For as long as he can remember, U.S. Air Force Maj. Trevor “Dozen” Aldridge knew he wanted to fly airplanes.
When Aldridge was in eighth grade, the Air Force Thunderbirds came to his STEM-focused middle school in Wichita Falls, and the responsibility for giving the squadron a tour fell to Aldridge.
“Because I loved aviation so much, I was the one who got to give them a tour of our middle school,” Aldridge said. “I knew I wanted to be a pilot since I was a little kid. I knew I wanted to fly, and I had a feeling I wanted to go military. They really exuded a lot of pride and professionalism, and it had a pretty big impact on me.”
Aldridge was selected in June to join those same Thunderbirds as an officer for the 2020 demonstration season. The 12-officer aerobatics demonstration squadron, which was created in 1953, performs in front of millions of people each year.
In a phone interview with The Eagle, Aldridge — who received a civil engineering degree from Texas A&M in 2009 — said his call sign is “Dozen,” a nod to his love for A&M and its 12th Man tradition.
He will serve as the team’s new left wing pilot as Thunderbird No. 2; he will fly as close as 3 feet from Thunderbird No. 1.
“Our intent is to, through demonstrating the capabilities of the war fighters aircraft and its capabilities, to inspire,” Aldridge said.
He said that recruitment and retainment are among the goals of the Thunderbirds. Aldridge said that the Thunderbirds fly “all over the world” and strive to foster international relations and a spirit of cooperation with the nation’s partners.
“That’s our objective, and how we execute that is by flying six aircraft less than 3 feet apart at 500 or 600 miles an hour,” Aldridge said with a chuckle. “There is lots of noise and excitement, and hopefully everybody at the air shows has a good time.”
Aldridge grew up in Wichita Falls and described his economic background as “really, really poor.” He was the first in his family to graduate from college, he said.
“The thing I’m most excited about when it comes to being on the team is that hopefully, through my story, other people who grow up in broken homes, or well below the poverty line, can see my story, and it can let them know that even if they don’t join the military or fly, if they can see that if you work hard and persevere, with a little luck, opportunities will open themselves,” Aldridge said.
At Texas A&M, he spent his first two years in Outlaw 8 within the Corps of Cadets before becoming the first sergeant and commander of the then newly commissioned Hellcat 21 outfit.
After receiving his degree, he went on to pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base in his hometown. He said he’s currently learning to fly the F-16 before joining Thunderbirds training, which begins in November.
Aldridge has also spent time in Okinawa, Japan, where he flew the F-15C, and in the United Kingdom during his military career. His wife, Katie, is also a Texas A&M graduate, and they have two sons, ages 4 and 2.
He said that being part of the Texas A&M family has helped shaped his life, and he hopes A&M former students and fans come talk to him as the Thunderbirds travel throughout the country and beyond.
“My biggest observation about A&M since leaving College Station is how close the A&M community is,” Aldridge said. “No matter where you are in the world, when you find another Aggie, there is an immediate bond unlike any other university I’ve seen. Outsiders don’t understand it, but for those that have been to midnight yell, the Bonfire Memorial at dusk, Silver Taps and Muster, there is more to A&M than other universities have — something that can never really be told.”
The Air Force Thunderbirds will begin their 2020 season at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio in March 2020. For the full 2019 and 2020 Thunderbirds schedule, visit afthunderbirds.com/site/show-season/.