Captain Jeff Kuss, the Blue Angels pilot killed in the Great Tennessee Air Show practice in Smyrna, is a native of Durango, Colorado, and graduated from Durango High School in 2002. He attended Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 2006. Jeff was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps through the Officer Candidate Course in 2006 and reported to The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to complete training.
Jeff reported to U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), NAS Fallon, Nevada, in July 2012 and graduated in September 2012. While assigned to VMFA-312, Jeff deployed with Carrier Air Wing THREE (CVW-3) aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. VMFA-312 earned the 2013 Robert M. Hanson Award as the Marine Corps Association’s Fighter Attack Squadron of the Year.
Jeff was introduced as one of the new members of the Blue Angels in 2015.
According to the Blue Angels website, a total of 16 officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels. Each year the team typically selects three tactical (fighter or fighter/attack) jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to relieve departing members.
The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the “Boss,” the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. Boss must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. The Commanding Officer flies the Number 1 jet.
The Chief of Naval Air Training also selects the “XO,” the Blue Angels Executive Officer. XO is a s a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) and must have at least 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.
Career-oriented Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible for positions flying jets Number 2 through 7. The Events Coordinator, Number 8, is a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) or a Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) who meets the same criteria as Numbers 2 through 7. The Marine Corps pilots flying the C-130T Hercules aircraft, affectionately known as “Fat Albert,” must be aircraft commander qualified with at least 1,200 flight hours.
Career-oriented officers specializing in maintenance, administration, aviation medicine, public affairs and supply fill support positions. The Blue Angels base their selection of officers on professional ability, military bearing and communication skills. Blue Angels officers are well-rounded representatives of their fleet counterparts.
Officers typically serve two years with the team. Blue Angels officers return to the fleet after their tours of duty.
The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.
In 2016, the Blue Angels will celebrate their 70th anniversary. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for more than 484 million fans