Ryan Bernacchi, MVHS alumnus of the ‘92 graduating class and current Commanding Officer of the Blue Angels, returned to Mountain View on Wednesday, Oct. 5, to inspire the student body and relay his own path to success.
The Blue Angels, a prestigious flight-demonstration squadron of the US Navy, performs for 11 million people each year nationwide, with the most recent show occurring in San Francisco last weekend in recognition of the 36th annual Fleet Week.
“Our mission [as the Blue Angels]is to represent the Navy and Marine Corps,” Bernacchi said.
Appointed to lead the Blue Angels’ flights of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Bernacchi has earned the honor of guiding 130 personnel and flying the lead F/A-18 Hornet in the usual six-plane formation.
Last Wednesday during lunch, Bernacchi visited his alma mater and delivered a speech in the theater, which he recalled as being a music room during his highschool years.
“I feel so much of a connection with you. I was you, I was there, thinking about what I wanted to do with my life,” Bernacchi said. “[The Blue Angels are] about trying to inspire, not just a sailor or Marine, but whatever it is that’s in your heart.”
Detailing his and the Navy’s emphasis of trust, teamwork, and commitment, Bernacchi’s speech focused on the set of values he has developed throughout his life and from being a part of the Navy.
“If you can say, ‘I screwed up,’ then you can move forward from that,” Bernacchi said, in reference to the importance of both making mistakes and learning from them.
As part of the Blue Angels’ protocol, the team debriefs after each flight, replaying everything, watching the maneuvers, and identifying their mistakes. Afterwards, Bernacchi commits to fixing his mistakes and tries again the next day.
During his speech, Bernacchi encouraged students to take action within their community and get involved, whether it be for “sports, music, chess club, or student government.”
In addition, Bernacchi urged the student audience to build a strong academic foundation.
“Valuing education opens the door and gives you tools to take that step. In my case, the Navy really values education, too. I needed to have decent grades and be well-rounded,” he said. “Even if you are struggling in a subject, perseverance will help you. I don’t use Calculus on a daily basis, but I had to fight my way through.”
At MVHS, Bernacchi was consistently involved in the water polo team and held a position in the Associated Student Body during his senior year.
After graduating MVHS, Bernacchi earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology at University of California San Diego, then subsequently attended US Navy Fighter Weapons School. He recalled that he thought he had “zero chance of getting selected.”
Before being appointed as the Commanding Officer of the Blue Angels, Bernacchi received his commission through Naval Reserve Officer Corps Program and continued his aviation career with VFA-192 (World Famous Golden Dragons), a Federal Executive Fellowship with MIT, and others.
Under the Blue Angels’ rigorous training program, Bernacchi flew 150 training flights before the first show, during which the team reduced their margin of error from six feet to the current one to one and a half feet.
Each plane flies 18 inches apart, making dips as low as 100 feet and moving up to 600 miles per hour. The team moves in an incredibly tight, exact formation.
“They move their heads in relation to me,” Bernacchi said. “[It’s an] elite level of teamwork that allows us to fly that close together.”
The opportunities made available by the Navy allowed Bernacchi to contribute under leadership positions.
“The Navy has trusted me with multiple things that far exceeded my capacity, but they entrusted in me to succeed,” Bernacchi said. “It’s not about me or anyone else on the team; it’s commitment to something bigger.”