Ouray jet jockeys add to air show
MONTROSE — Josh and Ian Rasmussen are cousins. They grew up together, studied in the same classroom together, and in 1999 graduated from Ouray High School.
A decade later, they’re flying fighter jets across the Middle East.
On Saturday morning, they enjoyed sharing their stories with friends, family and old acquaintances during the annual Airport Appreciation Day at the Montrose County Regional Airport.
Hundreds of people turned out to view a variety of combat, cargo, support and trainer aircraft and to speak to the men and women who fly them.
The skies above the airfield buzzed all day from the many different aircraft giving free rides to children and teenagers.
Lt. Ian Rasmussen is a Navy aviator who learned to fly from his dad, Galen, beginning in 1995. He now is a Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) in a program more commonly known as Top Gun. He has flown combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan and had to learn to land his plane on a ship in the middle of the night.
“Sometimes we just use a show of force where we fly over a area to deter insurgents from engaging with our troops,” Rasmussen said. “Other times you get called upon to drop a weapon, but this really doesn’t happen on every flight.”
Ian Rasmussen said most combat missions take seven to eight hours, and they have to refuel their aircraft three times before returning from a mission.
Air Force Capt. Josh Rasmussen is stationed in Italy, flying an F-16 Falcon for an elite fighter squadron, the 555th, or “Triple nickel,” as he refers to it. The squadron has recorded 39 air-to-air kills since the Vietnam War.
In six months, Josh Rasmussen will be serving as backup for thousands of combat troops on the ground in Afghanistan. He said he enjoys flying and enjoys even more the job of being a fighter pilot.
“It’s pretty liberating. It’s pretty unmatched with anything else I’ve ever done. Nothing else can really compare,” he said.
A 1988 Nucla High School graduate, Lt. Col. Chris Colcord, was also at Saturday’s event. Colcord returned from his most recent deployment in Iraq in the fall of 2008. He is in the Air Force’s 56 Fighter Wing.
An estimated 300 free rides were given to children throughout Saturday’s event.