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Thunderbirds photographer 'pays it forward' to young Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina M. Brisbin
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"In all that I do, I try and pay it forward," said Staff Sgt. Larry Reid Jr., U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds photographer.

Reid is one of only two photographers assigned to the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.

The Thunderbirds are a team that "is an inspired, unstoppable group of professionals." This is absolutely true. They set the standard not only in appearance, fitness and professionalism but in teamwork as well.

Sometimes, being a public affairs photographer, you're kind of lost in the crowd, just there observing and documenting. People forget you're there and a part of the team. The Thunderbirds photographers are not only a part of the team, they are a crucial component.

As a public affairs photographer, they don't just take pictures, they organize events, coordinate special programs like the "Fallen Warrior" tribute and lead tours at the Thunderbirds museum at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

"Sometimes you need to put down the camera and put on the [public affairs] hat," Reid explained to me.

As a part of my experience, Reid took me out on the flightline with him to document the show. I've seen the Thunderbirds before, but seeing them this close was unreal. For a moment, I got caught up in the show of things and forgot to shoot.

"It wasn't too long ago that I was in your shoes," said Reid after I showed interest in someday joining the team.

Reid walked me through the show, pointing out where and when I could get the best shots. In-between maneuvers he answered the many questions I had as to what it's like to be on the team. I also watched as he set up a group shot. It was amazing for me to watch as he called commands to the pilots to get them just in the right position. Everything was so rehearsed, professional and fluid.

At the end of the day, the only thing that Reid asked of me is to pay it forward, take everything I've learned and pass it on. After this week, I plan to do just that.