” while he lead the Blue Angels from 2008-2010 and from 2011-12. The decision was expected to end his naval career.
The Blue Angels named their first executive officer Flynn to add oversight, and had the Navy Personnel Command review finalists. The Chief of Naval Aviation Training also has authority to give final approval to Blue Angel candidates. The new team was reviewed under the new procedures, according to the Navy.
“I am committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism while preserving the tradition of excellence that is the hallmark of the Blue Angels,” said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander, Naval Air Forces, in a news release. “My focus is on ensuring that the Blue Angels team, our Navy and Marine Corps’ elite Flight Demonstration Squadron, is made up of the most qualified and professional aviators.”
The Blue Angels, according to the Navy, have performed for more than 484 million fans in the nearly 70 years of the team’s existence.