Monday, May 05, 2014

Air show at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst aims to bond public, troops

The skies over Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst will ripple with the thunder of jet aircraft and the spectacle of skydivers next weekend at the military facility’s open house and air show.

The first large-scale air show at the base since 2012, the event will showcase more than 60 vehicles new and old from all three branches stationed at the joint compound — the Army, Navy and Air Force — in a mile-long hangar. Titled “America Strong,” the show is meant to show the public, not just what the military has at its disposal, but how they work and live on the base.

With troops on the ground to answer questions for curious onlookers, the show also will feature antique equipment and a mock set-up of a foreign military living situation as well as an aerial demonstration by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fighter jet stunt team and the Army’s Golden Knights parachutists.

“With the Department of Defense sequestration and budget cuts, we had to stop doing a lot of our community outreach programs,” said base spokesperson Angel Lopez. “We were losing touch with the public, and this was a way to show them what’s in their backyard and what it is we have here and do here.”

According to Commander Sgt. Maj. Calvin Coler of the U.S. Army, the show not only gives the public the chance to learn what those at the base do, but also gives the troops themselves the opportunity to see other parts of the base and catch up with each other.

“We adjusted the schedule so a lot of these guys could get to see the air show,” he said. “It’s a chance for them to learn about each other.”

Still, not everyone will have the day off. Troops from the Army will help provide security during the event, while other activities on the base will continue normally.

Scheduling the show in a way that would allow the base to continue functioning was part of what made putting it together so logistically difficult, said Capt. Ryan O’Dea, assistant grounds operations director of the show.

To make room for all of the aircraft — some of which the public will be able to touch, stand on and pose with for pictures — he had to organize an “elephant walk:” a succession of large, lumbering vehicles clearing out of the hangar and moving to other bases around the world to continue their duties.

Questions over the event’s funding also gave O’Dea, and a team of about 20 other officers, little more than four months to organize everything.

According to Lopez, a show of this size usually takes a year to plan.

This year’s show will feature nearly 20 more aircraft than the 2012 show did, and O’Dea said security and transportation plans had been improved upon since the last show.

With 250,000 patrons expected over the course of the two days, the troops asked that those attending the show come with patience for parking.

Attendees are asked to come in at the McGurie, Langlois or Route 68 gates. Once inside, buses will be provided to transport people to different areas of the base.

The air show and open house will take place next Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, including a show schedule and a list of the vehicles expected at the base, visit the website,

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