USAF Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bryson Schuster, advance crew chief with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and a Century High School graduate, is greeted at the Mankato Regional Airport after arriving in an F-16 fighter jet Wednesday. The Thunderbirds will be flying in the upcoming Minnesota Air Spectacular Saturday and Sunday.

If Air Force Tech Sgt. Bryson Schuster’s friends in Rochester haven’t heard yet, the Century High School graduate, is in Minnesota this weekend.

Most of Mankato heard him arrive.

Schuster is advance crew chief for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. When he goes to work, he’s in the back of an F-16 fighter jet.

The advance crew deals with the needs and logistics of the high performance fighter jet squadron. Schuster arrived along with pilot Maj. Jason Markzon with a roar Wednesday afternoon.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for years,” Schuster said shortly after landing.

The Thunderbirds are performing at the Minnesota Air Spectacular at the Mankato airport Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s a dream come true,” Schuster said. “We’re bringing the mission home.”

Schuster’s mother is a Mankato native. His father runs the family farm in nearby Easton.

“I have a whole list of family and friends I’m looking forward to seeing,” Schuster said.

One part of the advance team’s job is to do a quick site survey. Markzon and Schuster flew over the airport that is hosting the show and then flew around Mankato to see the layout of the show and note any potential obstacles.

It also announces their presence.

“I think I got a text from my aunt saying she heard jets in Mankato,” Schuster said.

Schuster’s father, Curtis Schuster met his son at the airport.

“To ride to work in the back of an F-16. Yeah, that’s impressive,” Curtis said.

“What a way to show up, huh?” Markzon said as he introduced himself to Curtis Schuster.

Curtis said he gets to as many air shows featuring the Thunderbirds as he can. Curtis said Wednesday was the first time he had seen his son since Christmas.

“I’ll probably try to catch him in Milwaukee and Chicago,” he said.

Curtis said he’s proud of his son, who has served two deployments overseas since joining the Air Force shortly after graduating high school in 2010.

“It’s kind of beyond words what he has done,” Curtis said.

Earning a chance to join the Thunderbirds was an amazing opportunity, he added.

“Being around them is inspirational,” he said. “Those pilots are top guns.”

The Thunderbirds are the centerpiece of the weekend air show, producers said.

Bryson said the organizers have done well accommodating the team.

“This Mankato air show site does a good job,” he said. “They’re knocking it out of the park.”

Bryson isn’t the only local returning for this show.

Capt. Michelle Curran, one of the pilots, is a native of Medford, Wis. Curran is only the second female solo Thunderbird pilot, and fifth ever female team member, in the squadron’s history.

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General Assignment Reporter

John joined the Post Bulletin in May 2018. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2004 with a BA in Journalism and Japanese. Away from the office, John plays banjo, brews beer, bikes and is looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter “b.”