10/15/06 — Thunderbirds ready for show today

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Thunderbirds ready for show today

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 15, 2006 2:00 AM

Fading white streaks across the skies of Wayne County said it all late Saturday afternoon -- the Thunderbirds have arrived.

As dozens of other performers and crews landed on the flight line at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, members of the storied F-16 demonstration team were already busy posing for pictures with -- and signing autographs for -- the children waiting to welcome them to Goldsboro.

For some of the Thunderbirds, Wings Over Wayne is merely another opportunity to show off the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force and pay their respects to the enlisted men and women fighting for freedom around the world.

But for Maj. Nicole Malachowski and Maj. Scottie Zamzow -- both former members of the 4th Fighter Wing's 336th "Rockets" -- it's about coming home, too.

"Flying around up there, I was taking a look a my old house," Maj. Zamzow said. "I'm so glad to be back here."

"You bet it's nice to be back," Maj. Malachowski added. "It makes me feel good to be here in the home of the world's best fighter."

For these two pilots, their performance this afternoon will be particularly special, they said.

"It's like a homecoming of sorts," Maj. Malachowski said. "After all, this is the family that raised me. I've probably never been more relaxed because I know I'll be among family and good friends here at Seymour."

Still, the show, scheduled for 3 p.m., is about more than the pilots and their individual excitement, she added.

"We want the people who come out to walk away with a sense of absolute pride in their Air Force," Maj. Malachowski said. "We want them to keep in mind the men and women serving in the global War on Terror."

Maj. Zamzow agrees.

"We're not just out here to fly airshows," he said. "The Air Force is not in the business of flying red, white and blue jets. We're here to represent all those men and women who are serving their country right now."

Even so, it's going to be quite a show, he added.

"This is going to be a show you can't miss if you're out here in Goldsboro," Maj. Zamzow said. "If you have a patriotic bone in your body, you've got to be out here."

But until show-time, both he and his fellow former Rocketeer are happy to let their time back at Seymour Johnson soak in.

"(Seymour Johnson) just feels like home," he said.

And as his teammate checked out the line of Strike Eagles on the flight line, her smile said it all.

"I'll be back in the F-15E someday," Maj. Malachowski said. "It's where my heart is."