I've been to the region before to places like Thailand and Korea, and Malaysia was exactly what I expected
Washington, DC (Vocus) October 6, 2009
Kuala Lumpur boasts an estimated population of 1.6 million and surrounding greater Klang Valley metropolitan area is pushing the 5 million mark and is the fastest growing metropolitan area in Malaysia. When the Thunderbirds arrived at Subang Air Base on Sept. 30 for the third stop on their Far East tour, royalty, foreign diplomats, senior military members and civilians alike welcomed the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron with open arms. American Ambassador to Malaysia, James Keith, traveled to the air show site to personally welcome the team.
Lt. Col. Derek Routt, Thunderbirds’ Operations Officer, said the team was in Malaysia to represent the U.S. Air Force and America and strengthen the partnership with Malaysia and its military. The city itself has a cosmopolitan air with bustling streets and shining modern office towers that project an unbounded spirit of progress and symbolize Malaysia's unhesitating leap into the future. Kuala Lumpur is home to the Petronas Towers, which are the tallest twin buildings in the world.
“I’ve been to the region before to places like Thailand and Korea, and Malaysia was exactly what I expected,” said Colonel Routt. “The technological advancements of Kuala Lumpur rival that of any global city.”
However, on Oct. 3, the locals had something much different to see in the skies over the city. More than 45,000 locals converged on the Royal Malaysian Air Force Base to see the Thunderbirds performance. Distinguished visitors in attendance included the Sultan of Selangor, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence, the Chief of Defence Forces and the host for the air show the new Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, General Dato'Rodzali bin Daud.
The Thunderbirds’ air show represented the ultimate in skill, precision and air power in the world. However, Colonel Routt said the team’s visit to Malaysia was about much more than an air show. He explained that he felt his role as an ambassador was to continue fostering friendship in the region to help promote security and stability in the Pacific.
“It’s about interacting and getting to know the people; that lets you truly experience what a place has to offer,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Dato’ Ansar Ali Majeth, Royal Malaysian Air Force Director General Operations and Exercises, said the Thunderbirds presence in Malaysia is very timely. At a time when efforts are being made to enhance country-to-country and air force-to-air force relations, he said the air show and interaction with the local community was perfect.
“Although I’ve been in the service many years, it was the first time I’ve seen (the show) live. I’ve no doubt they are some of the best demo pilots in the world,” said General Ansar. “As a pilot, I can appreciate the skills it takes to perform such a show.”
He also added that it was about much more than an aerial performance.
“Seeing the way (the Thunderbirds) interact with the crowd, and seeing the crowd response, it’s obvious they are doing a good job.”
The mission of representing all Americans isn’t taken lightly by any of the Thunderbirds. Striving toward perfect synchronization during the air show, and signing autographs for thousands of spectators, to meeting with royalty, ambassadors, diplomats, military leaders and interacting with the locals around the city, every Thunderbird was mindful of the fact that their actions reflected American values.
“It is truly an honor and a humbling experience for me to be here, and I hope to represent Americans well in every country we visit,” said Col. Routt, alluding to the upcoming stops on the Thunderbirds’ Far East Tour. In the next few weeks, the team will also be visiting Guam, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
by TSgt Randy Redman, USAF Thunderbirds Public Affairs
Phone: (315) 448-3214l