Air Show behind the scenes … a lot of work
By 2nd Lts. John Quin and Rhonda Brown, Missouri Air National Guard
/ Published May 03, 2010
ST. JOSEPH, Mo., -- -- When tens of thousands of spectators and supporters converged on Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, hundreds of members of the 139th Airlift Wing were ready to support them.
The wing's Airmen had spent countless hours in the months preceding the Sound of Speed Air Show to make it a success. Most of these Airmen worked quietly behind the scenes as part of a mammoth effort to make this air show the best yet, 139th Airlift Wing commander Col. Mike McEnulty said.
"An air show is an incredible amount of work by an awful lot of people," McEnulty said. "It can be exhausting.
"Everyone has done such an outstanding job. I'm so proud of our people. We have a team here at the 139th that strives for excellence every day, and the flawless execution of this major event is just another example of that excellence."
Planning for the event began months before the air show. Every detail, no matter how minute, had to be planned for. Whether it was security forces planning their entry control points, services figuring out how many meals they would need or recruiters putting in a request for giveaways and equipment, everyone was squared away long before the first aircraft approached Rosecrans.
One of the biggest pieces of the air show puzzle was transportation.
Tech. Sgt. Robert Ward, vehicle maintenance operation supervisor, oversaw transportation on and off the air show grounds and provided service for everyone from members of the general public who came to see the Blue Angels to the governor of Missouri.
Ward said transportation was a massive effort that included drivers, riders, vehicle maintenance and communications. Not only were members of the 139th involved, but Ward's team received help from Airmen from outside St. Joseph at Offutt, McConnell, and Whiteman Air Force Bases as well Guard locations in Topeka and Lincoln.
Throughout the show, buses carried spectators to the base aboard 13 buses. Each bus included a driver and a rider who helped people on board, checked for prohibited items and spotted for the bus when necessary, Ward said.
Staff Sgt. Justin Clark drove one of those buses along with Staff Sgt. Mike Hogan.
"It was fun, people were very nice, very polite and very thankful," Clark said. "The crowd was very excited."
As Clark and his peers worked on making sure the air show was going smoothly, the Airmen of the 139th's Force Support Squadron was in preparing the meals which fed the hundreds of military members supporting the event.
Tech. Sgt. Lynn Henderson, base services manager, was the first person on Rosecrans on Saturday. It was up to Henderson to make sure the dining facility was open so her team could prepare the morning meal for the wing's Airmen. On the average drill weekend, Henderson said 12-13 Airmen prepare breakfast with an additional seven addition helpers to clean.
"During the air show, we had seven Airmen," Henderson said.
In addition to preparing 350 meals in the dining facility, her team had to prepare more than 150 boxed lunches for security forces, first responders and Airmen posted around base. They also made sure that Airmen around the base didn't run low on water or Gatorade.
"We were also responsible for providing support for the commander's VIP tent," Henderson said. "On Friday morning, we cooked more than 800 cookies."
But the squadron's activities weren't limited to providing food and water to the base. Many of the squadron's Airmen were pulled for traffic and crowd control.
While those Airmen were doing an unfamiliar job, for the wing's recruiters, it was business as usual - albeit on a greater scale.
Tech. Sgt. Fred Osborn, 139th Airlift recruiter, was one of many Air National Guard recruiters who manned the Mobile Recruiting Unit. The unit is a fully operational office on wheels where interested persons may speak to recruiters about a career in the Air National Guard.
Over the course of the show, recruiters gave out more than 1,000 Air National Guard T-shirts and water bottles. Osborn said those items will help get word out about the Air National Guard in communities for years.
But for the recruiters, there's more to the air show than pinpointing potential Airmen.
"Our underlying purpose at the air show is to provide a public service," Osborn said. "The air show is one of our largest recruiting efforts and we want to generate leads - but we also want to raise public awareness and give back to the community. We look at this as a public and community service."
By the time the Blue Angels finished their final performance on Sunday afternoon, more than 50,000 people had passed through Rosecrans' gates.
For Henderson, days of nonstop, nearly around-the-clock work proved that her team and the 139th Airlift Wing as a whole were more than up to the challenge.
"This all had to be well planned," Henderson said. "We had to have the right people in the right places to make it all work."