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Practice makes perfect for Blue Angels

Lt. Cmdr. Monica Borza, flight surgeon with the Blue Angels, signs an autograph after meeting with Veterans Friday at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Borza and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Amelia Hauselmann, left, talked with the group about their experiences with the Blue Angels.
Lt. Cmdr. Monica Borza, flight surgeon with the Blue Angels, signs an autograph after meeting with Veterans Friday at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Borza and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Amelia Hauselmann, left, talked with the group about their experiences with the Blue Angels.

To be the “best of the best,” you have to practice. And practice. And practice.

That’s what makes the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s precision flying squadron, so special. And becoming part of that team means total dedication.

“What do I do in my personal life? Honestly, I sleep,” said Lt. Cmdr. Monica Borza, flight surgeon with the Blue Angels, during a meet-and-greet with Milwaukee VA inpatient and outpatient Veterans Friday.

The squadron is in town for this weekend’s Milwaukee Air & Water Show, with the Blue Angels slated to perform at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

During Friday’s visit, Borza and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Amelia Hauselmann posed for photos, signed autographs and talked about their backgrounds and what it’s like to be a Blue Angel.

While neither is a pilot, they both play critical roles: Borza is the physician assigned to the squadron. She evaluates the performances and practices while also monitoring and staying in contact with the pilots at all times. Hauselmann is a hospital corpsman, working with Borza.

“This is a huge responsibility and a big honor that we do not take lightly,” Borza said, noting that the team is constantly in mission mode.

The Blue Angels work six days a week, either practicing or performing, Borza said. There are debriefings after each show as the team pores over tapes of the performances and works to refine and improve the show.

That leaves just one day for personal time before practice sessions resume, and it’s off to a new city.

The schedule is grueling, but well worth it, Borza and Hauselmann said.

“This is a special duty,” Hauselmann said, saying she especially enjoys outreach events like Friday’s program. “It’s what made me want to be part of the team. It’s a very unique billet, and it’s probably never going to be this cool again.”

“The Blue Angels are the best of the best,” Borza said. “I’m very honored to be here and I am striving to be my best every day because I’m surrounded by the best of the best.”

Other interesting facts gleaned from the event:

  • The squadron is in constant flux, as team members can serve for only three years. But there is a Blue Angels Alumni Association that consults with the team.
  • There are 12 Blue Angel jets; seven go to shows.
  • Since its founding in 1946, the Blue Angels have been called to active duty only once, during the Korean War.
  • During a show, a Blue Angel F-18 jet will reach speeds nearing Mach 1 (the speed of sound) — 0.95 Mach, to be exact. And a pilot can experience up to 7 G-forces. “We’ll go just 50 feet above the water and zoom past the crowd at 700 mph,” Borza said.
  • Pilots have to sit hunched over in the cockpit, with their forearms on their legs, to control the stick, which has a 40-pound spring on it. They do not wear G-suits, because that would interfere with stick control.
  • The F-18s aren’t brand new; in fact the jets are older models with a spiffy paint job and a few modifications, such as the addition of smoke tanks.
  • The lead jet is the commander, aka “Boss.” The Boss is the only pilot surveying the sky, ground and horizon; the others are looking only at the jet in front of them.
  • Pilots must have at least 1,000 hours of flight time to join the team; the Boss has more than 2,000 hours.
  • During a show, the planes are as close as 12 inches apart.
  • Unless the runway is too narrow, the jets take off simultaneously in their diamond formation.
  • A former Blue Angel was flying all the jets seen in the recent movie “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Learn more about the Blue Angels here. For information on the Milwaukee Air and Water Show, click here.

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