A flight to remember: Air Force Thunderbirds give Dayton hero officer an ‘amazing’ ride
DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Dayton police officer Ryan Nabel withstood a 9-G F-16 ride like an authentic “G machine,” Air Force Thunderbirds Advance Pilot Maj. Jason Markzon declared Friday, a day before the opening of the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show.
Nabel enjoyed the ride as a “hometown hero” at Dayton International Airport, a day before the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team is set to perform at the show.
“It was amazing,” Nabel said after the ride, once he “found his legs.”
“It was a lifetime experience, and the Thunderbirds were more than accommodating to me today. Everyone has been really great,” he added.
Nabel was one of the officers who responded to the mass shootings in the Oregon District that left nine people and the shooter dead in the early morning of Aug. 4, 2019, going on to receive the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor from President Donald Trump in September that year.
Sworn in as a Dayton officer April 8, 2016, Nabel was one of the officers who regularly patrolled the Oregon District on weekends and was nearby when the shooting began that night. Within 20 seconds, officers were firing on the shooter, police later said.
“It means a lot,” he said of Friday’s ride. “There were six of us. For me to be chosen out of the guys, I mean, a lifetime experience. It’s more than anything I could really imagine.”
The other five officers were Sgt. William C. Knight, Officer Brian Rolfes, Officer Jeremy Campbell, Officer Vincent Carter and Officer David Denlinger.
Nabel, an Army veteran who served in Iraq with the First Calvary Division, said he refrained from greasy food before the ride “as instructed” and worked until midnight Thursday night.
“I’ve been in all sorts of vehicles and things like that in the Army,” he added. “But I’ve never been in anything like that.”
The Thunderbirds were thoughtful enough to give Nabel “a little sack to throw up in,” but the officer said he didn’t need it.
“Officer Nabel did awesome,” Markzon said. “Ryan is a great guy. He’s very humble, very mild-mannered. But once you get him in a jet, he had an absolute blast — just smiles and laughter the whole time.”
Markzon, who is also the narrator for the Thunderbirds, said Nabel “absolutely crushed” a ride that employed some unforgiving maneuvers.
“We pulled 9 Gs,” the major said. “Went upside down, loops and everything. It was great. He crushed it. The guy is built for this.”
Spectators can expect a full slate of performers besides the Thunderbirds, including the Army Golden Knights parachute team, an Air Force C-17 demonstration, the AeroShell aerobatic team, a U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet Demonstration and more.
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