06/10/04 — Seymour gets honor of participating in Reagan rites

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Seymour gets honor of participating in Reagan rites

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on June 10, 2004 2:06 PM

Patriotic music blasted through the rainy skies as a line of F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets made their way down the flight line at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

One jet had nose art showing former President Ronald Reagan wearing a cowboy hat with a variation of one of his famous movie lines: "One more for the Gipper." Staff Sgt. Jeremy Farley designed it.

Friends and family members waved at the fliers about to embark on a short but important mission. Brig. Gen. Rick Rosborg, 4th Fighter Wing commander, drove by the jets as final preparations were made for take-off.

The airmen had been assigned to perform a 21-plane flyover Wednesday as part of Reagan's funeral rites in Washington. A cross-section of 42 airmen combined from all squadrons of the 4th Wing -- the 333rd, 334th, 335th, 336th -- were chosen to fly. They were younger and older airmen of various ranks.

The White House chose Seymour Johnson to perform the flyover.

The jets left on schedule at 5 p.m., even through rainy weather. The trip took around 45 minutes.

The lead jet was followed by five four-ship formations spaced at 10-second intervals. The route was from south to north up Washington's 4th Street S.W., crossing the National Mall and Constitution Avenue at 1,000 feet.

The final formation performed the missing-man maneuver as the planes crossed Constitution Avenue. The missing-man maneuver involves a wingman breaking formation, rocketing skyward and leaving a hole in the formation. It signifies the loss of a comrade.

The jet performing the missing-man formation had the Reagan nose art. The crewmen were Col. Darryl Robertson and Capt. Craig Nieman.

The flyover occurred around 6:30 p.m. It was viewed by millions of people on television. One TV correspondent described people cheering, saluting and breaking down into tears as they watched the jets roar over the funeral procession.

"It's a great honor. It says a lot about the men and women of the 4th Fighter Wing," said Capt. Dan Badia with the 334th Fighter Squadron. He was an alternate and went through all of the briefing with the airmen participating in the flyover.

He said everyone was excited during the briefing.

"Not everyday you get to fly through downtown Washington on national TV," he said.

He said the basic flyover plan was already in place, but they had to make sure the timing was to the second.

The honor of being involved in the procession was exciting for the entire Goldsboro community, which is like a great family with Seymour Johnson, he added.

"Everyone was real happy to be a part of this."

The 21 jets flew back last night and arrived around 7:45 p.m.