Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
Grey skies and and rough winds didn’t keep the thunder, or the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, from rolling in Saturday to celebrate the 2012 Legacy of Liberty Open House on Moody Air Force Base.
On behalf of the men and women of the 23d Wing and the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing, Moody opened its gates to extend gratitude to the community for all of the support for their airmen and their families.
From the local region and throughout the state, people came to Moody to witness a runway full of display planes and performances that included weapon demonstrations and free-fall parachuters.
“We live around Atlanta,” said Jeff Blair.
Blair and his wife, Amber, his 12-year-old daughter, Georgia, his 5-year-old son, Brody, and his 4-year-old son, Bryce, made the trip to Valdosta last night.
“We came for the kids. They love the airplanes,” said Blair.
Georgia was excited and delighted to make the trip as she wants to be in the Air Force one day.
“I just love all the planes,” said Georgia. “I want to be a pilot.”
Thirteen-year-old Katie Pickle and her family made the two-hour trip from Jakin, Ga., to explore the military base where her uncle served.
“My uncle was stationed here,” said Pickle. “That’s why we came.”
Pickle was in line to ride one of the most popular attractions of the day, the Navy Simulator.
“It holds 12 at a time ... and simulates a mission,” said Navy Diver Edmund Johnson with the Navy Recruiting Station in Valdosta.
Johnson said the simulator demonstrates how the Navy must work together as a team to complete a job.
Nine-year-old Anne Stalvey rode the simulator for the first time and had a blast.
“We went scuba diving and we were on some airplanes,” said Stalvey.
While the Air Force didn’t have a simulation machine, they did have the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team from Washington, D.C. The team not only represents the Air Force’s mission, values and creed but also exemplifies how, like the Navy, each airman has to work together to get the job done.
The first performance of the day, the crowd gathered around to see the soldiers who moved so flawlessly with precision.
“You may applaud or cheer at any time, you will not break their concentration,” said the announcer as the drill team came before the crowd.
And cheer they did. After each flip of the hand, toss of the rifle, trick and illusion, the crowd clapped and cheered in awe at the solidarity of the men whose every movement struck with exacting speed.
The routine was so captivating that in the distance airmen stood atop large aircrafts above the crowd so they, too, could witness the majesty.
Following the drill team, a plane flew into the air dropping subtle fireworks which burst into light as the invocation honored men and women who are serving, served or lost their lives in the line of duty.
In true “go big or go home” fashion, the National Anthem was sung as a member of the Special Forces Association Jump Team made a free fall for 3,000 feet before deploying a parachute and American flag.
The rest of the team — comprised of Department of Defense dependents, retired and active-duty military — followed with much applause and cheering from the crowd which lined the runway.
The variety of parachuters and performers were a good representation of the diversity of the military and civilian demonstrators throughout the runway at the open house.
One of the most
popular aircraft displays was an old Huey helicopter.
“This is a traveling
Vietnam-era Huey display,” said Doug Taylor with VFW Post 8433 of Cairo. “This was built in 1960.”
Taylor, who is retired from the Navy, was there with fellow VFW members Lee Harrison, retired Air Force, and George McKee, a retired Marine.
Taylor said the Huey was on the scrap line at Lively Aviation in Tallahassee, Fla.
“They had it on their junk line,” said Taylor.
Inside the old Huey behind a prop gun is where The Times caught up with helmet-wearing 4-year-old Jet Terrell.
“There’s really big planes out here,” said Terrell.
When asked what he looked forward to most, he only had one word.
“Thunderbirds!” Terrell exclaimed.
The Thunderbirds — a U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron that performs precision and aerial maneuvers demonstrating the capabilities of Air Force high-performance aircrafts to people throughout the world — seemed to be the attraction that drew the crowds Saturday.
Following an impressive list of plane demonstrations that ranged from a T-28 Navy aircraft carrier all the way to the Red Alert’s Viper-29 (the highest performance subsonic jet warbird on the airship market), the Thunderbirds performed in good company and performed last, but certainly not least.
Throughout the open house and the air show, guests witnessed some of the Air Force’s finest airmen and assets that spanned and covered more than 60 years of Air Force heritage. It certainly was a rare event and offers up-close and personal experiences that feel like once in a lifetime.
The 2012 Legacy of Liberty Open House on Moody Air Force Base is still open Sunday, Oct. 28. Gates open at 9 a.m. and performances will begin around 10:30 a.m. The event is completely free and fun for the whole family.