Pittsburgh Area Native To Participate In F-15 Flyby At Steelers Playoff Game
By: Carly Noel, WPXI.com
Posted: 4:58 pm EST January 11, 2011Updated: 7:06 pm EST January 11, 2011
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh area native Ray “Banzai” Rounds will participate in the F-15 flyby over Heinz Field before the Steelers playoff game against the Ravens on Saturday.
“Aside from getting married and the birth of my children, this may be the greatest day of my life and certainly of my professional career. I mean honestly, two of my favorite things in life -- flying fighter jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers -- are all rolled into one afternoon. I'm not sure how you can top this,” said Rounds.
Rounds, a friend from North Allegheny High School (we're both 1999 graduates), contacted me when he learned that he and seven other members from the 391st Fighter Squadron will be featured in the sky during the National Anthem.
Rounds’ squadron, nicknamed the Bold Tigers, is part of the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Rounds has tried to bring the Bold Tigers to Pittsburgh for a flyby before, but real world deployments prevented it. This time, timing was on his side.
“Fortunately for me, my leadership was extremely supportive of this, and I'm just extremely grateful to them and the Steelers for the opportunity to showcase the air power that we proudly provide to America on a daily basis,” said Rounds.
The opportunity means the world to the Steelers fan, who brings his Terrible Towel with him on missions.
“Every combat mission I've ever flown has been flown with a Terrible Towel on my left glare shield and an American flag on the right. My Terrible Towel has been with me, saving coalition and American lives in Afghanistan, as well as deterring aggression in Korea and everything in between. It literally has years of blood, sweat and tears,” said Rounds.
The towel and the following Bold Tigers will join Rounds in the air on Saturday: Jamison "Flash" Baysden, Randy "Magnus" Webb, John "Vapor" Bott, Ty "Hog" Walsh, Michael "Garmin" DeRosa, Adam "Jiffy" Luber and John "Lar" Davis.
“This is one of those once in a lifetime things, not just for me but for seven of my best friends and the maintenance personnel with us. We spend a lot of time deployed and away from our families, voluntarily and proudly; however, things like this raise morale not just for us, but for the whole squadron, in ways you can't imagine,” said Rounds.
Rounds describes flying a fighter as “absolutely thrilling.”
“Probably the best way I've heard it described is that it's like trying to drive a NASCAR race car while playing a chess match all while trying not to hit the ground,” said Rounds.
After the flyby on Saturday, Rounds will be on the sidelines at Heinz Field. I asked if there’s a Steeler he’s hoping to meet.
“You know, my wife wants me to say Troy [Polamalu] because she is not so secretly in love with him. In all honesty though, football is such a team sport -- from the practice team to the star quarterback. I see so many correlations to the military and the way we operate as a team. It would be such an honor to meet any and all of them. If you forced me to pick someone though, it would probably be James Harrison. His background story combined with the ferociousness with which way he plays, he is like a modern day gladiator, and I just respect the heck out of him,” he said.
Rounds thanks the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township for tanker support. Tankers will meet the Bold Tigers halfway to Pittsburgh to refuel.
Rounds and his wife, Ashley, have two children, Chase, 7, and River, 2.
Rounds is a 2003 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. He has 900 flight hours in the F-15E with more than 300 combat hours and 69 combat missions.
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