By Maj. Brian Bowman, 139th AW
/ Published May 03, 2010
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- -- Tens of thousands of people from across the Midwest enjoyed the sights, sounds and thrills of "The Speed of Sound" Air Show at Rosecrans May 1-2.
From the precision maneuvering of six F-18s flown by the United States Navy Blue Angels - who sometimes flew as close as 18 inches apart - to daring aerobatics by civilian flying acts, to impressive static displays of aircraft old and new, there was truly something for everyone.
In addition to the weekend, the 139th Airlift Wing hosted employers and key civic leaders Friday. The purpose was to show appreciation for all the sacrifices those groups make in supporting the Air Guard, as well as addressing key topics of mutual interest.
What follows is a sample of the weekend.
A-10 demonstration pilot from Olathe
For Capt. Joe "Rifle" Shetterlie, an A-10 demonstration pilot from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., the Sound of Speed Air Show wasn't just another in a long line of performances.
Shetterlie, originally from Olathe, Kan., was coming home to the Kansas City area, where many family and friends gathered to watch him perform.
"To have a chance to perform here in the (Kansas City) area where I grew up ... it couldn't be any better," Shetterlie said. "And the A-10 is what I always wanted to fly. It is a 'working man's' airplane."
Shetterlie said his parents and several other extended family members were "making a weekend of it" in St. Joe to celebrate his return. The 31-year old, eight-year veteran is married with two young children, and is following in the tradition of his father and grandfather, who were both pilots. His mom is also an award-winning flight instructor.
To top off a memorable weekend, Shetterlie read the enlistment oath in front of Sunday's crowd for two new Kansas City-area recruits, as well as re-enlisting one of his maintenance crew members.
Blue Angels more than just pilots
Like many military acts that perform air shows, the Blue Angels have a public relations mission that is every bit as important to them as the show itself.
And so there were several members of the maintenance and support personnel mingling with the early arriving crowd during the weekend, signing autographs and putting on their best smiles for seemingly endless photographs. Their easy-going interaction with the crowd makes what must be mundane for them turn into memories of a lifetime for those they come into contact with.
Those fortunate to get a moment with the team walked away ecstatic, notably a pair of young teenage girls who shrieked when one member signed her Blue Angels poster.
"We're just excited to do the shows," said Navy AD2 Shane Umstead, an engine mechanic with the team. "We love coming to places like St. Joseph, because (the Blue Angels) haven't been here since 1984.
"There are other places we go to every year, so this is special."
Rep. Graves: Keeping Rosecrans strong is key
You don't have to inform Rep. Sam Graves of the Air Guard's economic impact to the area. The Sixth District Republican Congressman - and unabashed supporter of the military and a pilot himself - knows full well.
And he knows the importance of an airshow to remind his constituents.
"That's what this (air show) is all about," he said. "We have to keep (the Air Guard presence) strong. It is a vital part of this community."
Many community leaders don't need reminded. Several dozen civic leaders from communities on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas state line attended a kickoff meeting at Rosecrans Friday to begin forming a Community Advisory Board. The board can be a voice back to Washington that the unit leadership can't be.
"I very much applaud (the forming of a board)," Graves said. "You've got to have that community support.
"The support is critical because we're all in this together. The Guard member who is deployed often leave a job and an employer who is right here, so those (employers) are affected ... yet the 139th and Rosecrans is critical to our local economy. So, we need the community involvement."
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve from both states also hosted many employers of Rosecrans Guard members Friday.
Static displays fun for all
There's nothing like "hands on" to get a child's attention.
One of the coolest things about "static" display aircraft is that young people can get "up close and personal" with the flying machines they see flying overhead.
The Missouri Guard had a number of such displays, including an Army UC-60A Blackhawk helicopter, which was a favorite for the young people.
"The kids love to get in the cockpit and really check it out," said Col. Gary Herchenroeder, the Missouri Guard's Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation who served as an information officer for the static display.
Adults flocked to the displays as well. The local C-130 of the 139th Airlift Wing had long lines, as did many of the Air Force and Navy aircraft on display. Whether to check the inside of a KC-135 refueling aircraft, or perhaps get a peek at a vintage World War II bomber, there was something for everyone.
But static displays are, first and foremost, a kid's paradise. Dreams born here often come to fruition years later.
Bryson Tilley, 10, was one such dreamer. His mom made the two-hour drive from Topeka to bring him here, for his first-ever airshow.
"It's pretty awesome watching the airplanes," he said, noting the World War II-era Japanese Zero and American Corsair that had just finished.
Bryson's favorite aircraft? An Air Force F-22 Raptor.
"It's pretty fast and you can outmaneuver the enemy," he said, sounding very much like the pilot he aspires to be.
139 AW commander pauses (briefly)
Anyone who knows Col. Mike McEnulty, 139th AW commander, knows he has a lot of energy.
But ducking under the shade of a canopy about one hour into the airshow Saturday, McEnulty paused briefly to reflect.
"You know," he said, sounding a bit weary, "an airshow is an incredible amount of work by an awful lot of people. It can be exhausting.
"Everyone has done such an outstanding job. I'm so proud of our people."
But as McEnulty watched the many thousands of airshow attendees settle in, he leaned forward in his chair and regained his spark.
"What I want people to know is that this is their military," he said. "We're here for them.
"I want them to be proud of our country, and I want them to know that the men and women they see in uniform are the men and women who are protecting the freedoms they hold so dear."
And, while a deployment looms this fall that will send one-fourth of his wing to Afghanistan for yet another operational rotation in the Global War on Terrorism, this weekend was about enjoying a great show.
"What a lineup we were able to put together," McEnulty said. "I'd put our airshow up against any in the country."
And with that, McEnulty was up and on the move again. Exhausting or not, a commander's duties at an airshow - like that of his airshow staff - are never really done.