DPD officer rides with U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

DAYTON, Ohio — The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds took a local police officer who was on the front lines of stopping the Oregon District shooting for a ride as part of their Home Town Hero program.

Officer Ryan Nabel went into one of the F-16 Fighting Falcons and spent an hour in the air on Friday.

The Thunderbirds were practicing on Friday, preparing for their weekend shows. But their advance pilot was busy taking a special guest for the ride of his life.

Nabel spent that hour experiencing the best fighter plane maneuvers the U.S. Air Force offers.

“Oh, it was amazing. A once in a lifetime experience,” Nabel said.

The Dayton police officer tried his best to prepare and calm an last-minute nerves.

He said, “Did not eat any greasy food as instructed, drank a bunch of water, worked to midnight last night.” He continued, “They give you a little sack to throw up in, if you need it.”

But the Thunderbird pilot at the control said there was no problem like that, Nabel was born to fly.

Major Jason Markzon said, “Ryan’s a great guy. He’s very mild-mannered, humble, but once you get him in the jet, he had a blast. Just a bunch of smiles and laughter the whole time and he absolutely crushed it. Pulled 9G’s, went upside down, loops and everything. It was great.”

Markzon is the advance pilot and narrator for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. He said giving the rides to Home Town Hero’s is an honor.

“This is probably one of the best parts of my job – to give back to these humble heroes who are not expecting any notoriety. They’ve been presented with extraordinary circumstances and just went above and beyond the call of duty,” Markzon said.

Nabel said he served five years in the Army and rode in a lot of vehicles there and on the Dayton police force, but nothing like this. He said briefly controlling the plane to perform a loop was his favorite part.

He was one of the six police officers who stopped the Oregon District shooter less than 30 seconds after the gunman opened fire.

Nabel told News Center 7 that they way he feels looking back on that event is a little like he felt after the Thunderbird plane broke through and soared above the clouds.

“You’re looking down at the clouds. It does make you appreciate that you’re alive,” Nabel said.