Students receive special presentation from Air Force F-35A Demo Team


YUMA — More than 200 students from around Yuma County saw a special presentation from the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team on Thursday, Mar. 9, 2023 in the Kofa High School Auditorium.
Eight members of the F-35A team, including maintenance technicians, crew chiefs, and others, shared details of their jobs with students, presented a video of the F-35A in action, showed slides of and answered questions as part of two separate hour-long presentations.
“The F-35 is next gen,” KHS senior James Kleinwachter said. “So, I’m excited to learn about them and what they’re capable of.”
Kleinwachter was among more than 50 Kofa Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MCJROTC) cadets in attendance. Additionally, approximately 150 eighth graders from Crane Middle School, Centennial Middle School, Gowan School, Gila Vista Junior High, Castle Dome Middle School, and Fourth Avenue Junior High took in the presentation Thursday afternoon.
“Our main goal is to recruit, retain, and inspire,” Weapons Load Crew Chief Joshua Peterson said. “So, this is a perfect opportunity to come out and inspire these kids and show them what we get to do as far as a demo team and just what the Air Force has to offer.”
The Air Force offered a bright future for Senior Airman and Cibola High School alum Franxl Zaragoza (Class of 2018). The former state champion wrestler is a member of the demo team and received a rousing ovation from the eighth graders upon being introduced as a Yuma-area native.
“At that age, I feel like I didn’t get that many opportunities to talk to people who were in the Air Force, where I later found I wanted to be,” Zaragoza said. “I hope it means so much to them to experience that.
“A lot of previous alumni, who came from wrestling, a lot of them joined the military and said it was very similar to wrestling. You have to be very disciplined. You have to have a work ethic. The transition wasn’t all that tough. It was doing a lot of the same thing, but just a different learning curve.”
The F-35A is one of numerous aircraft that will take to the sky during this weekend’s Yuma Airshow hosted by the Marine Corps Air Station. Tickets and information can be found by visiting:
Over the years, several Air Force demo teams, including the A-10C, F-22 Raptor, and F-35A, have made presentations to Kofa MCJROTC cadets the week prior to the annual air show. However, this is the first time the Air Force has presented since 2019.