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"I won't be the last": Captain Remoshay Nelson is a history-making Thunderbird

"My hope is that while I have been labeled a first, I won't be the last because I want to show young girls what the possibilities are."
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Posted at 11:16 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 07:12:08-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — Captain Remoshay Nelson is a proud Georgian, Howard University Alumna, US Air Force Public Affairs Officer and the first Black woman to be a United States Air Force Thunderbird.

As a young girl, she had no idea that she would one day inspire thousands.

Nelson reminisced, "I grew up in Douglasville, Georgia, west of Atlanta, come from very humble beginnings and I just was very adventurous as a young girl. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up but my mom and my biological father separated very early. When I was about 10-years-old, my mom met my stepdad and he was so different than anyone else in my family. He had been in the Navy and traveled the world and he used to tell me all of these amazing stories about life, adventure and all of his cool military stories."

Along with those stories, her childhood hiding spot in the clouds provided an unknowing glimpse of what her future would be.

"There is a tree that used to be outside of my apartment complex and so whenever I would get in trouble or want to get away and get some peace to my 10 year old self. I would climb up this tree and just sit there. That was really the place that kind of cultivated these ideas and kind of where I started to manifest that I would be somewhere else, that I would be flying high, that I would be able to travel and see the world, go to 43 countries, so that’s kind of where it all started, that coupled with those stories that my dad would tell me of him in the military," she described.

When it was time to go to college, she knew she wanted to attend a HBCU that offered a strong ROTC program. Nelson chose Howard University, soared in ROTC and majored in Speech Communications. Nelson worked with soldiers that had experienced traumatic brain injuries while they were serving overseas.

"When they come home they may have experienced an injury. They can not communicate and being able to help that individual say I love you again to their wife, to their child, to their loved one is something that I was really honored to be a part of," she recounted.

Nine years ago, when Nelson joined the Air Force she learned the history of the famed squadron she would eventually join.

"The Thunderbirds is the Air Force’s official aerial demonstration squadron. We were established during the same time as the Korean War. What we were looking to do is showcase the advances the Air Force was making when it came to fighter jets and its capabilities. Our mission is to recruit, retain and inspire. We travel all around the United States doing about 60 demonstrations a year, going to 30 different locations and putting on aerial demonstrations. We are showing and representing what the Air Force is all about," she explained.

When a spot opened up on the highly selective team, Captain Nelson didn't know if she would make the cut.

"I doubted myself at first. I said, 'I don't know if Im good enough to be on the team.' I wasn't quite sure if they’d accept someone like me. I had not seen a lot of people that looked like me on the team so I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know the statistics or anything like that at the time. I just knew that what I had seen was not something that looked like me and so it was a bit intimidating at first. Everyone was super encouraging and then I went through the very tough interview and selection process and was able to be selected," she explained.

When asked what her proudest moment as a Thunderbird, Nelson talked about encouraging her fellow Americans during the ongoing pandemic.

"We came up with an idea of working with the local Vegas community to fly over hospitals to thank all of the healthcare workers who were on the front lines and not only to do that but to give all of the kids who were out of school and haven't been able to see their friends to look out of the window and just see a bit of hope and inspiration," Nelson beamed.

The team expanded the show beyond Las Vegas and brought hope to some of America's most affected cities.

In her role, Nelson hopes to show young girls that they can fly as high as their young minds can imagine.

"I just happen to be the first African American Female officer on this team which is a very unique position for me overall but also I think its an opportunity to show young girls who look like me what they could actually become. My hope is that while I have been labeled a first I won't be the last because I want to show young girls what the possibilities are out there whether it's a leadership role, whether it's serving in the military, anything they want to do they can become exactly that, as long as, they work hard and put their minds to it," she explained.

Captain Nelson was previously identified as Pilot. While she does fly in missions to highlight the capabilities of the airmen, she does not pilot the aircraft.