Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blue Angels Knighted With Sword of Excellence

The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, received the International Council of Air Shows' (ICAS) Sword of Excellence Dec. 13.

The team received the award for its outstanding service and contributions to the air show industry during the 2007 air show season.

ICAS President John Cudahy presented Blue Angels Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Kevin Mannix with the award during a ceremony at the annual ICAS convention in Las Vegas.

Mannix said the team is more than honored to receive the award and to be considered in the same class as previous recipients.

"We're proud to be part of such a professional industry," he said. "Not only do I consider my fellow Blue Angels family, but I also consider each and every performer, organizer and volunteer as such. The air show industry and its members are crucial to our existence."

Cudahy said he has often worked with the Pensacola-based Blue Angels during his 10 years as ICAS president and finds the team to be the epitome of professionalism and the standard by which all other air show professionals are measured.

"The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are an American icon," said Cudahy. "Our organization is proud to recognize them with the air show industry's single-most prestigious award."

This is the first year ICAS has recognized an organization rather than an individual performer with the award since its inception in 1981. This also makes the Blue Angels the only military entity to gain such recognition.

Cudahy said he believes the Blue Angels well-deserved selection could open the door for future military organizations, such as the Army's Golden Knights and the Air Force Thunderbirds, but, they have big shoes to fill. "They will first have to make the same kind of contributions to the air show community that the Blue Angels have made during the last 61 years," he said.

The anonymous nomination of the Blues deemed the organization to be a "household name." Other points in the nomination included the team's hectic training and travel schedules as well as the economic impact the team has on any air show where it performs. Driving the point home, the nomination stated, "The Blue Angels ARE the air show industry."

Following the nomination of a performer, a selection committee consisting of long-standing ICAS members, board members and past recipients confer and evaluate the merits of nominees. According to Cudahy, recipients must have the unanimous support of the selection committee.

The Blue Angels represent Sailors and Marines serving around the globe and embody the core values of honor, courage and commitment. Such principles are key to earning the Sword of Excellence, which is considered to be the highest award air show professionals can receive. The award, like the Navy and Marine Corps, also recognizes leadership, innovation, vision and community involvement.

The Blue Angels began training for the 2008 season in Pensacola and following the new year, will transit to El Centro, Calif., for winter training.