Thunderbirds commander relieved of duty at Nellis AFB

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds perform their legendary aerial acrobatics during Aviation Nation weekend at the crowded Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev. (AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Bob Brye)

Thunderbirds commander Lt. Col. Jason Heard has been relieved of his duties at Nellis Air Force Base.

Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, relieved Heard of command of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron upon the completion of the 2017 season effective Nov. 20.

"This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason's dedication to the 2017 season," Leavitt said.

Heard led the squadron through a highly successful show season, but Leavitt lost confidence in Heard's leadership and risk management style, according to a US Air Force press release.

Leavitt determined that new leadership was necessary to ensure the highest levels of pride, precision, and professionalism within the team.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbird’s Operations Officer, will temporarily assume responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected, according to the Air Force.

The Thunderbirds are preparing for the 2018 season, training new pilots, and said they look forward to continuing to inspire crowds around the country.

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