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Jacksonville Avionics Tech Travels with Blue Angels

Pilots of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels fly in a delta formation during a training flight over the beaches of Pensacola, Fla., on Oct. 23, 2013. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Terrence Siren, U.S. Navy)
Pilots of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels fly in a delta formation during a training flight over the beaches of Pensacola, Fla., on Oct. 23, 2013. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Terrence Siren, U.S. Navy)

The 2008 White Oak High School grad has a young voice.

When Sgt. Adrienne Castillo woke up at 3 a.m. on Thursday, she anticipated the long day ahead, preparing avionics for The Blue Angels on the eve of the Cherry Point Air Show this weekend.

"We don't go home until the aircraft are ready for the next morning," said Castillo, the daughter of two Marines. Her mother is an active duty master gunnery sergeant aboard Camp Lejeune. Castillo, 26, also is a Marine. The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is a mix of Marines and sailors that includes the Jacksonville native.

Her job with the squadron is almost the same as avionics technicians' who maintain the regular fleet, she said.

"There are some Blue Angels smoke systems and a video-recording system that we have as well," Castillo said as she prepared for the air show.

She was stationed in Beaufort, South Carolina, when the opportunity arose to join the squadron in 2013. The hiring process is unique to the squadron. And it isn't easy.

"To get on the team, there's an interview process. We pick our people to replace us," she said. "It's a 90-day process to earn our crest. You have to successfully complete that process to receive the crest."

The crest insignia is earned and worn by all 130 team members.

She said the team's challenges made her a better technician. She monitors digital displays, radar, navigation and fuel systems.

"It's definitely made me a better troubleshooter," she said. "We have such a tight schedule. It's such a fast-paced job."

This year, she will travel to 20 air shows, including San Francisco's.

As to whether she has flown in one of the F/A-18 Hornets, she said, "Not yet."

"Hopefully, I'll get my ride in San Francisco," Castillo said, adding that team members choose air shows they wish to attend. About 35 people travel to each air show for the Blue Angels demonstrations.

She said the pilots are amicable co-workers.

"They're pretty funny," she said. "They're easy to get along with."

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