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How this Hill AFB major hopes to inspire a new generation of Air Force pilots

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Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, flies a demonstration flight at Hill Air Force Base on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Maj. Kristin "Beo" Wolfe is a self-proclaimed military brat.

Being born on a military base and having a dad who was an Air Force fighter pilot, flying was "a natural progression," she said.

Despite her upbringing, Wolfe didn't decide that she wanted to pursue a military career until she was in college, where she joined the ROTC, before deciding she wanted to join the Air Force.

"It's a long path," Wolfe said. "It's about three years from the point of starting pilot training to be fully combat-mission ready, like going to war in these airplanes. It's really challenging, really fun."

Now Wolfe is an experienced fighter pilot with more than 800 flying hours in the F-35A Lightning II and F-22A Raptor under her belt, a feature spot in the Air Force's “Own the Sky” commercial and leader of the Hill Air Force Base F-35A Demonstration Team that travels around the world showcasing the impressive aerial capabilities of the F-35A Lighting II.

"It was really busy. This year was our first full year that we've had as far as traveling to air shows from Hill," Wolfe said Tuesday while helping host Utah media for demonstrations.

Wolfe and her team went on 26 trips between March and October, logging about 140 days on the road, traveling all across the U.S. and even making international stops in Toronto and Belgium.

While the demonstration season takes up a bunch of Wolfe's time, she's still an active fighter pilot for the Air Force.

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Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, talks to members of the media after flying a demonstration flight at Hill Air Force Base on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Switching between the two roles, she said, can be a bit challenging at times.

"The tactical competency definitely goes downhill pretty quick when you're on the road for 140 days a year and not able to train with these guys. But in the offseason, I get to spin that up a little bit," Wolfe said, adding that her primary job is leading the air shows.

For Wolfe, it never gets old.

She said that while traveling, there's always different scenery and different challenges and environments to work with, something that keeps her on her toes.

"Flying over the ocean is very different than flying next to the mountains or at high altitude," Wolfe said.

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Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, prepares to fly a demonstration flight at Hill Air Force Base on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The F-35A Lightning IIs are extremely nimble to go along with their jaw-dropping power. They can fly as fast as 1,200 mph, 1.6 times the speed of sound.

Speaking about her roles on the demonstration team, Wolfe said, "It's a totally different job than what the other 100 pilots here at Hill have. They're out there training, simulate, shooting bombs, missiles, dropping real bombs and all that kind of good stuff."

"That's not what we do in demo because our mission is completely different," Wolfe said.

The mission?

To recruit and inspire the next generation of U.S. Air Force fighter pilots, something Wolfe doesn't take for granted.

"We're lucky to be able to see the impact we make at air shows. Most people in the military never see anybody that they inspire," Wolfe said. "For us, just to get those kids walking up to our tent or walking up to the jet saying, like, 'I can do that one day, right?' That's kind of the reward and seeing our mission right in front of our faces is pretty cool."

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Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander and pilot, flies a demonstration flight at Hill Air Force Base on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News