With his mother working as a Navy air traffic controller, Justin Kramer grew up watching the daring Navy aerobatics squadron known as the Blue Angels every year from his sky seat.
“I had their posters up in my room, so I woke up to those guys,” said Kramer, 31, a Navy petty officer who now works with the Blue Angels’ 125-member support crew.
But it’s not why he joined the Navy. Genetics might explain it better. He’s a fourth-generation sailor who followed his parents, grandmother and grandfather and a great-grandmother in the Navy. (The latter worked as a volunteer nurse “because they didn’t accept females at the time,” Kramer said.)
The 10-year Navy veteran — a 2002 graduate of Bowie High School whose parents, Lisa and Joe Hockenberry, live in Mansfield — is stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., with the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, or Blue Angels.
Founded in 1946, the Angels team, which includes Marines, averages 300 days a year on the road. This year it will perform 65 flight demonstrations — including tight formations that bring wingtips within 18 inches of each other — in 36 locations in North America, said public affairs specialist Katy Macdonald.
Last weekend, about 40 crew members accompanied the six F/A-18 fighter jets and a T-130 Hercules military transport plane that performed for audiences at a naval airbase in Corpus Christi. The Angels are scheduled to take part in the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show on Sept. 12-13.
With such a Navy ancestry, did you always know you’d wind up there?
When I was in college, I wanted to be a music teacher. Then I had kind of a change of heart. I wanted to be like my parents.
When did you realize you wanted to go into the service?
I always had it as like a backup plan. My passion was music, and my parents supported me 100 percent to pursue anything I wanted to do with music. I just didn’t find it practical at the time. I found myself looking out for my future jobwise. I figured the military had more job security.
Didn’t you want to be flying those jets instead of supporting them?
With me being in the enlisted side without a degree, I couldn’t be a pilot. I’m currently working on a degree in aeronautical engineering [at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University]. The Navy pays for your college.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen with the Blue Angels?
The teamwork and trust between the squadron and personnel. With teamwork, you can achieve anything. I’ve seen it happen.
What do you do as an aviation support equipment technician?
I do any kind of testing on equipment that hooks up to the jet or plugs into the jet for testing [offline], so we don’t have to start the jet up and put hours on it. It’s electrical gear, hydraulic, cryogenics. I’m responsible for maintaining that support equipment.
What’s your family status?
I’m 31. Not married. No kids.
Do you still have ties to Bowie High School?
Oh, yes. Actually, there’s another teammate of mine that went to Bowie at the same time I was there. I didn’t know him at the time. Small world.
Do you get back home very often?
I try to go there for the holidays, but we have such a busy schedule.
What about the Fort Worth show in September?
My parents are thrilled. And I know every time we come to Fort Worth, I know they’re going to be in the front row.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641