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News | Jan. 17, 2024

DCMA family ties to Thunderbirds in the skies

By Kamianne Bourgeois DCMA NASA Product Operations

The Air Force Flight Demonstration team, better known as the Thunderbirds, recently took part in the Wings Over Houston Airshow celebration Oct. 14-15, 2023.

For Paul Adams, a Defense Contract Management Agency quality assurance specialist, it was a family reunion of sorts. Adams, currently serving an assignment with the DCMA International Directorate in Germany, travelled home to see his son Air Force Staff Sgt. Cooper Adams perform. The airshow was held at Ellington Field, Houston, now referred to as Houston Space Port, located adjacent to the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Thunderbirds traditionally recognize the sacrifices and contribution of their team members at each show location by holding an internal team ceremony termed “Friends, And Relatives, Kin, Loved ones, and Everyone Else,” known as FARKLE. During the Houston ceremony, the Thunderbirds Commander and Lead Pilot Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Elliot recognized Adams, who serves as assistant dedicated crew chief assigned to Thunderbirds aircraft number six. His father Paul, mother Cheryl, Greg Fenger, and a few other family friends were there for support. 

“Wings Over Houston was phenomenal and a moment Cheryl and I will never forget," said the elder Adams. "The day started early as you can imagine, we arrived at Ellington, walked around looking at the static display aircraft and vendor displays before making our way to the Thunderbirds VIP tent hosted by the team for family and friends of team members.”

“At approximately noon, Cooper and a couple of teammates picked us all up and drove us to the hanger for his FARKLE ceremony,” he said. “We stood inside the hanger waiting for the ceremony to ‘kick off’ and the teams’ officers and pilots filed into the hanger with airboss, the commander, team leader and pilot of aircraft number one, Lt. Col. Elliot in the lead. They lined up abreast as we, each FARKLE participant, lined up in single file to greet each one with a handshake.”

Adams said his son “greeted each one with a certain high five and hand slap that we learned was a Thunderbirds team thing.” 

During the ceremony, Elliot, who is a Houston native and whose father is a retired NASA engineer, spoke about how family and friends had a huge influence on Cooper Adams becoming who he is, said Adams.

“Several stories he mentioned were very emotional for Cheryl and me,” he said. “It appeared as if he had known Cooper his whole life.”

Elliot also recognized family friend Greg Fenger, another DCMA quality assurance specialist in attendance who played an instrumental role in mentoring the younger Adams and helped him competitively interview for the Thunderbirds position.

Fenger, who is a retired Air Force veteran and former Thunderbirds team member, continues to contribute to national defense as a member of DCMA NASA Product Operations headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

While the elder Adams is an Army veteran he said his son’s selection to the elite Thunderbirds flight demonstration team has made he and his wife Cheryl very proud of their son’s accomplishment.